Total-Volume-or-High-IntensApart from the “Compound Exercise Only” heads in this game, the group I find most annoying is the “Total Volume” people….grrrrrr.

Do you know what I mean? They multiply the reps and sets completed by the weight lifted to arrive at a “Total Volume” Figure.

The larger that figure the better their gains, or so they believe.

Intensity, going to failure, has nothing to do with stimulating gains according to these people. It’s all about that final number.

Example: 10 sets x 8 reps/set x 100lbs used in each set = 8000.

Wow – 8000, that’s big. Must be good. Really? Seriously?

I’m going to delve into the Intensity Vs Total Volume topic here but before I do, I can encapsulate the whole argument in one sentence that I want you to remember:

Stimulating muscle gains is a biological matter, not a mathematical one. Intensity matters!

Stimulating muscle gains is a biological matter, not a mathematical one. Intensity matters! Share on X



Total Volume is a groundless argument. But many proponents use it as justification for not training to failure, because total volume is more important than intensity.

This means that the total amount of reps and sets performed is more important than the intensity of effort employed.

high-intensity-training-hitLet’s say I can do 10 reps to failure on a bench press. If I was a believer in Total Volume, I could stop at rep 8 knowing that I’ll perform another 8 reps after a minute’s rest or so. If I do this 10 times, that’s 80 total reps at whatever weight I was using.

Contrast this to the guy that goes to failure. Let’s say he is a THT training guy. He does 6 sets and fails on the 10th rep every time. That’s 60 reps at whatever weight was employed.

The Total Volume (TV) guy points to his 20 extra reps as proof of a superior workout. The THT guy points to the higher intensity of effort as proof of a superior workout. Let’s consider what the TV guy is implying here…

If he voluntarily stops at rep 8, he must believe that the first 2 reps of his next set are equal in stimulating growth as the last 2 reps of the previous set which he DIDN’T perform (rep 9 + 10).

Basically he asserts that WHEN a rep is performed in a set doesn’t matter; it’s simply the QUANTITY that matters.

Is this the case? Nope.

There are biological factors relating to that last rep which are conducive to producing growth. And they just don’t happen if you don’t take the set to its end. Let’s have a look…




  • one-more-repThat last rep is what is responsible for maximizing “metabolic stress”. And metabolic stress rates correlate positively with muscle hypertrophy/growth.
  • That last rep will also maximize the recruitment of type 2b muscle fibers, the ones that are predominantly responsible for size gains.
  • That last rep will help maximize muscle damage. This leads to inflammation, which leads to the release of growth factors that stimulate protein synthesis. Damage the muscle and stimulate the thickening of individual muscle fibers.
  • The sheer stress and fatigue caused by those last reps is a form of “cellular disruption” that causes an increase in all the growth factors i.e those responsible for protein synthesis rates.


These are the biological markers of stimulating gains. The “total volume number” you write on a piece of paper at the end of your workout is not a marker of anything – though it may inflate your ego.

This is NOT mathematics. It’s biology. Total volume does not take precedence over intensity.

There are biological factors occurring inside the muscle that just don’t and won’t happen if you don’t train to failure – fact!

Now, check this out…

The following is from a discussion I had with a fellow trainer who was into Total Volume. I have excerpted this from my article, ‘Training To Failure Roundtable‘.

He was making that point that going to 100% (failure) was unnecessary and that 7-8 reps (70-80%) was better coupled with extra sets for a larger ‘Total Volume’ figure.

To this I said…

One-on-one-meetingMe: “Let me ask you: Why go to 7 out of 10 possible reps (or 70%)? If Total Volume was true, doing 5 reps (50% intensity of effort) for a total of 14 sets would also yield 70 total reps. It would be equally as effective, right?” [7 x 10 = 70.  5 x 14 = 70]

Him: “Well…”

Me: “Or why not do 1 rep, put the bar down, have a chat or whatever. And just make sure you do that 70 times, because it’s the total number that matters, not intensity.”

Him: “Yeah but Mark, no-one is recommending training to just 10% or 50% in every set.

Me: “Why not?”

Him: “It’s too easy. You have to go a bit higher”.

Me: “Ah, exactly. It’s too easy. It’s not taxing enough, or you might even say…it’s not intense enough. Don’t you see you’ve just conceded the point? You’ve just implicitly stated that there is indeed something about the intensity of effort. If this were not so, those low-intensity sets would stimulate an equal amount of growth because it’s all just down to the math at the end of the day”.


The body’s existing capacity must be stressed in order to trigger the desired adaptive response i.e. the body increasing its existing capacity by building more muscle mass.

And I need to say this because it’s important…for me it’s not even a matter of  Intensity Vs Volume. What I argue for is…


Both. It’s not one or the other. Once the intensity is there, volume matters. But if the intensity isn’t there, all the volume in the world will still be ineffective.

THTcover150Intensity and volume form the foundation of THT training. Everything is dialed in correctly to produce superior gains. No wonder people make the best gains of their life with this routine. THT training is 100% free.

NOTE: You don’t have to go to your email to confirm anything. Once you click the button, you’ll be taken straight to the download page 😀 I operate a ‘Strictly Zero Spam‘ policy.


Don’t get it twisted, the real motivation of TV proponents is not science, but simply their lack of strength and will (physical and mental) to take a set to failure i.e. they just don’t like it.


But Doesn’t Failure “Fry your CNS”?

One last point. Don’t you just love it when a phrase is parroted around by people who don’t even know what it means?

People that don’t like/want to train to failure pick this phrase up somewhere on their journey and regurgitate it when it’s needed to defend their position.

While there is a lot that can be said on this issue, I can summarize it by simply saying that it’s rubbish. You can experience this type of burnout by OVERTRAINING, but taking a set to failure doesn’t “fry your central nervous system”.


If you have any questions or need help, ask me below 😀

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I think my ‘send-off’ that I put at the bottom of most of my articles is more relevant than ever today…

“Train With Intensity!”


You'll love your fast gains on THT!

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You'll love your fast gains on THT!

Cool! Click here to take you to the download page. (or check your email for the download link)