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SVT: Staggered Volume Training - The Scientific Way to Muscle Growth

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In a high-volume lifting program a high number of sets and repetitions (e.g. six sets of 12 reps) must be performed with loads that are about 50-60 percent (and certainly no more than 70 percent) of a maximum single lift. This type of training directly stimulates muscle growth and at the same time promotes protein and fat metabolism by markedly enhancing natural growth hormone (GH) release.

The drawback to high-volume lifting, however, is that it is very time-demanding since the high number of repetitions generally requires a prolonged recovery time between sets. Even though the weight is only of moderate intensity, performing a high number of repetitions (and sets) is obviously going to be very fatiguing for the muscles. Producing a high level of short- term muscle fatigue, however, is why this program is so effective in stimulating growth!

The added sets and repetitions in a volume workout make it very difficult to complete a session in a reasonable amount of time. Since most of us do not fall into the ranks of professional bodybuilders who can spend limitless hours in the gym, come the developement a novel system of training, termed SV (Staggered Volume Training), which decreases time in the gym and greatly enhances workout productivity. SVT has the following advantages:

1. reduced workout times by staggering groups of sets within the workout rather than completing all of the sets sequentially; 2. metabolic stimulation by triggering Gil release through enhanced lactic acid production in the muscle (this has been linked to GH release); 3. delivery of a potent growth-promoting stimulus directly to the exercising muscle(s); 4. decreased risk for injury by the use of lighter weights; 5. quicker recovery since the energy reserves of the nervous system are not drained.

SVT does indeed represent a significant departure from traditional mass-training programs, and because of this SVT is controversial. However, evidence from both the gym and scientific publications provides a strong foundation for this form of training. Let me explain what SW is and how it can be used to produce rapid gains in muscle development.

SVT is designed to directly stimulate muscle and to enhance the secretion of anabolic growth factors in the body regulated by the release of growth hormone (GH). The program was founded upon the results of my medical experiments using exogenous GH therapy in athletes. These were legitimate medical experiments that have been published in scientific journals. Thus, I feel as though I can speak with some authority on the topic rather than speculate about its scientific effects as other written sources or "self-proclaimed authorities" must do!

The volume of training in SVT is determined principally by the total number of sets and repetitions performed per exercise. By using a system which extends one's ability to perform an increased number of sets and repetitions, one can stimulate the hormonal and metabolic processes in the body and also directly stimulate growth. To accomplish this, a weight should be selected for any given exercise (such as squats, bench presses, curls, lat pulldowns etc.) that is about 60 percent (no less than 50 percent and no more than 70 percent) of a single- repetition maximum. This amount of weight will be sufficient to stimulate most of the available motor units - fast, intermediate, and slow-twitch muscle fibers. A minimum of 12 repetitions must be performed per set. Although this repetition scheme may seem high, keep in mind that the program is based on volume work. Such work is needed to achieve metabolic and muscle growth stimulation without an increase in the risk of injury.

SVT also utilizes a high number of sets per exercise. The number of sets performed, however, must be adjusted according to the level of experience and muscle development of the individual. In this regard the following set (per exercise) scheme can be used as a general guide to set up your exercise program:

Beginners - 6 sets per exercise (only after 3 months of basic training).

Intermediate - 6 to8 sets per exercise.

Advanced - 8 or more sets per exercise.

When combined with the high number of repetitions per set, SVT adds up very quickly to become a very demanding muscle stimulation program. To develop an SVT program, use the following as a guide. First divide the total number of sets per exercise into equal subgroups (e.g. 12 sets c-an be divided into 3 subgroups of 4 sets each). Next select an exercise for an opposing muscle area (such as a push/pull program). Then alternate the performance of set subgroups between the two muscle areas (similar to performing supersets). For example, if you are going to perform 9 sets of bench presses and 9 sets of lat pulldowns, you might divide each exercise into 3 subgroups of 3 sets each and then perform the following exercise sequence: 3 sets of benches, 3 sets of lat pulldowns, 3 sets of benches, 3 sets of lat pulldowns, 3 sets of benches, 3 sets of lat pulldowns. This technique produces a very potent stimulus for growth, delaying local muscle fatigue and prolonging the potential of the muscles to perform high-quality work. However, if all sets for each exercise were performed in sequence (without alternating set sub groups), several additional factors would come into play, causing the quality of muscle growth stimulation to be markedly reduced.

1. The high number of repetitions would produce muscle exhaustion too early in the workout.

2. A weight reduction needed in order to complete all of the required sets and repetitions for each exercise would markedly lessen the degree of muscle stimulation.

3. Prolonged rest periods between many of the sets would be needed, creating a time- consuming and inefficient program.

All of these undesirable training factors can be minimized or eliminated, however, by using SVT. It is important not to try to use too many exercises per muscle group. There are limits to exercise stimulation and recovery ability and, if the number of exercises is not properly contained, overtraining and increased injury potential could still result. It is also important to note that each set need not be performed to absolute muscular fatigue. Select a weight that will allow you to perform most of the sets for each exercise without reaching failure before the set is completed. As you progress through an SVT workout, fatigue should not set in until about the last set or two. For example, if you are going to perform eight sets of bench presses in a workout (staggered into two groups of four sets), the following might happen. You execute the first set of 12 repetitions easily. After a rest of one to two minutes you proceed to the second set without too much difficulty. The third set becomes a little harder and, if you pressed yourself, you could actually perform 13 repetitions instead of your 12-repetitions target. During the fourth set, however, you should be barely able to complete 12 repetitions. Now you proceed to another exercise that involves opposing muscles. When you return to your second group of four sets of bench presses, you find that the first set goes relatively well. The second set becomes much harder and you are barely able to complete the requited repetitions. During the third and fourth sets you will probably need to stop (for safety reasons) after about 8 to 10 repetitions. I do not recommend any forced repetitions in this program because such a technique is very likely to result in overtraining, unpaired recovery, and increased injury potential.

Too much attention has been given to the use of heavy lifting to gain size. More emphasis should be placed on the use of moderate weight and high-volume training - like SVT - to stimulate muscle growth. The body responds well to submaximal efforts. One need not perform every set to utter exhaustion in order to improve! As long as exercise exceeds the submaximal threshold for a training effect (and is progressive enough to stay above that threshold), progress in muscle development is ensured without exposure to excess risk for injury. I believe that SVT fits these requirements well!

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