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Tim Morrill teaches the basics: Volume vs Intensity

strength training tim morrill Feb 02, 2011

The winter issue of the USA Ultimate Magazine will be hitting your mailboxes sometime this week.

In part four of Above the Competition I had a blast presenting readers with some basic concepts in weight training.

One very simple concept that I introduce in the article is the inverse relationship between volume and intensity.

As athletes and coaches, it is essential that you understand this concept.

Below are some examples and videos to put the concept into perspective.


Volume = Quantity = The amount of work performed

Take this example:

  • On Monday  I performed the clean pull for 3 sets of 5
  • On Thursday I performed the clean pull for 4 sets of 6

Which is the higher volume?

Lets see…

  • Monday   = 3 x 5 = 15 reps
  • Thursday = 4 x 6 = 24 reps

Thursday had a greater volume for I performed 24 reps, 9 more reps than Monday.


Intensity = Quality = The amount of weight on the bar

Take this example:

  • On Monday I performed the RLESS 3 x 5 at 75 %
  • On Thursday I performed the RLESS 3 x 5 at 60 %

Which day was had a greater degree of intensity?

Monday, for I had more weight on the bar


When training consistently, your body will quickly adapt to the stimulus at hand.  In order to continue to see results, you must make variations in how much weight is on the bar (intensity)
and how many sets and reps your perform (volume).

Typically, when beginning off-season training you should start with high volume and low intensity.  As you adapt, add weight to the bar and decrease the reps.  See the winter issue of Above the Competition for more info.

Video Example:

When training AmmUNItion Ultimate this off-season, I use a clean complex in an attempt to
groove the pattern of the clean.  We did this complex for 4 weeks.  Each week we increased the weight
(intensity) and decreased the reps (volume).  As they adapted I added some additional stress, forcing them to continually adapt and grow stronger.

  • Week 1:  VOLUME:  1 x 12      Intensity: 45 lbs
  • Week 2:  VOLUME:  1 x 10      Intensity: 55 lbs
  • Week 3:  VOLUME:  1 x 8        Intensity: 65 lbs
  • Week 4:  VOLUME: 1 x 6         Intensity: 75 lbs

Check out Week One...

Now check out Week Four

Do you see the inverse relationship?

In sum:

Pick a movement, as you adapt to the movement add weight and decrease reps, grow stronger, perform better, show it off and jam.

Tim Morrill has been studying strength and conditioning and its application to ultimate for many years.   You may recognize Tim from his contributions to USA Ultimate Magazine, the Breakmark blog, or Skyd magazine.

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