Utilizing volume within your training is one of the best ways to improve muscle size, strength, and endurance.
However, many who are looking to add muscle mass may wonder how to efficiently implement volume within their training.
You can use volume “landmarks” called minimum effective volume (MEV) and maximum recoverable volume (MRV) to train with correct amounts of volume. Think of MEV as the minimum volume you need to grow, and your MRV tells you when you’re at the maximum.
In strength training, we need to hit our MEV by performing enough sets weekly to reach our goals. But there comes a point where there is too much volume for our bodies to recover from resulting in if we go over our MRV
The key is understanding HOW to use both of these landmarks, and how to program the training sessions effectively to achieve your goals.
- Your MEV tells you about the minimum volume you need to grow, and your MRV tells you about the maximum.
- You shouldn’t train at your MEV forever.
- You hit your MRV when you are unable to recover or see a loss in performance.
- The key is to start a training block at your MEV and gradually work up to your MRV by the end of your training block.
MEV Explained with Example
There comes a point where the amount of volume within training will grow your muscles and anything below this amount may only maintain them. This point is called MEV or minimal effective volume.
When you begin training over this point you will see diminishing returns on the extra sets performed but you will still see muscle gain.
This point will come a lot sooner for those who are new to fitness versus those who have a fairly experienced training age.
For example, if an individual is performing 10 sets per week for the chest they will do a good job of reaching most of their hypertrophic potential.
And if they were to bump that up to say 15 sets per week they would receive more gains but at a slower rate.
This is highly general as some people can handle higher amounts of volume but most people want to be within that 10-20 sets per week range.
To reach hypertrophy we want to make sure we are training at LEAST at our MEV to achieve these goals. The easiest way to know you are training at or beyond your MEV is by seeing muscle growth over time.
A quick way to gauge if you trained at MEV during a single session is by asking yourself the following three questions:
- Did I get a pump from this session?
- Did I feel like my targeted muscles were challenged?
- Did the session make me sore?
Score each of these metrics on a scale from 0 to 2 (0 being no soreness at all and 2 being you were sore for a few days). After you feel like you truly assessed the session add up the numbers.
If that session scored a total of 0 or 1, then you probably did not train to your MEV. If you score between 2 and 4, that’s probably a good guess of your session MEV. If you score a 5 or 6, that’s very likely higher than your MEV.
However, if you’re goal is to gain muscle you probably should not look to pinpoint your MEV and continue to train at the point for extended amounts of time. Instead, you should start your training block at that point while gradually adding volume near your MRV.
Recommended MEV Sets
Our recommendation for MEV is to use it as a starting point within a training block and gradually add more volume throughout the block. This method keeps your training from becoming static and will continue to aid in muscle growth.
This chart is a good guide to give you an educated guess as to how many sets per week per body part to start at.
Keep in mind that when you are doing compound lifts you will be incorporating more than one body part. For example, when performing a squat you will be incorporating your quads and your glutes so you may count those sets towards both body parts.
The smaller body parts such as the biceps and triceps will get indirect work from the compound lifts as well. For example, the triceps will get a lot of indirect work from barbell bench work. You will only need to add a few sets of isolation work for these body parts.
|Beginner MEV (Sets)||Intermediate MEV (Sets)||Advanced MEV (Sets)|
MRV Explained with Example
We all love to train hard, but there comes a point when our bodies will begin to struggle to recover. This is known as our maximum recoverable volume (MRV) and if you begin to train over this point you can forget about seeing gains.
This is the tipping point in which we have started to train with too much volume resulting in overreaching or overtraining.
For example, if an individual is performing 20 sets per week for the chest they will do a good job of maxing out their hypertrophic potential. And anything more than that would start to see the inverse effect on muscle growth.
Since MRV is the point of maximum recoverable volume, we can see this once we are unable to recover between sessions. So once we see a drop in our performance week to week we have either hit or gone over our point of MRV.
The best way to truly find your MRV is by starting at your MEV at the beginning of a training block. And start adding 1-2 sets of volume week by week while recording how your body reacts. Once you start to notice an inability to recover or a drop in your performance, you have more than likely hit your MRV.
However, external forces such as lack of sleep and increased stress can affect your performance. So, if you experience these abnormalities retest the next week at the same amount of volume to further gauge yourself.
Recommended MRV Sets
Towards the end of your training block is when you should be training near your MRV. If you find yourself reaching your MRV and not being able to fully recover before the next training block, you may need to take a deload week.
The following table shows the number of sets an individual may start to experience MRV. Note that these numbers are highly general and wouldn’t it be abnormal for someone to be able to handle more or less volume than the following numbers show.
|Beginner MRV (Sets)||Intermediate MRV (Sets)||Advanced MRV (Sets)|
Austin is the author of loveatfirstfit.com and a personal trainer with extensive knowledge in nutrition. Austin is passionate about helping others to find a suitable healthy lifestyle and feel good about themselves. Austin’s goal is to help people push their limits and achieve their physical performance.