Them – “What is better, volume or load?”
Me – “The answer is yes.”
You’ll find these sorts of questions are common.
How to answer them without being didactic is where things become tricky because without more context any answer is right, or wrong, or irrelevant.
In reference to the above it was surrounding body composition, fat loss specifically.
The short answer for that is volume, however…
Volume with/that induces sufficient mechanical tension.
You see mechanical tension is the driving factor behind MUR (motor unit recruitment) and this is the important factor and why the answer from above is yes.
When it comes to high threshold motor unit recruitment (HTMUR), you can achieve this via heavy loading – 85% 1RM+ or by causing extreme fatigue in the type 1 muscle fibres and 2a’s in which they draw upon the deeper fibres/units to help them keep going.
From a hypertrophy standpoint volume and going to that point of fatigue and HTMUR with moderate loads is king, and while you’ll build strength that type of strength won’t be on the same level as that built with heavier loads to elicit the same response.
The heavier loads however will often have less hypertrophy due to the high demands on the CNS and not being able to hit potential volume requirements to trigger maximal hypertrophy.
It’s why there is no one answer or protocol that does it all.
When you look back at successful lifters and their training you’ll find the coaches alternated periods of loading, volume, and everything in-between to continually elicit HTMUR so that a continued adaptive response would be the result, hopefully.
The other benefit of alternating between all of the above is so from building muscle, to learning how to express the strength potential of said new muscle and then performing in comp.
Basically you need to have working sets in your training (be those volume or load/intensity based) that force you to go beyond where you currently are.
You see working to your current limits won’t take you to the place in which you’ll discover new ones.
A lot of people forget this.
It’s one of the main reasons a large amount stall and fail to make any further progress in training, and even life, at which pint they make up various excuses about being happy, maintaining and other such nonsense when in reality they’re just being soft and aren’t willing to truly push for more.
I know I said there is no best of both, and there isn’t even though there kind of is, ish.
From a recommendation standpoint I’d suggest the following for a blend of the two above –
(They will work for everyone, that even means you unique snowflakes out there)
– Ramp to a heavy 2,3 or 5 rep set (muscle potentiation)
– Back off sets = true working sets
– 6-20 reps per set
– 2-3 TRUE working sets (0-2 reps in reserve)
– An average loss of 1-2 reps of 2.5-5% loading per set indicate correct loading/effort in previous set
*If you feel the need for extra volume or prefer a simpler approach then take 60-80% of your top set for the day and do 50-100 reps in as few sets as possible.
Both the above, provided you lift with intent, will hit that much desired HTMUR.
Focus on doing better instead of simply doing more.