[ANSWERED] How Much Should I Train? 6 Days? 3 Days? How Many Set and Reps Should I Do? What Weight Should I Be Lifting?

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Yesterday in our powerlifting team whatsapp we got to discussing training volume, how much is too much, should we be doing more, and what’s optimal. 

I could write for days on this, but today will be a brief summary, hopefully opening the door to some Qs from you that I can expand on later.

TERMS
Before getting into it, we need to understand a couple of terms;

“volume” – the total number of lifts done of squat, benches and deadlifts (or close variants) at or above 50%

“tonneage” – the number of lifts (volume) multiplied by the reps done at that weight

“weekly volume” – the total combined number of squat, bench, deadlift and near variants done per week at or above 50%

“lifts per year” – your weekly volume multipled by 52

“maximum recoverable volume” – the highest amount of training you COULD do and still recover (not necessarily the optimal approach)

“maximum adaptive volume” – the most volume you can use in training and still continue to get better, for all intents and purposes this is the the number you want to aim for, because additional training won’t yield additional improvements (even if you could recover from it)

So, the place to start is this – as you become stronger and more advanced, your ablity to recover should increase, and the total volume of work you need to do will have to increase as well to continue getting stronger.

This is the first reason why I think jumping into a hardcore 6 day / week program makes no sense – you’ve nowhere to progress to from there.

Facebook video link at the bottom of this page 🙂

WHAT’S RIGHT FOR ME?
If you agree it’s true that as you progress you’ll need to increase volume, then there should probably be some parameters for where different classes of lifter should reside as a starting point right? An optimal range.

And there is. At least in my experience. It comes from talking to some of the best powerlifting coaches in existence, dissecting programs to find the numbers, and from reading about other people smarter than I who have done the same.

Generally speaking, for novice level lifters the optimal is right around 10,000 lifts per years (…or 192/week).

“Optimal” in this case is enough to maximise the adaptation process without unnecessarily beating the lifter into the ground.

For other classes; (please remember all numbers are approximate lifters per year, and generally relate to the preparation phase ahead of a peaking cycle)

Regional (some experience, but not qualifying for national comps): 11-12k

National (getting to the stage of qualifying but not winning): 12-14k

Top ranked national lifter: 14-17k

International standard athlete: 17-20k

Of course, depending on what a lifters preference towards training is, and how heavy they lift each day – these numbers could be miles high, or a few thousands lifts a year low.

For the most part, if you’re averaging 70-73% of 1RM across a day, these numbers won’t steer you too far wrong.


If you look at the number of lifts included in Boris Sheiko’s programming, and the class of lifter those programs are assigned to, the stated numbers tie in. As they do to Dietmar Wolfe’s prescriptions for his Norwegian team of powerlifting gods.

If you’re following a conjugate / westside principle – throw those numbers out because the intensity you’re operating at is too high for that volume.

Now, you may look at that and thinkg “holy crap those numbers are high” and they are, but that’s the price of being good. If you want a quick breakdown of how to split them up, just do this (using regional standard numbers of 12,000 lifts per year):

Train: 4x
Lifts / Week: 230
Lifts / Day: 58
Squat: 18 reps (30% of total volume) – call it 60% x3, 70% x3, 80% 4×3
Bench: 26 reps (45% of total volume) – call it 60% x6, 75% 4×6
Deadlift: 15 reps (25% of total volume) – call it 75% 4×4

…and maybe that doesn’t look too bad, but do that 4x per week for a year and tell me you won’t get better, or that it won’t be tough.

The beauty of operating at those slightly lower %s is that you get to practice and grove PERFECT technique all the time.

WHEN TRAINING MORE OFTEN IS GOOD…
Closing off… while I was at the IPF Internationl Coaches License course in Spain last year, Dietmar told us about a study they did with Norwegian lifters.

All lifters in the study were national/international standard, and assigned an annual workload of 20,000 lifts per year in the same intensity range. Some did it over 3 days, others did it over 6 days.

The guys who did it over 3 days got stronger, but lost muscle.

The guys who did it over 6 days got MORE stronger, gained muscle and lost fat.

So is 3 days better than 6? Or are 6 days better than 3?

Well it depends on where you’r at now and how much training you’re doing.

For beginners and intermediates, 3 is probably better than 6.

For advanced guys and girls, 6 is almost certainly better than 3.

As always – there’s no black and white. Just greys.

Facebook live video of the discussion in some more depth here; 

Let's talk training volume. How high is too much? How low is too little? And should you be training 3 or 6 days per week. This is especially important if you're a powerlifter.

Posted by Revolution Fitness on Wednesday, April 12, 2017

James Hanley

Strength Coach. Performance Specialist. Dog Lover. Powerlifter. And the guy behind the scenes in RevFit that keeps the plates spinning.