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    Registered User tkdnj's Avatar
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    Optimal volume (sets per muscle group per week) for those in our 50's

    hey all - what is your opinion regarding volume (WORKING sets per major body part per week) in your 50's? I realize you can google this and get hundreds of answers, but looking for the actual real world opinions of those like me in our 50's (natural... only mentioning that because I know it impacts ability to recover). I've read a lot lately about 12-20 working sets per body part week for optimal growth (Dr. Mike Israetel, Jeff Nippard etc..). On the one hand that sounds low, especially 12 per week, but on the other hand maybe in our 50's we would actually do better with reduced sets. I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts. Thanks!
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    Originally Posted by grubman View Post
    For me, 9 sets for big and 6 sets for small per week has been the sweet spot for my mid 40s to early 50s.

    These last couple years I’ve been shifting to lighter weights in the 12-15 rep range, away from the 6-12 rep range of my 40s....less muscle pulls and minor injuries.
    wow, I really need to change my mindset. Here I am thinking 12-20 sets is low, and your making gains on 9 sets!
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    Registered User brit-iron's Avatar
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    I'm not 50 yet, but I'm liking 10 sets per muscle twice per week. One heavy one light.
    I prefer low volume, higher frequency.
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    Clearly Irrational blue9steel's Avatar
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    I recently read and highly recommend Scientific Principles of Strength Training by Dr. Mike Israetel, Dr. James Hoffmann and Chad Wesley Smith which covers a lot of questions like that. A very quick summary of some relevant terms from the book:

    MV: Maintenance Volume, the least number of sets you can do not to lose your current state
    MEV: Minimum Effective Volume, the least number of sets you can do to make minimal progress
    MAV: Maximum Adaptive Volume, the number of sets where you make optimal gains
    MRV: Maximum Recoverable Volume, the maximum number of sets you can do and recover from

    There are some averages listed on the Renaissance Periodization website, and Chad has a chart in some other material to let you guess how your particular situation modifies the averages but bottom line you'll eventually have to do some testing to figure out your own individual values. The good news is that they explain how to do that.
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    I don’t think there is a universal optimal volume, at any age. IMO periodized training is probably the best solution. Heavier lower volume sessions for muscular strength, bone density, myofribular hypertrophy, and lower weight higher rep/volume sessions to maximize sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. With a good periodized protocol I think you can get the best of everything. You will adapt to anything if you do it long enough, and the point of training is to elicit a response to stimuli. If you only train heavy low rep, you are missing out on the additional glycogen storage etc that comes from higher volume, if you only train low weight high volume you miss out on the the overall mass and strength that comes from heavy compound exercises. Lately I’ve been sticking in the 5-8 rep range on heavy sets, 10-12 on higher volume. Total weekly sets are usually around 15 or so for big muscle groups, 6-9 for small muscle groups (ie biceps). I don’t think hitting 50 changes much other than how fast you recover, much like I’ve noticed from 30s to 40s. Gotta find the sweet spot of training hard enough to elicit a response, but be able to recover to get enough frequency and total volume.
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    Originally Posted by tkdnj View Post
    ...On the one hand that sounds low, especially 12 per week, but on the other hand maybe in our 50's we would actually do better with reduced sets. I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts. Thanks!
    I am 53. I noticed long time ago, from GVT or 10-set routines, that I am getting better gains when I simply up the number of sets, to about 12 or more per muscle group per training session, which is 24 and up a week. For me, this is still true in my 50’s. But, the thing is that I am getting winded in a few weeks of this higher sets routines and have to scale back. I only do that lately to catch up on lagging parts. I still do twice a day training on some weeks, but that is also not sustainable, still works though. Like mentioned by PP in earlier post, periodization seem to be very important, like weeks of higher frequency training alternating with more “relaxed” once a day lifting routine. In general, and I mentioned it a number of times, I don’t notice slower recovery in my 50’s.
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    My sweet spot seems to be 12-15 sets twice a week for everything but arms, 8-12 sets twice per week for Bi's and Tri's. I vary rep schemes about every 2 - 3 weeks. I start at 12-15 rep sets, adding some weight each week and by the 3rd week I am usually ready to drop reps down to the 9-11 level then a few weeks later I am doing 6-8 rep sets. I run that out until I start feeling beat up then start over. If I'm really feeling beat up , my first week of 12-15 reps will be lighter than normal. I rarely take a week off - I find I feel better if I keep moving

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    Optimal volume depends on the persons level of advancement and recent training load. You can resensitise yourself to volume by taking time off or temporarily switching (say) from a higher volume bodybuilding routine to a low volume strength progression for a while.

