Heavy High Volume Method

Dustin Myers


The “heavy high volume” method is my twist on one of the most classic weight lifting or body building templates - the traditional five sets of five.  I grew up doing five sets of five in my dad's garage as a teenager and I still utilize it in my programming today with my athletes. It's a great way to build muscle and strength.  Using the traditional template there are only two variables - the amount of weight and the amount of rest between sets.  In order to focus on conditioning and improve muscle endurance I developed a method that shortens the rest variable substantially.  The heavy high volume method is essentially taking the old five sets of five but resting only 10-20 seconds in between each set of five reps.  This is a form of programming known as clustering - I typically use it to break up very heavy sets to ensure crisp, explosive form (try breaking a heavy triple down into 3 singles with only 10 seconds in between…you will be able to go heavier and be more explosive), but this method is a great high volume way to utilize clustering.

Over the course of less than two minutes, you are still doing 25 reps using this method.  Using the traditional 5 x 5, it may take 7-10 minutes to complete the same number of reps.  Now, keep in mind you will have to use a little bit less weight than you normally use on five sets of five. You maybe have to utilize a weight that your weight of max reps is roughly eight. So what that means, for example I could normally do five sets of five in a traditional fashion with 100-pound dumbbells on chest press. However, if I only rest 10-20  seconds in between each set, I would not be able to complete all five.  With the shortened rest time I may have to drop down to 85-pound dumbbells. Now, I would do five reps with the 85-pound dumbbells, rest 10 seconds and then repeat and continue to do that until five sets is reached. The first set or two may be easy because I would normally be able to do eight to 10 reps on a given day if I was just doing a single set with 85's. But, by the fourth or fifth set, now I'm still with under two minutes of time and I'm now at a total of 25 reps. Rather than do a set of dumbbell presses for 25 reps which I would have to use a much lighter weight, maybe 65s or 70s, I'm able to do 25 reps in a short period of time with the 85's because of the little mini rest in between each set of five.

Another solid application of this method is on functional conditioning such as box jumps, med ball slams, or sledgehammer swings.  This allows you to “reset” after you get five reps and concentrate on form rather than just trying to grind out 25. It's also good for athletes who are not very good at chin-ups or dips as a way to build up their endurance on body weight exercises. Rep out five, rest 10 seconds and then go again until 25 is reached. I also like to utilize it on heavy dynamic movements such as hip swings or tire flips.  If you do a prolonged set of hip swings, you find that even though you're able to continue to move the weight, it may not be quite as explosive as the first few reps.  Form will start to suffer and you will lose the benefit of doing the reps explosively.  Clustering the sets together with low rest allows you to still benefit from the conditioning aspect of these exercises.

All in all, this is a great method to work in to your programming occasionally.  A fun challenge would be to utilize the Heavy High Volume 5 x 5 on every exercise for an entire week.  I guarantee that the following week your normal 5 x 5 will feel much easier…and that will mean it’s time to add more weight!

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