Too Much Volume | Olympic Weightlifting Programme Mistakes Lecture 4
Writing programmes for olympic weightlifting can be tricky. In this article, we'll be looking at a common weightlifting programming mistake; adding too much training volume, plus the solutions that you can put in place. We'll be covering...
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What Do We Mean By Volume in Weightlifting?
Within weightlifting, volume refers to the total amount of training you do, which can be worked out as…
Or Total Reps
Honestly, they all work as methods of tracking volume, and I've used each of them as a coach, but personally, I think that counting the total number of hard sets is the easiest way to track volume for most people.
Why is Too Much Volume a Problem In Weightlifting?
Put simply, too much training volume (i.e. too many sets) is a problem because your recovery is finite/limited.
If you think of your total ability to train as a glass, you can only fill it so far. Once you start trying to fill it beyond a certain point it spills over and creates a mess.
In weightlifting, this mess is overtraining, fatigue, irritability, low mood, appetite issues and sleep issues.
Stories About The Popular LSUS Weightlifting Programme
If you haven’t heard of it, the LSUS weightlifting programme is an incredibly high volume 5 day per week programme designed by Dr Kyle Pierce and used by US Olympian Kendrick Farris.
For example, one just one day it has power snatch from thigh for 5x5, then snatch deadlifts, RDLs, Shrugs, Bent Rows, Pull-Ups then jumps and abs. Each exercise is done for a 10-rep max, + 2x10 back offsets. Then 2 days later you do the same workout but with 5 sets of every strength exercise at 90% of what you did on the first day.
Myself, and hundreds of other lifters, have literally copied the programme verbatim (making no changes) – and it has crushed almost every single one of us. If you take a quick look you'll find dozens of reddit weightlifting threads and weightlifting forums posts all about people trying (and failing) to survive the programme. It is just way too much volume for most people.
How Much Volume is Too Much in Weightlifting Programmes?
It depends on the lifters age, sex, training history, ability level, current lifestyle and situation, genetics etc.
But here’s a better way to think about it – any training volume that generates extra fatigue, without measurably contributing to performance in a significant manner, is too much volume.
"For weightlifting & strength training, our goal is simple, lift more weight. Which means we have an easy metric to track."
Your weights should be going up as often as possible, and your training volume should be enough to accomplish this, but no more. For example, if you get 2% stronger per week doing 3 sets of squats, and also 2% stronger doing 5 sets of squats, then those extra 2 sets are just extra unnecessary volume as they don't lead to any extra strength gain. (Just a very simplified example)
Practical Recommendations for Volumes in Your Weightlifting Programme
Now, in the real world, it's a little trickier, as we don't always know exactly how much specific amounts of training volume contribute to strength gain. So we have to use the following approach.
Start with a very low volume. We're talking Minimum Effective Dose, the smallest amount of training you need to do to make some form of progress. This is often far less than you might think.
You should then do that amount of training for an appropriate timeframe (i.e. beginners 1-2 sessions, intermediates 1-2 weeks, advanced 1-2 months) and then see if the weights you’re lifting have increased.
If lifts have increased, great, continue with your current training volume
If lifts have not increased and you feel well recovered, increase your volume
If lifts have not increased and you feel beaten up as hell, decrease your volume
And then repeat this process for many months and years. It might sound sort of simple, but diligently sticking to this process requires discipline and ongoing attention to detail.
Frequently Asked Questions About Weightlifting Training Volume
Is there such a thing as too much volume?
Absolutely, as we discussed above, too much training volume can actually limit your progress, as well as increasing injury risk.
Powerlifting too much volume?
Whilst this is guide is mainly written for weightlifting, the same rules apply very well to powerlifting programming as well.
Can you do too much volume bodybuilding?
Yes, but this guide isn't perfect for bodybuilding. For bodybuilding/hypertrophy, more volume tends to equate to more growth, so it makes more sense to actively drive it upwards until you hit a maximal recoverable amount.
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'Til Next Time
Alex Parry, MSc
Alex's experience includes 7+ years within professional strength and conditioning, as well as working as a tutor & educator for British Weightlifting.