By Nick Nilsson
Author of Mad Scientist Muscle
Time-Volume Training is a GREAT technique for building mass and strength like clockwork, using free weights, machine or bodyweight exercises.
The framework doesn't change and it adapts very easily to whatever resistance you're using.
Originally, I came up with this technique to allow me to take exercises where I could do a LOT of reps (like push-ups) and turn them into effective mass-builders.
After using it for that, I realized it was an excellent way to train with free weight and machines as well. The concepts remain exactly the same.
Time/Volume Training is simple.
It's a form of Density Training (similar to Escalating Density Training by Charles Staley). I'll use back training for my example here (chin-ups, specifically) to show you what it's all about.
For working back, I use a 15 minute block of time (this will vary according to bodypart - use less time for smaller parts). If you're doing a free weight exercise, choose a weight you could get about 10 reps with for this technique.
- First, start by doing a set of 3 reps. Then stop and rest 10 seconds. Now do another set of 3 reps. Stop and rest 10 seconds.
- Keep going using 3 rep sets and 10 seconds rest until you can't get 3 reps anymore. When you hit this point, begin taking 20 SECONDS rest in between your 3 rep sets.
- Keep going using 3 rep sets and 20 seconds rest until you again can't get 3 reps anymore. Then take 30 SECONDS rest in between your 3 rep sets. If you have to increase again, go to 40 seconds, and so on.
- Keep going in this fashion until your 15 minutes are up.
It's just that simple!
DO NOT go to failure on any of your reps...the idea is to manage your fatigue so that you can maximize your training volume (i.e. more reps and sets), doing more sets and reps up front (which is known as front-loading) and fewer as you fatigue.
And, because I originally worked up this technique to go with bodyweight training (where you can't change resistance), instead of decreasing the weight, you will instead just increase the rest periods, which gives your body a bit more time to recover in between sets, allowing you to keep doing sets with the exact same resistance.
You'll find when using this technique with different exercises (especially bodyweight exercises, where some tend to be a bit easier than others), you'll be able to go longer before having to increase rest. For example, when doing chins, you'll have to increase rest sooner than you will with push-ups.
Rest assured, even if you can do 50 push-ups, you'll STILL get to a point where you're not able to do 3 reps sets on 10 seconds rest and you'll have to bump up the rest periods. Take a 2 minute rest in between bodyparts for recovery.
It's a great way to work bodyweight exercises without resorting to high-rep endurance training. With the 3 rep sets, you're still hitting the power-oriented muscle fibers, which is what allows you to make this type of training work for mass building.
It can be used with just about any free weight or machine exercise as well.
Here are the time intervals I've been using for this type of training:
Back, Chest and Thighs - 15 minute blocks each
Hamstrings, Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps, Calves and Abs - 7 1/2 minute blocks each
I've also changed up some of the bodypart blocks so that I'm actually working 2 bodyparts at once (I did this with abs and calves).
Here's a split I've been using (based on bodyweight training)...you can certainly feel free to come up with your own. Just be absolutely sure to keep your total workout time to under an hour (I've been shooting for 40 to 50 minutes).
This type of training concept is simple enough where you can also just insert it into whatever your favorite training split is.
My preference is for a 2 day on, 1 day off, 2 day on, 2 days off type of training split, e.g. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday.
Back - 15 minutes of chin-ups - I was using a regular underhand, close grip for these, coming all the way up and down to full extension.
Chest - 15 minutes of dips
Combination of Calves and Abs - 7 1/2 minutes - NO rest in between bodyparts or sets. I would just go straight from one-legged calf raises (5 reps on each leg using no weight) then right into Abdominal Sit-Ups (5 reps on that exercise, too) then back to calves. Because they're such unrelated bodyparts, they're getting rest while you're working the others, so you don't need specific rest for them.
Biceps - 7 1/2 minutes - Barbell curls
Total workout time: 45 minutes
Thighs - 15 minutes of Squats
Hamstrings - 7 1/2 minutes Stiff-Legged Deadlifts or Leg Curls
Triceps - 7 1/2 minutes of Decline Close Grip Bench Press or Pushdowns
Total Workout Time: 37 1/2 minutes
That's the scoop with Time-Volume Training. Like I mentioned, you can insert this methodology into pretty much any training split and any program. It's one of THE best ways to get a mass-building effect out of bodyweight training (when you can get high reps with an exercise) that I've ever found.
Give it a try in your next workout to test the concept then try a couple of complete workouts with it using bodyweight or free weight. Then you can take the concept with you on the road next time you travel and apply it to some bodyweight training in your hotel room.
I've got several other variations of Time-Volume Training you can try as well...
- Antagonistic Time-Volume Training
- Single Rep Antagonistic Time-Volume Training
- Primary-Secondary Time-Volume Training
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