Trainer: Volume Plus Intensity Training

Unstick yourself by alternating the two methods that add muscle and strength.

How many guys do you know go to the gym regularly but still make no progress? They get to a certain level and stay there. Forever. As hard as it is to admit it, maybe you're one of them.

The problem is usually because the same things that worked when you were a beginner don't work anymore-you can't just add weight to the bar every week or go to failure. The solution is to alternate heavy lifting with weeks when you use lighter loads for more reps. Follow our plan for 5 to 10 weeks and start breaking barriers again.

How It Works

Lighter loads and more volume (sets x reps x load) provide a hard workout without being too stressful, and they help you recover after weeks of highly intense training (low-rep sets with heavy weights). So you're getting the best of both worlds in this program-big pumps one week and big weights the next.

On volume weeks, the weights will feel easy, since you're coming off a week of heavy training. On intensity weeks, you'll feel strong and focused because you'll have to work up to only one or two hard sets. This back-and-forth undulation not only keeps your muscles guessing and prevents overtraining, it also provides a mental break and makes training more fun.

Find Your Number

The bench press and deadlift are the two main lifts you're working to get stronger on. You need to calculate the loads you'll use for each. First, find or estimate your one-rep max (the most weight you can lift for one rep).

From here, you can estimate how much weight you can use for any number of reps. For example, during the volume weeks (Weeks 1 and 3), you'll do sets of eight reps. You need to find a) the load that gives you eight reps as based on your one-rep max and b) the load that's the correct percentage of that eight-rep max (you'll use a different percentage each week).

See "Find Your Number" above to figure out approximately how many reps a certain percentage yields. The intensity weeks are simpler. You'll use percentages of your one-rep max.


FREQUENCY: Perform each workout (Day 1, 2, and 3) once per week.

TIME NEEDED: 45 min.

HOW TO DO IT: Perform the exercise pairs (marked "a" and "b") as alternating sets. Complete one set of a, rest, then one set of b, rest again, and repeat until all sets are complete. Do the remaining exercises as straight sets.

Volume Vs. Intensity
How much to lift each week

The following are the percentages, sets, and reps you'll use each week for the bench press and deadlift.

    • WEEK 1: 4 sets of 8 reps with 85% of your 8-rep max

    • WEEK 2: 5 sets. 50% of your 1-rep max for 12 reps, 60% for 8 reps, 75% for 5, 85% for 5 reps, 90% for 3 reps

    • WEEK 3: 4 sets of 8 reps with 90% of your 8-rep max

    • WEEK 4: 5 sets. 50% of your 1-rep max for 12 reps, 60% for 8 reps, 75% for 5, 85% for 5 reps, 90% for 3 reps, 95% for 1 rep

    • WEEK 5: 4 sets of 8 reps with 95% of your 8-rep max

    • WEEK 6: Rest

    • WEEK 7: Repeat the cycle, adding 5 to 10 more pounds to each set

Day 1

1 Bench Press
See "Volume vs. Intensity" for sets and reps

Bench Press Bench Press

Hold the bar with an overhand, outside-shoulder-width grip. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and arch your back. Take the bar out of the rack, lower it to your sternum, and then push your feet hard into the floor to help you press the weight up.

2a Off-Set Split Squat
Sets: 3 Reps: 10 (each side)

Hold a dumbbell with your left hand at shoulder level, standing with your right foot in front of your left. Keeping your torso upright, bend both knees and lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor.

3a Staggered Stance Bentover Row
Sets: 3 Reps: 15 (each side)

Staggered Stance Bentover Row Staggered Stance Bentover Row

Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and stand with your left leg in front of the right (your weight should be on your front leg). Bend forward at the hips and, with your back arched, row the dumbbell to your side.

3b Cable Woodchop
Sets: 3 Reps: 15 (each side)

Attach a rope handle to the high pulley of a cable station. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and split your legs so that one foot is a few feet in front of the other. Rotate your torso diagonally downward until the handle ends up at the outside of your opposite leg.

Day 1:

Day 2

1 Deadlift
See "Volume vs. Intensity" for sets and reps

Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, bend down, and grab the bar outside your knees. Your shoulders should be over the bar. Keeping your lower back in its natural arch, drive your heels into the floor and push your hips forward, lifting the bar until it's in front of your thighs.

2a Cable Row
Sets: 3 Reps: 10

Sit at a cable station with your knees slightly bent and your feet braced. Keep your lower back in its natural arch and grab the handle with a shoulder-width, overhand grip. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the bar until it meets your lower chest.

2b High-Incline Dumbbell Press
Sets: 3 Reps: 10

Incline Dumbbell Press
Incline Dumbbell Press

Set an adjustable bench to a steep incline (until the back rest is almost vertical). Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level and sit back against it. Press the weights straight up.

3a Single-Leg RDL Row
Sets: 3 Reps: 15 (each side)

Hold a handle attached to the low pulley of a cable station in your right hand. Balance on one foot. keeping the arch in your lower back, bend at your hips and lower your torso. Extend your hips to come back up and then row the cable to your side.

3b Swiss Ball Punch
Sets: 3 Reps: 15

Swiss Ball Punch Swiss Ball Punch

Rest your forearms on a Swiss ball and spread your feet out behind you so your body forms a straight line. Extend your arms, rolling the ball forward.

Day 2:

Day 3

1a Front Squat
Sets: 3 Reps: 10

Start with the barbell on the supports of a power rack at about shoulder height. Grab the bar overhand and raise your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Now lift the bar off the rack, letting it roll toward your fingers-as long as you keep your elbows raised, you will balance the bar. Squat as low as you can.

1b Rear-Delt Flye
Sets: 3 Reps: 10

Reverse Flyes
Reverse Flyes

Set an adjustable bench to 45 degrees and lie facedown on it with a dumbbell in each hand. Your thumbs should touch. Raise your arms straight out to your sides so your thumbs face the floor at the top.

2a Bentover Row From Floor
Sets: 3 Reps: 10

Bentover Row From Floor Bentover Row From Floor

Hold a barbell with a shoulder-width grip and, keeping your lower back arched, bend over until your torso is parallel to the floor and the bar is resting on the floor. Row the bar to your belly and return it to the floor after each rep.

2b Off-Set Swiss Ball Press
Sets: 3 Reps: 10 (each side)

Hold a dumbbell in one hand and lie back on a Swiss ball. Bracing your abs for balance, press the weight over your chest.

3a Close-Grip Pull-down
Sets: 3 Reps: 10

Close-Grip Front Lat Pulldown
Close-Grip Front Lat Pulldown

Sit at a pull-down station and grab the bar with an overhand grip, hands inside shoulder width. Pull the bar straight down to your collarbone.

3b Swiss Ball Knee Drive
Sets: 3 Reps: 15

Set up as you did for the Swiss ball punch, but keep your arms steady and drive one knee at a time up to the ball and back. Keep your balance and brace your core.

Day 3: