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The dirty little truth about “volume”

Volume is one of the most misunderstood training words out there--almost to the point of disgust, if you ask me. It is not an interchangeable word you say whenever you want to sound like you know what the fuck you are talking about. So we can all calm down about it, here's a quick intro to VOLUME:

By definition, “volume” in a training setting is a word used to describe the amount of work done. In our sport, the work done is measured by the movements we are doing in our weightlifting training. But wait, there's more:

Volume should also be described as not only the amount of work done (essentially, practice), but the amount of work done at a stimulating intensity for the body to memorize a specific movement pattern and neurologically adapt.

EXAMPLE: As a trained athlete, 30% of your snatch is not “volume.” There is not enough stress in the physical component of training for the body to even begin to think about muscle development or a neurological pathway being “struck in.” The intensity simply needs to be more. Back in the day, most coaches said that volume began at the 60%. Nowadays it has slightly adjusted to the 65-70% range, even if you talk to modern coaches (the crazy ones😉). At these percentages is where evidence and anecdotally, with athletes, has shown there is just enough resistance to where the body can start to adapt at a physiological and neurological level.

So, what this means is that at the end of the day, a stressor of a certain intensity must be presented for something to be “trained.”

Next, back to the amount of work (at that stimulating intensity):

If you went to any experienced coach in baseball and said you had your pitcher “practice” and they threw only 60 balls a week, you would get laughed out of the stadium.

The same goes for hockey, basketball, football, soccer--every “major” sport essentially.

So why do weightlifting coaches think this practice is any different when the athlete literally is competing in the exact movement they are supposed to be practicing?

If you are a healthy, serious athlete with high level aspirations (with respect to your individual athletic potential, your body, age, experience, etc.) and only doing 8-11 snatches a training session, you are severely doing yourself a disservice. Unless these reps are ”mock tests” or all at high intensity (probably not) you are just simply not grinding out enough reps in enough specific movement patterns at an adaptable intensity.

It's a simple concept - if you only do 10 push-ups a day you will eventually get a bit of a stronger chest. Do 100 a day and you will be an expert at the push-up and the body will be built to do pushups.

Now obviously everyone can disagree on the definition of “what is enough” (and trust me, we do). It absolutely varies from athlete to athlete and that's part of our job as coaches to find what works for that athlete. One thing you can’t argue with is the simple concept of task mastery: you have to practice it over and over and over again at intensities that will set your body up for the adaptation it needs.

Do your volume kids. It sucks, but it’s going to make you so much more technically efficient and thats what matters when you are on that platform.

- Coach Matt

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