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Volume 5: Minimalist Volume Training

Updated: Apr 8

Minimalist Conditioning


Volume 5:

Minimalist Volume Training






© Copyright 2023 by Minimalist Conditioning. All Rights Reserved Any unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited. Please obtain a physician’s approval before engaging in any exercise program. Please get checked out from a doctor, and be safe. Exercise common sense more than anything.









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Minimalist Conditioning

Volume 5:

Minimalist Volume Training


“Beware the fury of the patient man.”—John Dryden

Equipment needed:

Mat

Water bottle

Notebook

Pull-up bar

An iron will to succeed



I love doing push-ups. Ever since I was in elementary school, and I tried to do my first one, I have loved doing them.

During the times that I was very unhealthy, and wasn’t exercising regularly, I would still do a few sets of push-ups most days. When I first got back in shape, I walked and did push-ups holding on to my bathroom countertop.

They have always been important to me as a foundation for my overall fitness.

Way back in high school, I discovered something that worked best for me through trial and error, and as I discovered later down the line that many other people have used very similar training techniques to get strong and improve performance.

I was weight training multiple times per week after school, and running in the morning. When I was at home, studying or hanging out, I would do random sets of push-ups and sit-ups all through the day. If I was tired of sitting around, I would knock out a set between commercials. I would work in a set here and there, as my day went by.

I didn’t think that I was on to anything special, but I just did them all through the day to stay busy and active.

As I did them day after day, every day, something happened. They were getting easier and I was able to do more and more without getting tired.

I kept at it, and before I knew it, I was doing hundreds per day. My daily push-ups and sit ups became as much a part of my day as brushing my teeth or eating. They were an enjoyable part of my daily routine.

I later came to understand that many people, such as Soviet weightlifters and the military, had been training this way for a long time with amazing results.

These groups would focus on a handful of basic exercises and train them daily.

They would use weights that were below their maximum, and stop each set short of muscular failure.

This training technique or system allowed them to be able to train daily.

This is called high volume training.

For me, volume training is one of the most effective ways to train.

When I was younger, I thought I had to go all-out every set, every day. Otherwise, I wasn’t making progress. If the weights or reps weren’t jumping up then I wasn’t making progress. If I wasn’t exhausted after each set, then I didn’t try hard enough.

When I was a freshman in high school, I had a physical education teacher, who was the cross-country and track coach, explain to me that there is another way to keep track of progress. It became a much steadier way and safer way for me to make progress.

He also told me to train outside as often as possible, but that’s a topic for another day.

He taught me about training volume, and how to calculate weekly volume. He also showed me how to increase my volume for the week.

Training volume involves looking at the total poundage lifted from week to week.

It is calculated by:

Volume (LBs)=(Repetitions) X (Sets) X (Weight in LBs)

Of course, Kilograms can be used too.

He showed me what happens when one of the variables is changed.

He gave me a sheet with a handful of basic barbell exercises. It was a three day a week strength-training routine. I would perform each exercise for three sets of ten. I would stick to the workout routine on the sheet that he gave me. I would write everything down, and do the same workout each session without changing anything. He told me to keep the weigh the same for each session.

Once I completed the workouts for the week, he then had me add up my total poundage lifted for the week. For the next week, he had me add 5 pounds to each exercise, keeping the reps and sets the same.

He then showed me how much the total poundage added up over the course of the week with a simple 5-pound increase in weight.

Add a few reps with the same weight or increase the number of sets and the total poundage used jumps up. Or change the weight used and watch the totals for the week jump up.

I will note that one of the best habits that I learned early on is to write my training sessions down in a notebook. It’s the only way I can keep things straight in my mind. I can’t possibly remember what I did from week to week for everything. I have been in that habit since middle school, and I still do it today.

In order to make gains in training, there needs to be progression.

The most popular way to track progress is much like I used to do. My focus was adding weight or reps every set, every day. If I didn’t add weight every session, then it wasn’t working or I wasn’t working hard enough.

I always ended up getting hurt, burnt out or frustrated.

Looking at total training volume as a way to track progress was huge. I found that it was a much safer way for me to train because it gave my body a chance to adapt to the workload without putting crazy pressure on myself to do better than the set that I just finished.

I don’t see training volume as a method of tracking gains much anymore.

I have gone back to training this way on my pushups, pull-ups, and squats. It has been incredibly effective.

Here is what I have done.

I do squats and push-ups every day. Pull-ups I do every other day.

I set a goal that I want to be able to do with maximum effort in a single session.

