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Two very popular styles of training both of which are very different. This article will help you learn about them both separately, their pros and cons as well as my personal opinions as to which one I prefer.

Intensity and Volume, what are they?

When we talk about intensity and volume during training what we are referring to is 2 very different training styles, both of which can enable you to reach your goals and it is important to find out which one works best for you. To put it simply, intensity refers to training close to, at and even beyond failure really pushing your body as far as it will go each workout. Whereas volume is more about fitting in as much as you can in terms of sets and reps but without going past failure during your exercises.


Like I previously said intensity is all about doing less overall but pushing yourself to your absolute limits on each workout. Whether it be weight training, cardio or even bodyweight training, there are a number of ways to train at a high level of intensity and a number of reasons why it works.

Let's look at building muscle, to build muscle you need to place stress on your body so that your muscles can adapt to this stress and grow back bigger and stronger. So it only seems fitting that by creating more stress through working at a higher intensity you will achieve more growth. The same thing applies if you are looking to increase your conditioning or cardiovascular fitness, push yourself beyond failure and you'll see more results, after all "no pain no gain" as they say.

There are a number of ways of training at a high intensity, for example if we're talking weight training then you can look at including techniques such as dropsets, forced reps, cluster sets, isometrics, negatives etc. to help you take your sets past failure and push your body to it's very limits. On the other hand if we're talking cardio/conditioning then we would look at working at a higher heart rate doing things like intervals of all out work, be it sprinting, boxing, plyometrics, battle ropes, medicine ball work, sled pushes the list goes on. At the end of the day it's all about decreasing your sets, reps or duration and increasing work ethic and heart rate.

Now to compare the pros and cons of intensity training. To start with it's a great way of increasing muscle mass due to it placing a huge amount of stress and stimuli on the muscles leading to greater growth, as well as this it's also great for heart and lung health. It's a fantastic training style for fat loss as you can burn a large amount of calories in a shorter period of time, leading me on to my next point of how it is also less time consuming which is beneficial if you live a busy lifestyle. Lastly it's great for those that want to feel like they've really worked hard and enjoy the feeling of being completely knackered and dripping in sweat after a workout.

So far so good right? Well unfortunately high intensity training does, as with everything, have some cons. For starters, the obvious one, there is a higher risk of injury. Due to the high demand of stress and high work rate it can increase your risk of hurting yourself if you're not careful. Following on from this you will need longer recovery times between your workouts meaning that if you're someone that likes to train a lot during the week this can be a problem as you would have to cut back. Finally intensity training can be a bit intimidating for beginners as you really have to give everything you've got and sometimes it can be easier for newcomers to ease into fitness a little slower.


Now we've got intensity out of the way let's talk about volume training. Volume training is very simple it's just about doing more, be that more sets and reps during your weight training, longer durations during your cardio sessions or just doing more work during a training week. The key to volume training is to not work quite so close to failure so for weight training leave a few reps in the tank during your set and for cardio stick to a comfortable pace during your jog rather than struggling for breath.

Just like intensity training volume training is a great way of building muscle and increasing your cardiovascular fitness as it still places stress on the body but just prolonged over a period of time rather than in just the one session. For example you might hit 20 sets for your chest across 2 sessions during the week doing 10 sets each time, but these would be kept short of failure and provide less stress each workout, rather than doing 12 sets for chest during the week all in 1 intense workout where you would be training to absolute failure.

Like I've previously said, volume training is all about doing more but spread across a longer period of time, so if you're someone that enjoys exercising each and everyday but doesn't want to overdo it then this could be the training style for you. Another benefit is that you won't need quite so much recovery time between sessions, the general rule is to give your muscles 48 hours to recover after training them directly and with volume training that should be enough allowing you to train a muscle group twice, maybe even 3 times in 1 week! Another benefit is that there's a lower risk of injury when training high volume than there is with intensity training due to less stress being applied during each workout.

The downside of volume training is, for starters, it's very time consuming. In order to do enough to stimulate muscle growth or increase your cardiovascular fitness you're going to have to be training a lot more during the week which can be tricky for some people. On top of this some people may not find it quite as fun or exciting as it is slower paced which can lead to a decrease in motivation. High volume sessions also take longer to burn as many calories as you'll be working at a lower heart rate which could mean that it's not as effective, short term, for weight loss.

My opinion

In the end of the day different people are going to prefer different training styles, what's important is figuring out which one works best for you and gives you the best results. For me personally I've always enjoyed, and had more results, with high intensity training as I enjoy pushing my body beyond failure and feeling like I've done everything I could each workout. Despite this I do enjoy training and sometimes switch to volume training so that I can train more during the week for longer durations. So give both a try and see what works best for you, everyone's bodies are different.

Check out the rest of my articles for more fitness content and guidance. Give some of my free workouts a go or sign up to one of my programs and as always, let me know how you get on!

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