    I am personally doing 11 sets per day, 5 days a week (5 sets in compounds, 6 sets in isolations). I don't think I would increase this anytime soon unless I want to actively run an overreaching phase.
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    Originally Posted by blue9steel View Post
    I recently read and highly recommend Scientific Principles of Strength Training by Dr. Mike Israetel, Dr. James Hoffmann and Chad Wesley Smith which covers a lot of questions like that. A very quick summary of some relevant terms from the book:

    MV: Maintenance Volume, the least number of sets you can do not to lose your current state
    MEV: Minimum Effective Volume, the least number of sets you can do to make minimal progress
    MAV: Maximum Adaptive Volume, the number of sets where you make optimal gains
    MRV: Maximum Recoverable Volume, the maximum number of sets you can do and recover from

    There are some averages listed on the Renaissance Periodization website, and Chad has a chart in some other material to let you guess how your particular situation modifies the averages but bottom line you'll eventually have to do some testing to figure out your own individual values. The good news is that they explain how to do that.
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    Clearly Irrational blue9steel's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Leprechuan71 View Post
    Great summary. For those that haven't read the book, trying to train all your muscles at the highest rate you can handle individually will likely exceed your total systemic MRV.
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    Originally Posted by blue9steel View Post
    Great summary. For those that haven't read the book, trying to train all your muscles at the highest rate you can handle individually will likely exceed your total systemic MRV.
    I am surprised by the MAV for biceps, side delts and rear delts considering the relative small size of those muscles. Biceps similar to chest MAV? Rear delts and side delts more than chest MAV and similar to back MAV? Not disagreeing with the good doctor, but it's surprising none the less.
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  12. #12
    Clearly Irrational blue9steel's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by tkdnj View Post
    I am surprised by the MAV for biceps, side delts and rear delts considering the relative small size of those muscles. Biceps similar to chest MAV? Rear delts and side delts more than chest MAV and similar to back MAV? Not disagreeing with the good doctor, but it's surprising none the less.
    It is interesting for sure. I haven't yet tried to determine my exact MRV for biceps & rear / side delts but I imagine they're pretty high since they recover quite fast.
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    My moms 60 and does the same routine as me
    Days broken down as such

    Monday = squat day/quad and calf focus with 3 compound lifts and ~7-9 assisted lifts with 3-5 sets of reps around 12 but for compounds I go down in reps and up in weights which might be more sets, while my mother who is older does more reps at a lighter weight and doesn’t adjust the weight

    Tuesday = shoulders assisted lifts ~ 10-12 exercises 3-5 sets of 15 (we do the same besides barbell rows where I add weight with each set)

    Wednesday = Bench day with 3 compound lifts and 7-9 assisted lifts (chest and lat focus) set up the same as Monday for both of us

    Thursday = biceps and triceps assisted lifts set up like Tuesday

    Friday = deadlifting day set up similar to Monday and Wednesday for both of us, assisted lifts focusing on hammmie, gluts and lower back

    Saturday = Core day and intense yoga similar to Tuesday and Thursday for sets and reps for both of us

    Sunday = Cardio day like a long hike or swim or kayaking or snowboarding or water skiing etc

    Also 3 miles of cardio daily and ab work fit in between sets through out the week
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    Registered User adamgentile's Avatar
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    I do a push/pull/legs routine and hitting a bodypart twice within 5 days, so that frequency always me to get some sufficient working sets in for a bodypart but spread out. My younger days high volume wouldn't be an issue, I will be 50 in November so I want to make sure every set counts.

