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Mitchell Hooper Reveals Optimal Training Volume Per Muscle Group for Strength

What’s the optimal training volume for maximal gains? Are more exercises or increasing weight more effective? On Sept. 4, 2023, 2023 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) Mitchell Hooper delved into the scientific literature on training volume with regard to strength, preparation, and training principles for strength.

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Hooper published a video on his YouTube channel reviewing the ideal number of exercises per muscle group to become as strong as possible. Check out the biology meets strength lesson below:

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Training Movement vs. Training Muscle

Starting deep in the biological weeds, Hooper detailed how the brain sends messages via the nervous system that runs along the spine to contract a muscle through alterations in electrolyte balance. As a result, when the goal is to increase strength, less focus needs to be paid to training muscle groups as needs to be paid to training movement patterns.

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A common notion is that bodybuilders train muscles while strongman athletes and powerlifters train movements. The idea is that the goal of a bodybuilder is to prioritize hypertrophy and aesthetics rather than strength. At the same time, a strongman athlete or powerlifter prioritizes lifting the most weight possible without having to concern themselves with aesthetics.

5 Fundamental Movements

There are five fundamental movement patterns the human body is designed to do:

  1. Squat
  2. Deadlift
  3. Hinge
  4. Overhead Press
  5. Carry

Carrying is slightly different due to its requirement of grip. The other four movements are not simply muscles being shortened but rather their combined effort to achieve a particular movement.

How to Lift for Strength

Hooper says volume is not a key indicator of generating strength. An athlete performing three sets of 10 reps at 70 percent of their one-rep max will not make them as strong as physically possible. Instead, Hooper suggests the athlete’s lifts should aim to increase the percentage of their one-rep max. 

According to Hooper, increasing one’s one-rep max is accomplished through a few sets at high intensities in shallow rep ranges. That is the trick to gaining strength.

However, doing one-rep, two-rep, or three-rep sets within range of a one-rep max is incredibly taxing on the nervous system. How many total sets one should train depends on their lifting experience. For example, someone with more lifting experience will likely need less volume than their less-trained counterpart since their one-rep max is likely higher and, therefore, more taxing on the nervous system.

Hooper trains fewer sets and fewer days per week than when he was a teenager since he is lifting significantly heavier loads. An experienced lifter can train more volume if the weights aren’t too heavy.

Mitchell Hooper’s Strength Training Prescription

For novices, any amount of training should prove beneficial for developing strength. As the lifter becomes an intermediate, they should have the stamina to perform several one-rep max efforts per month.

For expert-level strength training, Hooper aims for one to two reps left in the tank after training. This means training in the range of 90-93 percent of his one-rep max.

Mitchell Hooper’s Lifting Prescriptions

  • Novice (up to two years of lifting experience)
    • Five sets of five reps for all fundamental movement patterns
    • Twice per week
    • Training at 75-80 percent of one-rep max
  • Intermediate (three to six years of lifting experience):
    • Three sets of three reps for all fundamental movement patterns
    • Twice per week
    • Training at 85 percent of one-rep max
  • Advanced (more than six years of lifting experience):
    • For maximal strength, start single reps at 85 percent of one-rep max. Add percentage points every week for eight weeks leading to competition.

Hooper prefers training one top set plus two to three back-off sets at 70-80 percent of his top set. With the above protocol, the mechanical response should increase the lifter’s strength in the corresponding movement pattern.

More Training Content

Featured image: @mitchellhooper on Instagram

The post Mitchell Hooper Reveals Optimal Training Volume Per Muscle Group for Strength appeared first on BarBend.

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