In a previous discussion, three distinct philosophies for muscle building were explored:
- Effort-Based Training: This approach centers on maximizing effort during each set to achieve results from a small number of work sets. It’s also known as low-volume training or High Intensity Training (HIT).
- Volume-Based Training: Here, a higher number of sets are employed, although they are not pushed as intensely as in effort-based training. The goal is to accumulate enough effective repetitions to stimulate hypertrophy.
- Load-Based Training: This approach mainly involves heavy lifting to build both strength and size in tandem, often referred to as powerbuilding.
All three methods are effective for achieving hypertrophy, but the choice between them depends on your individual circumstances and training experience.
For Fat Loss (Caloric Deficit):
Effort-based and volume-based approaches are effective during a fat loss phase, each for different reasons. However, load-based training is more suitable only until you reach around 10% body fat, as lifting heavy can become more hazardous at lower body fat levels.
Volume-based training has the advantage of burning more calories, but it becomes problematic when your caloric deficit primarily results from reduced food intake. With less food, your capacity to recover from training is hampered. On the other hand, a volume-based approach can be suitable when you achieve a significant caloric deficit through exercise and other physical activities.
Effort-based training is more fitting when you significantly reduce food intake to create a caloric deficit. This approach is not reliant on a particular diet and works well with low-carb dieting, as fewer carbs result in decreased muscle glycogen, affecting the efficacy of high-volume training.
For Bulking (Large Caloric Surplus):
When bulking with a significant caloric surplus, both load-based and volume-based training are beneficial. Load-based training thrives due to added water retention, glycogen storage, and even fat gain, which improve passive joint stability and support heavy lifting. Volume-based training requires additional fuel, aiding in minimizing fat gain and providing a higher energy expenditure.
For Maingaining (Maintaining Muscle with Minimal Fat Gain):
Maingaining, the phase between recomposition and bulking, involves maintaining muscle without significant fat gain. All three training approaches can be used, depending on your specific circumstances. Effort-based training is appropriate when eating at maintenance daily. Volume-based training can be suitable if you maintain higher food and carbohydrate intake but may pose recovery challenges with significant food reduction and low-carb strategies. Load-based training is feasible for maingaining, but more suitable when you’re not already at a very lean body fat level.
For Recomping (Losing Fat and Gaining Muscle):
Recomposition is challenging but involves creating a small caloric deficit over the week. It typically consists of three days at maintenance, three days at a slight deficit (on non-training days with cardio/conditioning), and one day at a slight surplus (on the most important workout day). Effort-based training combined with low-intensity cardio on separate days is recommended, as it’s easier to recover from and supports fat loss.
Building Muscle While Practicing a Recreational Sport:
For those who aim to improve their physique while engaging in sports, the recommended training approaches are effort-based training or a lower-volume load-based strategy. A lower volume strategy minimizes interference with sports performance and aids recovery.
Beginners benefit from volume-based training, as it offers more practice for movements and muscle contractions. Given their lower neurological efficiency and reduced capacity for lifting heavy weights, more sets are required to stimulate muscle growth. As beginners build their mind-muscle connection and movement efficiency, they can transition to an effort-based approach to incorporate hard training effectively.
For Stressed Individuals:
People under high stress, whether physical or mental, have limited capacity to handle training volume. In such cases, an effort-based approach is the most suitable.
Combining Training Approaches:
Combining effort-based and volume-based training is not recommended, but load-based training can be integrated with effort-based training.
Combining Approaches in a Training Cycle:
You can employ different training approaches in a periodized manner within a single training cycle, offering variety and promoting balanced progress. The choice of sequence can be tailored to your experience level and objectives, whether for beginners, intermediates, or advanced lifters.
Ultimately, the optimal approach depends on your specific goals, dietary strategy, and individual circumstances.