Many of the bodybuilders of the 80-90’s followed volume training which consisted of lots of reps and multiple sets. Volume training consists of lifting light to moderately heavy weight for large quantities of repetitions in order to acquire long lasting lean muscle mass. Using increased training volume is nothing new as in the 70’s strength coaches came out with German Volume Training which was designed to help Olympic lifters put on muscle mass. German Volume Training, originated in Germany in the mid-’70s and was popularized by Rolf Feser, who was then the National Coach of Weightlifting. German Volume Training was used in the off-season to help weightlifters gain lean body mass. It was so efficient that lifters routinely moved up a full weight class within 12 weeks. It is said that the German Volume Training (GVT) method, or the use of a 10 set x 10 rep scheme. It’s no coincidence that Tom Platz whom had some of the greatest legs in history was an advocate of high volume training. Look at his legendary leg routine:
Volume Training: Tom Platz Leg Routine
Tom Platz 500lb 227.5kg squat for 23 reps
Squats 8-12 5-20
Hack Squats 5 10-15
Leg Extensions 5-8 10-15
Lying Leg Curls 6-10 10-15
Standing Calf Raises 3-4 10-15
Seated Calf Raises 3-4 10-15
Hack Machine Calf Raises 3-4 10-15
So it seems that increasing volume is a good way to increase muscle mass for bodybuilders, but what if bodybuilders decided to add one extra set of high repetitions (i.e. 8-12 reps) to their workout, would it make a difference. According to research published recently in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, adding an extra set to your workout can increase muscle mass. To explore the long-term effects of adding one extra set of low-load resistance training before a standard protocol of resistance training on knee extensor strength and size. Twenty-seven males were assigned to 3 groups
–standard plus-one extra set training (The standard plus-one group also performed an additional set of exhaustive exercise 30 seconds after each training session).
All groups trained the quadriceps using a knee extension machine for eight weeks, two days per week, using three sets of 8 – 12 repetitions at 75% of 1RM, with 1 minute of intra-set rest. At the end of the 8-week training period, training volumes were 23.3% greater in the standard plus-one group compared to the standard group. Additionally, the standard plus-one group increased 1RM knee extension strength and muscle size significantly more than the standard group. The standard plus-one group increased quadriceps muscle cross-sectional area (as significantly more than the standard group (20.8% vs. 11.8%). The researchers concluded that performing one extra single set of low-load resistance training at 20% of 1RM immediately prior to a standard protocol of resistance training leads to additional gains in muscular strength and size. Based on the study, if you may consider adding one extra set to your training regimen and lift to complete muscular exhaustion, it may be just enough to add more size and strength.
Aguiar AF, Buzzachera CF, Pereira RM, Sanches VC, Januário RB, da Silva RA, Rabelo LM, de Oliveira Gil AW. A single set of exhaustive exercise before resistance training improves muscular performance in young men. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2015 Mar 10.