The concept of the dose-response relationship is a fundamental principle in the science of exercise and muscle development, providing a nuanced lens through which we can evaluate the effectiveness of our resistance training strategies. Unlike the often cited but oversimplified notion that more training volume directly leads to increased muscle growth, the dose-response relationship invites us to consider the quality and intensity of our workouts as pivotal factors in stimulating hypertrophy.

Research has consistently shown that not all training efforts yield equal results, and the key to unlocking optimal muscle growth lies in understanding and applying the appropriate “dose” of exercise. A recent publication titled “Evidence-Based Guidelines for Resistance Training Volume to Maximise Muscle Hypertrophy” made a statement that: “There is compelling evidence that RT volume is a primary driver of hypertrophy, with higher volumes showing greater increases in muscle growth” [PMID: 305584935], and the authors of this review concluded that 10 sets/muscle/week is a good “starting point”. The guideline suggests that while volume is important, the intensity at which these sets are executed plays a crucial role in determining the hypertrophic response.

This has led to many folks within the evidence-based community adopting the “more is best approach”, where higher training volumes = more gains, however, is it really as simple as these guidelines suggest?

The exploration of high-volume training within the evidence-based training community has revealed interesting insights, particularly through studies where participants engage in upwards of 52 sets per week per muscle group. Such investigations push the boundaries of conventional training norms and highlight the importance of evaluating the dose-response curve in muscle hypertrophy. However, it is within the nuances of these data that we encounter potential pitfalls.

One critical aspect often overlooked in the volume-centric dialogue is the quality of the sets performed. The dose-response relationship underscores that mere volume without adequate intensity may not suffice to trigger the desired muscle growth. In fact, engaging in excessive volume without reaching the necessary intensity levels can lead to suboptimal results, potentially masked by temporary factors like swelling from overtraining, rather than true hypertrophy.

This calls for a more discerning approach to resistance training, where the focus shifts from quantity to quality. The concept of proximity to failure emerges as a key component in this discussion, indicating that how close one gets to muscular failure within a set can significantly impact the hypertrophic response. This perspective aligns with emerging evidence suggesting that a well-calibrated dose of exercise, characterized by optimal intensity and volume, can yield comparable, if not superior, muscle growth with less risk of injury and greater overall training satisfaction.

Navigating the dose-response relationship in resistance training requires a careful balance between intensity, volume, and individual capacity. It is a reminder that in the pursuit of muscle hypertrophy, more is not always better; rather, better is better. This approach not only enhances efficiency but also ensures that each training session contributes meaningfully to your growth objectives.

For enthusiasts keen on mastering the art of optimizing training intensity for muscle growth, I recommend exploring my latest book, “The Complete Exercise Guide To Muscle Hypertrophy,” available on my website. It offers a deep dive into tailoring your workout regimen to harness the full potential of the dose-response relationship.

In summary, the journey to optimal muscle growth is intricately linked to understanding the dose-response relationship in resistance training. By focusing on the right mix of intensity and volume, tailored to individual needs and capacities, one can navigate the path to achieving enhanced muscle hypertrophy with greater precision and effectiveness. The goal is to train not just with more effort but with smarter, scientifically grounded strategies.