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How long should a volume phase be?



Short answer: 4-6 weeks for beginners, a bit longer for advanced lifters depending on certain variables.


Long answer below.


Bigger muscles lift bigger weights. That's usually the reason why incorporating hypertrophy work (aka volume work) is a good idea.


Alternating between volume phases and strength phases will allow you to keep progressing your strength and avoid plateaus. Both phases work in tandem to slowly make you stronger. The volume phases adds a little more muscle, which allows you to push a little more weight during the strength phase, which then allows you to push a little more weight during the next volume phase and so on.


For the sake of the article, I am going to assume that you've already resistance trained for over 6 months and that a classic linear periodization isn't effective for you. Which is where alternating between volume and strength makes more sense, we refer to this as block periodization.


How long should you devote your time to volume work is dependent on your training frequency, adaptation, training experience and personal preferences.


Let's establish a few basic points first.


  1. On average, the minimum training volume to see results is around 10 sets per muscle group per week

  2. Most muscle groups can handle between 20-25 sets each week

  3. Doing more than 10-12 working sets per body part per workout might bot be ideal because of fatigue. If you think about it, if you were to do 4 sets of bench press followed by 4 sets of dips, how much more can your chest handle during that workout? After those 8 sets, you might not be able to use weights heavy enough to elicit any changes in your body

  4. The average person reading this article is not a professional athlete and usually does not have much more than 90 minutes per day to workout.

Since the goal of a volume phase is to slowly add more and more sets each workout, I usually start out my volume phase at 12 sets per muscle groups per week and add 3 sets each week.


If you go to the gym three times per week, that's 4 sets per muscle group per workout.

Monday: 4 sets of barbell bench press

Wednesday: 4 sets of dips

Friday: 4 sets of incline dumbbell bench press


Adding three sets each week can be done either by increasing the amount of sets on the exercises, or by introducing a new exercises altogether.


Example 1: Adding sets to current exercises

Week 1

Monday: 4 sets of barbell bench press

Wednesday: 4 sets of dips

Friday: 4 sets of incline dumbbell bench press

Total sets for chest: 12


Week 2

Monday: 5 sets of barbell bench press

Wednesday: 5 sets of dips

Friday: 5 sets of incline dumbbell bench press

Total sets for chest: 15


Example 2: Adding an exercise