Quality Volume Training

Posted on 05 Jul 2014 17:13

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I am going to be making a series of videos regarding various progression schemes I have used to get stronger. The method I am going to discuss today is called Quality Volume Training or QVT.

This particular method of training, like a lot of GUS methods, has generated a lot of confusion.

It is actually very simple, but also very flexible. Quality Volume Training is about adding quality repetitions in a weight range close to your max. QVT is not about simply building up from light to heavy as possible weights using one to three rep sets. It is about gathering as much volume in the 80% or ABOVE range while maintaining quality (within reason).

Watch the video below, or view it on YouTube, and then read the clarifying notes and points that come afterwards.



Who Should Use Quality Volume Training (QVT)?

Anyone can use QVT. In fact, you can use it just because you feel like using it. It is flexible enough to be used as a standalone method. I mentioned in the video talk that I did not want to get into the circular “nonsense” of a certain progression scheme being for a beginner because they were able to use this certain scheme (or an intermediate or advanced trainee) and the reason they were able to use this certain scheme is because they are a beginner. What I meant by that is that you use this method, or any other method, because it fits your needs and goals at that time, not because it fits some quasi-rational definition of what it means to be at a certain level of training. I talked about three scenarios for which QVT would be a good choice:

1. You’ve just hit a new PR and you want to solidify your gains. This is similar to what we call consolidation. It means that now that you’ve made this new PR, you want to do work that helps cement this ability. The goal is not just to have a PR, after all, but to make that PR you did once, into something that is generally in your wheel-house. In other words, something you can do any day of the week. This can be a goal of QVT, to cement strength training performance gains.

2. You’ve been doing heavy singles for a while and you want to increase your workload at a weight closer to your max. This is a similar goal to number one, above. In this case, however, you want to increase workload at this higher weight range, to make it easier to work at even higher ranges of weight later. Number one and number two are largely parallel goals. QVT can help you cement your ability, or it can help you reach new levels of ability.

3. You’ve been doing a lot of volume work and you now want to switch back to near-maximal work like singles, doubles, triple, etc. QVT can be used as a bridge between this lighter high volume work and the very heavy work you plan to do.

4. You’ve had a layoff from training or an injury that has caused you to lose strength. QVT can be used to quickly regain lost strength ability, and even to help work through an injury (ask advice one that!)

What is QVT? What is it’s Goal?

Quality Volume Training is adding quality volume (reps), at weights in the 80% or above range (of your previous max). What is quality? Well, as I explain in the video, quality is two things in strength training (for QVT purposes):

1. Quality is lifting heavy, in the “strength training range.” It is better to start at 80% (I explain all this in the vid) but the goal is to do a lot of reps in the 85% plus range. You can build up to working in this range a slowly as you like. In fact, at first it would be better to build slowly but in the video I give a more aggressive example to show you how “hardcore” this can get. Doing a bunch of reps at 70% intensity is not quality for strength training purposes.

2. Quality is maintaining your performance within certain (loose) standards. This means you form does not have to be perfect at all times, but you want the bulk of your work to be done with pretty good form. This means you should be doing a lot of grinders or extremely difficult reps (that comes with other methods, not QVT). You have to use your best judgment. If this could be boiled down to a set of finite rules it wouldn’t be near as useful. We can only give guidelines.

Eric makes it clear that he is not the first person to use the term “quality volume.” We use the name QVT because it was a convenient shorthand way of identifying the method as a distinct entity. But when strength trainees see acronyms, something happens in their minds and they start getting excited. Acronyms have this sense of “proofiness” that Eric always jokes about.

Well, to take some of the power out of that, so that this doesn’t become a religion (more on that in the vid), I will tell you that, although the word volume is used in the name, the goal is not actually to build volume as you go along. As you’ll learn from the video, you aren’t doing higher reps than three. The volume will not build past a certain range. However, for the strength training range of intensity this will be a LOT of volume. So the name reflects the fact that this is more volume than most do in these higher weight ranges, while still trying to maintain a certain level of performance. What is actually going up is the workload. I think you can see why it is not called “quality workload training.”

In the example above I gave you some overall goals. Some reasons why you would choose QVT. However, those are end goals. QVT itself always has a similar goal and that is simply to increase your workload capacity at higher and higher weight ranges with this high volume (for such heavy weights) method. That simple goal brings about many possibilities – many times where QVT is a great choice. Why? Because increasing your workload at higher weight ranges (near maximal) is one of the most important and central goals of strength training.

Note that there is a difference between the goal of your training, and your overall goal for lifting weights. Ultimately, you don’t care about your workload (when your goal is a new 1RM or PR). But increasing that workload at a near-maximal range will enable you to realize that ultimate goal. You might also realize that getting a new PR and regaining lost strength levels after a layoff or injury, are kind of similar. So you see, we have one very flexible and powerful method for what seems like completely different end-games.

Clarifying Median Intensity and Raising the Weights

In the video I give a hypothetical example and in that example, when all the various weights are averaged, we get 263 lbs. Since the training scenario is based on a max of 300 lbs, we find that 263 lbs is about 88% of max. That’s the median intensity (it’s not really the median from an arithmetic standpoint but median is a cooler sounding word than average and it is being used to mean the same thing as average but people get confused by the word average because we call so many things average in the sense of ordinary: Oh, your intensity is average, man.

In the video I say that after the first session, the bulk of your reps should be done at weights higher than 263lbs, so that you are building on it and raising the average intensity. This is what raises the workload. I should clarify that I should have said that this is the easiest way to do it, but not the only way. You can move along as slowly or as quickly as you’d like. You can also plan ahead more or plan less.

The goal is to eventually be doing a similar volume at weights much closer to your max than you started, say in the 90 plus range or higher. How you get there doesn’t matter and when you first start using QVT you will probably want to be a bit less aggressive. Later, when you’ve had more experience with this type of training, you can be more purposeful in building the intensity. As I say in the vid, if you have questions, ask! QVT is difficult to pin down into finite rules, as already mentioned.

Do I Work Up to the Heaviest Weight Possible?

This part of the video needs some clarification. I told you that it is not the goal of QVT to work up to the heaviest weight possible. We’ve already went over the goal of it, and the video goes into these goals in detail. There is no need to work up to the heaviest weight you can manage in any one session. However, eventually, you do want to be working up to the heaviest weights possible. Your sessions will likely be mixed.

You must realize that your true ability changes from week to week, even day to day. When you use methods like QVT, you really start to experience that, where other methods would have you use rote progression schemes that will never tell you where you stand at any one time. So, this means that when we say “work up to the heaviest weight possible” it doesn’t mean a PR, or even your max. Furthermore, it doesn’t necessarily correspond to “what you can do with QVT” overall. It represents your preparedness on that day, and within the bounds of what you have been doing that day to work up to that heavy weight. Since ability fluctuates, sometimes you might find yourself approaching your maximal ability for that day quicker than you expect. It is good to at least approach that range, and maybe do a single with a weight that you know you can not do any more with (or much more with) and that you know you cannot add to. But you are not going to force out really difficult and sloppy grinders at that weight or try to force more weight on the bar at all costs. But at other times, even when you have more into, you’ll be leaving some in the tank so you can build on it later.

This is hard to understand, when you are used to rote methods. So much of all this GUS stuff is thinking on your feet. But, just remember that, although lifting very heavy weights for a single, or a few reps, has a very positive effect on strength gains, your body responds to your training over time, and overall. With QVT, your body is adapting to the workload, and the average intensity. Not that one big lift. That one big lift helps, but it is not going to jump you to a new PR all by itself. Strength training is work, work, work.

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