Effective Volume VS Junk Volume

program design volume Jun 06, 2022

Image Source Picture from Chris Beardsley 


Are you doing too much “Junk Volume”? 

Understanding and applying this principle largely separates great coaches and athletes from amateurs.

Here’s a big picture overview of this theory:

  • When you lift a given weight, there’s a certain number of reps that you could do. 

  • For example, if you pick up 10 pound dumbbells for shoulder presses, maybe you could do 50 reps with them if you really had to. If you only do 10 reps, then none of those reps were effectively stimulating.

  • Now, let’s say you pick up 30 pound dumbbells, and the most you could do with them is 10 reps. If you do 8 reps, at least the last 3 of those reps were effectively stimulating.


The key here is that you have to work near failure to effectively stimulate strength and hypertrophy gains!

There is a lot of debate around just how close to failure you need to work. There's not a one size fits all approach. It's likely that more experienced lifters need to work closer to failure than novice lifters to continue to see hypertrophy.

To stimulate hypertrophy, you do NOT have to work in a low rep range, just close to failure for at least some of your training volume. As a rule of thumb, working with an RPE of 6-8 with the majority of your volume will be a good hypertrophy stimulus for most lifters. 

To optimally build strength, you likely DO have to work in a fairly low rep range AND near failure.


The approach of many online bootcamp programs, group fitness studios, uninformed personal trainers, and people living in the "tone zone" is to way overdo volume at really low intensity

They figure if they do a lot of work, that must result in a lot of gains.

It doesn’t. It leads to plateaus in strength and muscle building (and often “overuse” injuries). 

You may be sore, it may feel like you are doing a lot, but more volume does not equal more gains



The overall message here is:

Make sure an appropriate amount of your training volume is allocated to Effective Reps and not Junk Volume .




Image Source Picture from Chris Beardsley 

*There’s a time and a place for everything including junk volume. May be appropriate to have a higher amount of junk volume in a program for someone de-conditioned, an athlete offseason doing GPP work, an aerobic athlete who is simultaneously building an aerobic base, etc.*



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