This past summer, I was stumped…how could I use bodyweight training to build substantial muscle mass using exercises like push-ups where I was able to do 30 to 50+ reps per set!
Enter Time/Volume Training…
This technique allowed me to take 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 you can do 6 reps with and do 3 rep sets until you can’t get 3 reps anymore, then you drop the weight and keep going) and Escalating Density Training (by Charles Staley – where you take an alloted timeframe and do as many reps as you can within that timeframe).
Time/Volume Training is relatively simple. I’ll use back training for my example here (chin-ups, specifically). For working back, I use a 15 minute block of time (this will vary according to bodypart – use less time for smaller parts).
First, start by doing a set of 3 reps. Then stop and rest 10 seconds. Now do another set of 3 reps. Stop and rest 10 seconds.
Keep going using 3 rep sets and 10 seconds rest until you can’t get 3 reps anymore. When you hit this point, begin taking 20 SECONDS rest in between your 3 rep sets.
Keep going using 3 rep sets and 20 seconds rest until you again can’t get 3 reps anymore. Then take 30 SECONDS rest in between your 3 rep sets. If you have to increase again, go to 40 seconds, and so on. Keep going in this fashion until your 15 minutes are up.
It’s just that simple! Basically, the idea here is not to go to failure on any of your reps but to manage your fatigue so that you can maximize your training volume (i.e. more reps and sets).
And, because I originally worked up this technique to go with bodyweight training (where you can’t change resistance), instead of decreasing the weight (like in Compound Exercise Overload), you will instead just increase the rest periods, which gives your body a bit more time to recover in between sets, allowing you to keep doing sets with the exact same resistance.
But just because it’s originally designed for bodyweight training doesn’t mean you can’t use it with free weights and machines as well – it’ll work like a charm for that, too!
You’ll find when using this technique with different exercises (especially bodyweight exercises, where some tend to be a bit easier than others), you’ll be able to go longer before having to increase rest. For example, when doing chins, you’ll probably have to increase rest sooner than you will with push-ups.
But rest assured, even if you can do 50 push-ups, you’ll STILL get to a point where you’re not able to do 3 reps sets on 10 seconds rest and you’ll have to bump up the rest periods.
It’s a great way to work bodyweight exercises without resorting to high-rep endurance training. With the 3 rep sets, you’re still hitting the power-oriented muscle fibers, which is what allows you to make this type of training work for mass building. Take a few minutes in between bodyparts for recovery.
Here are the time intervals I’ve been using for this type of training:
Back, Chest and Thighs – 15 minute blocks each
Hamstrings, Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps, Calves and Abs – 10 minute blocks each
I’ve also changed up some of the bodypart blocks so that I’m actually working 2 bodyparts at once (I did this with abs and calves).
Here’s a split I’ve been using (based on bodyweight training) but you can certainly feel free to come up with your own. Just be absolutely sure to keep your total workout time to under an hour (I’ve been shooting for 40 to 50 minutes).
This type of training concept is simple enough where you can simply insert it into whatever your favorite training split is.
My preference is for a 2 day on, 1 day off, 2 day on, 2 days off type of training split, e.g. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday.
Back – 15 minutes of chin-ups – I was using a regular underhand, close grip for these, coming all the way up and down to full extension.
Chest – 15 minutes of dips – I was using two chairs with the back facing each other. I would set my hands on the tops of the chair backs and do dips in between the chairs. Works like a charm!
Combination of Calves and Abs – 10 minutes – NO rest in between bodyparts or sets. I would just go straight from one-legged calf raises (5 reps on each leg using no weight) then right into Abdominal Sit-ups (5 reps on that exercise, too) then back to calves. Because they’re such unrelated bodyparts, their getting rest while you’re working the others, so you don’t need specific rest for them.
Biceps – because I was doing 15 minutes of Chins, biceps already got a lot of work. I would just finish the workout with one set of flexed arm hang.
Total workout time: 45 minutes
Thighs – 15 minutes of Bench Step One Legged Squats. Basically, this exercise is a one-legged squat done standing on a chair or bench. Because you’re standing up off the ground, you can drop down a lot further, increasing the overall workload. I also recommend hanging onto something for support. This exercise for this long will really beat the crap out of you.
Hamstrings – nothing for me here – the deep bench step squats were PLENTY of work for the hamstrings, believe me. In a normal split, you would do 10 minutes of hamstring work for this type of Time/Volume training.
Shoulders – 10 minutes of Pike Handstand Push-Ups. This is a great exercise for shoulders – it’s a bodyweight exercise, making it very effective for functional strength AND it’s easy enough where if you’ve got decent shoulder strength, you should be able to get good training volume. In that same link above, you’ll also find Horizontal Push-Ups, which is an easier version of it.
Triceps – 10 minutes of Close Grip Push-Ups – even though I can normally do about 40 to 50 of these in a row, after about 8 straight minutes on 10 seconds rest, I had to increase to 20 seconds rest. The fatigue catches up to you and you’ll really be feeling how effective this training is. I again finished with one set of the Flexed Arm Hang here.
Total Workout Time: 40 minutes
That’s the scoop with Time/Volume Training! Like I mentioned, you can insert this methodology into pretty much any training split and any program.
It’s one of THE best ways to get a mass-building effect out of bodyweight training (when you can get high reps with an exercise) that I’ve ever found.
Give it a try in your next workout to test the concept then try a couple of complete workouts with it. Then take the concept with you next time you travel and apply to some bodyweight training.
You’ll look at the hotel gym (with the stationary bike with no seat and the squeaky hydraulic resistance machines) and LAUGH!