From that target goal, I calculate a heavy day (90% of maximum), a light day (70%) of maximum, and a medium day at (80% of maximum)

Day 1 is the heavy day. Day 2 is the light day. Day 3 is the medium day. Day 4 is the heavy day again. Day 5 is a repeat of the light day. Day 6 is the medium. Day 7 is rest.

If I am training six days per week, I do the squats and push-ups throughout the day.

If I find myself getting a little burnt out, if I have a lot going on, or if I am not recovering adequately enough, I back off to three days per week. I will do the exercises all in one session each day.

Day 1 is the heavy day. Day 2 is a rest day. Day 3 is the light day. Day 4 is a rest day. Day 5 is the medium day. Days 6 and 7 are rest days.

I still do something active on the rest days, but I give the resistance training a break.

If I were using weights or dumbbells, I would use the three day per week split.

Since I primarily focus on bodyweight resistance exercises, I will stick to the push-ups and squats as an example.

I base my daily percentages off of a 10-set method.

If my goal is 100 reps in a session, then my max goal is 10 set of 10.

If my goal is 250 reps per session, then its 10 sets of 25 reps.

It makes the percentages easy to calculate. 90% is 9 sets. 70% is 7 sets. 80% is 8 sets.

I go through that routine for a week, then I add 1 rep to each set.

It may not seem like a lot but over the course of the week, if I calculate the total poundage lifted, it’s quite significant.

That is a form of progression that is very effective, sustainable, and safe.

With bodyweight exercises, the resistance is the body so a person’s body weight is the poundage used.

Let’s use of 100 rep example to calculate a weekly volume for a 200- pound man trying to make progress on his pushups. This man is just starting out, and only has time to train three days a week, but will still use the heavy, light, and medium day system with a day of rest between sessions. He can do all the push-ups in one session or do them throughout the day.

Goal Volume:

100 reps x 200 pounds=20,000 pounds

9 sets X 10 repetitions x 200 pounds=18,000 pounds

Day 2-Light (70%)

7 sets x 10 repetitions x 200 pounds=14,000 pounds

Day 3- Medium 80%

8 sets x 10 repetitions x 200 pounds=16,000 pounds

Total volume for week 1 is 48,000 pounds lifted

The next week he adds 1 rep to each set:

Day 1- Heavy (90%)

9 sets X 11 repetitions x 200 pounds=19,800 pounds

Day 2-Light (70%)

7 sets x 11 repetitions x 200 pounds=15,400 pounds

Day 3-Medium (80%)

8 sets x 11 repetitions x 200 pounds=17,600 pounds

Total volume for week 2 is 52,800 pounds.

That is a total weekly volume increase of 4,800 pounds.

This man will add on rep to each set per week.

By adding one repetition per set each week, in this example, the man will surpass his original single session goal volume of 20,000 pounds on Day 1 of Week 3 when he does 10 sets of 12 repetitions at 200 pounds for 21,600 pounds lifted.

Not too bad.

Once week 3 is done, he can either recalculate his goals, change the difficulty of the exercise, such as elevating his feet, or just keep adding a rep per week. It’s all progress, and it’s all good.

This man could take the same approach with squats, pull-ups, burpees, and some abdominal work. He could practice these basic and effective exercises three days a week, and would make incredible progress.

Does the volume have to be calculated every week? Of course not. It could be, but it could also be calculated at the beginning of each month.

It doesn’t even need to be done that frequently. As long, as I understand that adding some reps, sets, or some a little bit of weight adds up to some serious total poundage over time. That is the main point. By being consistent, slowly progressing over a long period of time has done wonders for my strength, body composition, and overall health.

It would be wise for this man to weight himself once a week, especially in the beginning. Since his bodyweight is his resistance, the volume will change if he gains and loses weight.

In my experience, I dropped a lot of weight when I got back in shape, so I had to add reps and sets to keep my volume the same.

In my experience, adding one repetition isn’t going to grind me down. One repetition isn’t going to wear me down to where my form is going to suffer, or work me so hard to put me in a state of overtraining and then I end up either hating my training or getting injured. Since this person is starting out, he may choose to spread the sets out over the course of the day. As his muscles adapt, he will be able to do each set with less rest between.

Imagine how the volume adds up over the weeks, then months, then year.

When I was getting back in shape, my body could not handle much and I knew that even the slightest increase in activity was going to make me sore, so I spread my exercises out through the day. My body adapted. As I became more advanced and I introduced more exercises, I still stuck to the squats and push-ups over the course of the day, and I was able to steadily progress through by increasing the training volume.

That is progress.

“Slow and steady win the race.”

This is not a get strong quick gimmick program. This a steady and safe progressive program.

Training volume can be applied to any number of exercises or even endurance training.

The result is a solid foundation that is built slowly and safely.

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