Another Volume Question

January 2023 home Forums Training Another Volume Question

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    I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the number of sets per body part in the PPL programs. It’s lower than what I’m used to. Should I add weight to make the exercises harder to get in the rep ranges (which I’m not sure I can safely do) or just add a bunch of extra sets to each workout?

    I’m 40+, lifting for 5 years so novice to intermediate, no coach or training partner to spot, and the gym in my apartment complex is limited to a smith machine, dumbells, and a bunch of cables I can set high or low or various degrees in between.

    I don’t go super heavy for the reasons above but believe my compound movements are 1 to 3 RIR and I typically do 16 to 24 sets per body part (4 to 6 exercises) with 1 to 2 minute rest periods vs. the 9 sets with 2 to 3 minute rests per the PPL programs. And then I usually do the same for my bi’s, tri’s, and shoulders around 7 to 12 sets vs 3 sets per the PPL programs.

    I.e., I’m afraid only doing 3 sets of curls will either leave me with noodle arms like I used to have or I’m going to have to increase the weight so much that I’m going to hurt myself. And I definitely don’t feel comfortable going up in weight with compound movements due to risk of messing up my shoulder on bench, back doing heavy smith squats, etc.



    If you are training with 1-3 RIR then I would say you are within striking distance of failure and placing sufficient stimulus on your body.

    As for the concerns re volume of sets. You may find that a period of re sensitising your body by doing lower volume will prime it for when you return to higher volume (if you so wish).

    In turn, trainer lower volume could see you easily progress in strength much quicker (whilst still maintaining your preferred RIR) due to reducing the overall recovery demands and fatigue.

    With regards to your concerns about arm volume. I think Layne Norton spoke about some research that he believed 4 sets per week was enough to maintain muscle mass on a body part (along those lines). If you are super worried you could always add a couple of sets on top to give you piece of mind.

    That’s my $0.02 – hope it helps.


    Thanks Joe!

    Jakub D.

    Hey Joe, I have different questions. I have been doing ppl of yours for 16 weeks and still love it! But around 12week i couldn’t add more reps… I know you suggest if recovery is low to start again or do recovery program but I don’t Want to do that or train without training to failure…. So I cut the volume somewhere (for instance RDL, dumbbell bench press, hacksqat etc just one top set, isolation stuff just 2 sets) and I’m moving more than weeks before, feel goods etc. I do just 3 days a week….
    Could be that way too for long time if hypertrophy is goal but volume is “low” than you outlined? Thanks, hope that make sense.

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