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Bodybuilding: The truth about the volume, loads, and intensity of exercise.

 Bodybuilding: The truth about the volume, loads, and intensity of exercise.

Beginners and sedentary people will tell you that bodybuilding is a very simple physical activity because it involves juggling loads and waiting for muscle mass and strength to develop. However, the reality is more complex than simple clichés. You also know very well that performing a bodybuilding exercise with complete respect for movement is indeed a challenge in itself.

A simple biceps exercise often takes years of practice to achieve the perfect movement with maximum effectiveness. Moreover, strength training does not stop when performing some random exercises. That's why training programs are meticulously developed by professional trainers and coaches.

Creating an effective training strategy allows you to get more results from your strength training

Various training strategies will then be developed starting with whole body (all muscle groups trained in one session), half body (one upper body session, and another lower body workout session) or split training.

This last method is generally the most practiced by bodybuilders even if a full or half body tends to come back strong. But no matter what training protocol is chosen, all bodybuilding programs are based on three main principles: training volume, workload, and exercise intensity.

Training volume, workload, exercise intensity, the three main factors of bodybuilding

Once you have mastered most bodybuilding exercises correctly and developed a good training program, three main elements will determine your progression in strength and muscle mass.

Exercise volume is the total number of exercises and times you do during a weight training session.

The workload corresponds to the weights you use during your workouts.

Intensity is the total amount of stress you can put on your muscles in one exercise. If this idea of ​​severity seems subjective to you, some criteria nevertheless allow us to correctly estimate it; We will return to him.

How do you determine the workload and volume of training needed for muscle growth?

Basic principles of bodybuilding, the workload is determined by the weight (dumbbells or bars) that you can handle during the exercises.

This load must be important at the metabolic level, that is, the stress on the muscles due to this load must lead to compensation (physiological adaptation) through the growth of this muscle itself. Simply put, your muscles adapt by getting stronger to withstand the same load without additional damage. Naturally, this workload will evolve with time and experience. The higher this load, the greater the stress on the body, the greater the compensation (recovery after training) and will take time.

To calculate this load, you will need to determine the maximum iteration, that is, the load that allows you to perform one iteration. Then nothing would be simpler than calculating this load by performing exercises such as the bench press, deadlift or squat with maximum repetitions (1 RM). From there, the load may vary depending on the muscle stimulation you plan on (a series of exercises of 50%, 70%, 80% ...).

Very generally, most professionals will tell you that light loads work on muscular endurance, while heavy loads work on increased strength. Between these two extremes, we will tell you that exercises that rely on an average of 8 to 12 repetitions will stimulate muscle growth.

In fact, this question is more complicated than this simplification because muscle growth depends above all on the time under tension, the time during which the muscle is under work pressure, and on the intensity of the exercises as we will see at the end of the article. .

Target RM% of repetitions of maximum load at rest

Maximum strength




100% to 90% 4 minutes to 2 minutes 30 seconds






89% to 80% 2 minutes and 30 seconds to 2 minutes







79% to 70% 2 minutes to 1 minute and 15 seconds






69% to 50% less than 1 minute

Table of repetitions, percentage of maximum load and rest time by goal.

Training volume is a critical factor in your physical progression in bodybuilding

Training volume is simply the total load transferred during a weight training session. For example, if you perform a set of 8 repetitions with 60 kg, your total move will be 480 kg. You will then only have to collect all the series of exercises performed to get the total load of the exercise.

Thus this indicative calculation would result in a figure that easily amounts to several tons. This volume of exercises and repetitions will therefore increase, depending on the experience of the bodybuilder. Calculated volume is an essential determinant of athlete development because a gradual

 increase in training volume increases the neuromuscular stress (muscle and nervous system fatigue) carried by the organism and muscle mass. Thus, the recovery time will be longer, depending on the volume of training performed. In parallel, the concept of exercise intensity leads to the same increase in post-exercise fatigue because these two concepts are related.

With the concept of training volume, the intensity of the exercise determines the degree of muscle growth or the risk of overtraining

The intensity of the exercise depends on the amount of training over time. In other words, the more exercise that is done in a short period of time, the higher the intensity.

The concept of time under voltage (TST) and its relative increase will be added to this definition (longer TST = higher intensity). This exercise intensity theory was developed by Joe Weider and his famous principles.

These include constant tension, superset (two antagonistic muscles working one after the other), drop where the load is reduced while the exercise continues, passive phase action of the movement, pre-exhaustion, progressive overload, muscle isolation and many other training principles put into place Execution by Joe Weider.

Each of them has its uses and should be used intelligently and with regular practice. The concepts of load, volume, and intensity will follow you through to your last weight training session. If you don't master these three basic rules of bodybuilding, get help from a qualified trainer. But it is clearly up to you to use these three principles in a happy mid-and-balance that allows you to consistently gain muscle, strength and muscle mass while avoiding a bodybuilder's worst nightmare, which is the infamous overtraining...


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