The “Big Three” of training can be broken down into Volume, Intensity, and Frequency: When one of these variables increase, the other two will need to be adjusted accordingly.
Regulating these variables to achieve results is dependant on experience level and work capacity. New lifters tend to benefit from a more linear progression, while intermediate to advanced lifters progress based on periodization, percentages, and peaking programs.
One of the most common issues in training has been the tendency to attack all three variables with full force. While this can have a short term benefit, it’s not sustainable. When designing a program, it’s crucial to identify a specific goal.
In other words: Big, Strong, Lean – Pick One.
If size is the primary goal, hypertrophy (building muscle) will be the ideal training stimulus. This can be achieved through high volume (reps) and intensity (weight) with moderate frequency, or high volume and frequency with moderate intensity (high reps, more sets, lower percentages). Naturally, strength may increase while adding size, but it will be a byproduct and not the primary goal.
Strength benefits from intensity above all else, thus volume (total accumulated weight/sets per session) and frequency must be accounted for. Recovering from heavy lifting sessions will require a well planned routine alternating between periods of maximum effort and accessory movements that build the main lift. Ideally, a strength program will prioritize compound movements, with selected isolation movements to bring up weak parts.
To get lean, obviously, size and strength will be secondary. You won’t be consistently setting PR’s while in a calorie deficit, and shouldn’t expect to add size when simultaneously dropping body fat. There will be a direct correlation between conditioning and body composition, best achieved through high frequency and interval training.
Volume: How Many
Intensity: How Much
Frequency: How Often
Choose the appropriate combination based on your specific goals.