The age old saying that ‘more isn’t always better’ can also be applied to your workout volume (weight x reps x sets), but with volume being widely known to be one of the key drivers of muscle growth (1) how does that saying apply?

How Can This Apply To Volume?

One factor that is commonly overlooked when volume is considered, is the effort an individual puts into a workout. The intensity one applies to workouts is also important for stimulating muscle growth and volume becomes less significant if an individual's effort is low (1,2).

Therefore do we have to go all out and train to failure every workout? The answer is no, as going to failure (when the muscle can’t produce any more force to control a given load) isn't the only way to grow muscle (3,4).

Perceived Effort

Unless you are an experienced trainee, understanding your perceived effort within a workout can be hard to judge (5) and applying a new stimulus gets harder after the beginner effects of growing muscle wear off. Even if the goal doesn't have to be a failure, effort during a workout still needs to be high enough to increase the chance of muscle growth thus it’s important that effort is maintained at a relatively high level.

The thought that if progression stalls is only answered by an increase in volume and volume alone, the chance of more workload being less efficient and achieving less results is a high possibility (6). Moreover, other considerations associated with training should be made and not just that more volume is the key.


Many factors can influence how we judge effort (5), but being honest with yourself and determining how much effort you put into the exercises and workouts is a good accountability tool to use before volume is increased.