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Time-Volume Training – A Mass-Building Program For Bodyweight Exercises
Last summer I was puzzled…how could I use bodyweight training to build substantial muscle mass using exercises like push-ups where I was able to do 30-50+ reps per series!
Enter training duration/volume…
This technique allowed me to do exercises where I could do a ton of reps and turn them into effective mass-builders.
Basically it’s kind of a cross between my compound exercise overload training (where you take a weight that you can do 6 reps with and do 3 sets of reps until you can’t do 3 reps anymore, then you lower the weight and keep going) and Increasing Density Training (by Charles Staley – where you take a set amount of time and do as many reps as you can in that amount of time).
Time/Volume Training is relatively simple. I’m going to use back training for my example here (chin-ups, specifically). To work backwards I use a 15 minute time block (this will vary by body part – use less time for smaller parts).
First, start by doing a set of 3 reps. Then stop and rest for 10 seconds. Now do another set of 3 reps. Stop and rest for 10 seconds.
Continue using 3 sets of reps and 10 seconds of rest until you can’t do 3 reps anymore. When you reach this point, start taking 20 SECONDS of rest between your 3 sets of reps.
Continue using 3 sets of reps and 20 seconds of rest until you can’t do 3 reps anymore. Then take 30 SECONDS of rest between your 3 sets of reps. If you still need to increase, go to 40 seconds, and so on. Keep doing this until your 15 minutes are up.
It’s that simple ! Basically, the idea here is not to fail on one of your reps, but to manage your fatigue in order to maximize your training volume (i.e. more reps and sets).
And, because I originally worked this technique to go with bodyweight training (where you can’t change the resistance), instead of dropping the weight (as in compound exercise overload), you You’ll simply increase the rest periods, giving your body a bit more time to recover between sets, allowing you to continue doing sets with the exact same resistance.
But just because it was originally designed for bodyweight training doesn’t mean you can’t use it with free weights and machines too – it’ll work like a charm for that too. !
You will find that by using this technique with different exercises (especially bodyweight exercises, where some tend to be a little easier than others), you will be able to do longer before having to increase the rest. For example, when doing chin-ups, you’ll probably need to increase the rest sooner than you will with push-ups.
But rest assured, even if you can do 50 pushups, you will ALWAYS come to a point where you cannot do 3 sets of reps on 10 seconds of rest and you will have to increase the rest periods.
It’s a great way to work on bodyweight exercises without resorting to high-repetition endurance training. With the 3-rep sets, you’re still hitting the power-focused muscle fibers, allowing you to make this type of mass-building workout work. Take a few minutes between body parts to cool down.
Here are the time intervals I use for this type of training:
Back, chest and thighs – blocks of 15 minutes each
Hamstrings, shoulders, biceps, triceps, calves and abs – blocks of 10 minutes each
I have also modified some of the body part blocks so that I am actually working 2 body parts at once (I did this with abs and calves).
Here’s a split I use (based on bodyweight training), but you can definitely feel free to create your own. Just make sure to keep your total workout time under an hour (I shot for 40-50 minutes).
This type of training concept is quite simple and you can simply insert it into your preferred training division.
My preference is 2 days on, 1 day off, 2 days on, 2 days off, eg Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday.
Day 1 :
Back – 15 mins of pull ups – I used a steady, tight underhand grip for these, going up and down to full extension.
Chest – 15 min dips – I used two chairs with their backs facing each other. I put my hands on the tops of the chair backs and dove between the chairs. Works like a charm!
Combination Calves and Abs – 10 minutes – NO rest between body parts or sets. I would go straight from single-leg calf raises (5 reps on each leg without weights), then straight to seated abs (5 reps on this exercise as well), then back to calf raises. Because these are such independent body parts, they rest while you work with others, so you don’t need specific rest for them.
Biceps – because I was doing 15 minutes of Chins, the biceps had a lot of work already. I would just like to end the workout with a set of bent arms.
Total workout time: 45 minutes
Thighs – 15 minute Bench Step One Legged Squats. Basically, this exercise is a one-legged squat performed while standing on a chair or bench. Because you are standing, you can descend much further, which increases the overall workload. I also recommend holding on to something for support. This long exercise will really beat your ass.
Hamstrings – nothing for me here – deep bench squats were A LOT of hamstring work, trust me. In a normal split, you would do 10 minutes of hamstring work for this type of Time/Volume workout.
Shoulders – 10 minutes of Pike Handstand Push-Ups. This is a great exercise for the shoulders – it’s a bodyweight exercise, which makes it very effective for functional strength AND it’s pretty easy where if you have decent shoulder strength you should be able to get a good amount of training. In this same link above, you will also find horizontal push-ups, which are a simplified version.
Triceps – 10 mins of Close Grip Push-Ups – although I can normally do about 40-50 in a row, after about 8 consecutive minutes on 10 seconds of rest I had to go to 20 seconds of rest. Fatigue catches up with you and you will really feel the effectiveness of this workout. I ended up again with a set of Flexed Arm Hang here.
Total workout time: 40 minutes
That’s the scoop with Time/Volume Training! As I mentioned, you can insert this methodology into just about any training division and any program.
This is one of the best ways to get a mass-building effect through bodyweight training (when you can get high reps with an exercise) that I’ve ever found.
Try it on your next workout to test the concept, then try a few full workouts with it. Then take the concept with you the next time you travel and apply it to bodyweight training.
You’ll look at the hotel gym (with the stationary bike without a seat and the squeaky hydraulic resistance machines) and LAUGH!
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