Intensity, Volume and Frequency are three aspects of planning a strength training program regardless of the end goal be it maximum strength for powerlifting, building lean muscle for bodybuilding or working on general strength gains to assist with improving sports performance.
Strength Training Intensity
When developing a training program, intensity refers to the % of weight you are lifting of your 1 rep max. If your 1 repetition max is 100 kg on a particular lift then lifting 80 kg for reps means your intensity is at 80%. Intensity is how much effort you are putting into each rep of your strength training program.
Different intensity levels will have differing effects on the way the body adapts and changes to the stresses being placed on it during strength training.
Of great importance to powerlifters is the High Intensity training range of 90% +. In this intensity range the training effect is mostly creating adaptation in your nervous system. Improving efficiency with higher levels of muscle fibre recruitment and coordination. This does not mean that there is no muscular hypertrophy happening, but certainly not as much as will occur at lower intensity levels.
When Training in the 80% – 90% range the strength training will still trigger a good amount of neural adaptation but with a much higher level of muscular hypertrophy which is of primary importance to Bodybuilders and other athletes looking to improve both muscle size and muscular strength.
Training intensity between 70% – 80% Will also trigger a muscular hypertrophy response however at this intensity, ATP depletion, lactic acid, and other components related to endurance come into the training equation.
Strength Training Volume
Volume is the quantity of reps and sets used for each strength training exercise, but how does this have a specific effect on training ? Volume acts as a multiplier for the training intensity, the higher the volume of training the bigger the training effect. However a very high volume training program places the athlete at risk of over training and recovery times will be greatly increased.
Strength Training Frequency
Training Frequency is how often you train each lift and is highly dependent on the athlete’s ability to recover from the total training load generated by the combination of intensity and volume. If training frequency is to low, you are at risk of de-training or at the very least, slowing progress. However, frequency above the lifters ability to recover leads to over training greatly increasing risk of injury.
Achieving Strength Training Results
Achieving optimal results is a balancing act between Intensity, Volume and Frequency of training and the optimal mix for a given lifter with specific goals and responses to training will be different from every other lifter, so while following a generic training plan found online or in a book can work, it may not be optimal for you as an individual.