    That chart that was posted is interesting.
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    Originally Posted by adamgentile View Post
    I do a push/pull/legs routine and hitting a bodypart twice within 5 days, so that frequency always me to get some sufficient working sets in for a bodypart but spread out. My younger days high volume wouldn't be an issue, I will be 50 in November so I want to make sure every set counts.

    That chart that was posted is interesting.
    Thanks EVERYONE for the great perspectives!

    Regarding the quote above brings up a good discussion point. I also used to do a push / legs / pull over 5 day routine. But so much of what I have read lately talks about frequency over volume. Like after 48 hours the muscle is ready to be worked again, so why wait 2-3 more days and lose the opportunity for more muscle / protein synthesis? SO, if you did a push / legs / pull routine over 4 days instead of 5 you would hit the individual muscles 20% more often, or 18 more times a year. I would assume a 20% difference in muscle / protein synthesis would make a difference in results. Or, to the contrary, maybe the 20% more rest would be better and produce more results in a lifter in his 50's? Or taking it even further, maybe increase daily volume by 20% to make up for the 20% less frequency (so "weekly" volume is the same). I guess when you get down to this level of detail the optimal program would have to be based on trail and error by the individual.
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    Originally Posted by adamgentile View Post
    I do a push/pull/legs routine and hitting a bodypart twice within 5 days, so that frequency always me to get some sufficient working sets in for a bodypart but spread out. My younger days high volume wouldn't be an issue, I will be 50 in November so I want to make sure every set counts.

    That chart that was posted is interesting.
    Maybe I read this wrong.... are you hitting each body part TWICE in 5 days?
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    Currently finishing up a round of Ben Pollack's Think Big program. An example of chest work would look like:

    On week 1: primary day has 4 x 12 reps of bench, then 12 sets of close grip bench and flys in the 8-10 rep range. Secondary day has 6 x 3 reps of bench for form. Total sets = 22 in 8-12 rep range per week at low weight.

    On week 14, primary bench day has 3 x 2 reps, then 4 sets of flyes or dips in 10 rep range (up to 20 reps, but minimum 10 reps works for me). Secondary day 6 x 2 reps. Total sets = 13 in 2-10 rep range per week at heavier weights.

    I've been on this program for about a year and a half and had a hard time in the beginning with sets of 12 reps. However, I have grown used to it now and higher reps/lower weights is easier on the joints. I do still like to ramp on up to a max once every few months (this program max tests on week 16). This program is primarily focused on hypertrophy with some strength improvement. I find a defined program with fixed progression works best for me. This program hits each muscle group twice every week in a 4-day per week cycle. Good luck on your journey.
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    Originally Posted by tkdnj View Post
    Maybe I read this wrong.... are you hitting each body part TWICE in 5 days?
    Yes.

    For example say I do a push on monday, tuesday is pull day, Wednesday off, Thursday Legs. Friday is Push again or I might take another day off and start the routine again on Saturday. So my push muscles are getting hit twice if I do them on Friday. If I do a push on saturday I would still considered that twice as well. Maybe?
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    I'm on 10-11 working sets per muscle per week
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    Originally Posted by tkdnj View Post
    I guess when you get down to this level of detail the optimal program would have to be based on trail and error by the individual.
    It's nice to hear what folks are up to though. I'm definitely in the tens, not twenties weekly for big muscles for MRV.
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    I think there are other factors besides age that determines optimum volume. A lot depends on your goals and your determination.

    My goal is to die at an old age looking good and being strong as hell. I like to follow proven programs, so the volume I use is what is in the program.

    I turn 65 in a month. I just started a cycle of German Volume Training a week ago. So far it feels great, although I did have trouble walking after my first leg day. But that isn't generally age related.

    After the GVT cycle I will probably do a cycle of Stronglifts 5x5.
    O─O York Barbell Crew #53 O─O
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    My goal is to have so much equipment that I don't have room to workout. I am almost there. :)
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    1st Meet Nov 2014 Push-Pull: 225 - 325 @ 194 Masters 59
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  22. #22
    Registered User batilothbrok's Avatar
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    thanks keep it up
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