#PTonICE Daily Show – Friday, March 1st, 2024 – Increasing training volume: why, when, how, and who?

In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, Fitness Athlete division leader Alan Fredendall discusses the strategy behind helping athletes & patients consider adding extra training volume on top of their normal exercise routine. Why should we add it, when should we add it, how should we integrate it into our normal training, and who is appropriate for extra volume?

Take a listen to the episode or check out the show notes at www.ptonice.com/blog

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

ALAN FREDENDALL
Welcome in, folks. Good morning. Welcome to the P-Town Ice Daily Show. Happy Friday morning. I hope your day is off to a great start. My name is Alan. I have the pleasure of serving as our Chief Operating Officer here at Ice and the Division Leader here in our Fitness Athlete Division. It is Fitness Athlete Friday. It’s the best darn day of the week, we would argue here, from the Fitness Athlete Division. Those of you working with crossfitters, Olympic weightlifters, powerlifters, endurance athletes, anybody who is recreationally active, part of that 10% minority of the human race that exercises on a regular basis enough to produce a meaningful health and fitness effect. We’re here to help you help those folks.

INCREASING TRAINING VOLUME
So here on Fitness Athlete Friday, today we’re gonna be talking about increasing training volume. A hot topic, especially this time of the year, the CrossFit Open has begun as of yesterday. This is often the time of year as people go through the Open, maybe they did not perform as they thought they would, and they begin to ask questions about how can I make my performance look more like someone else’s, right? So 24.1 was released, a couplet of dumbbell snatches and burpees over the dumbbell. I just finished it this morning, just finished judging a few hours as well. First workout, usually very approachable. People maybe have questions of how can I get faster as we get into the later weeks of the Open. Heavy barbell comes out, high skill gymnastics comes out, people begin to have more questions. What else could I be doing besides coming to CrossFit class? This relates to other athletes as well. Endurance athletes who maybe want to get faster in their mile time, faster in their race times, stronger to have less injuries. All of those questions tend to come up of what else could I be doing? So today we want to focus on asking in the concept, in answering the question of increasing our training volume. Why should we do that? When should we do it? Who is the person that’s appropriate for it? And then how should we actually begin to introduce increasing training volume?

WHY SHOULD WE INCREASE VOLUME?
So let’s start from the top. Why should we increase training volume? I think this is really important and that’s why I have it as the first point today. often folks are maybe disappointed with their performance in the open or a recent road race or competition or something like that and they want to do more training and just adding in more training without understanding why we’re doing that training or having a goal for that training can be a very rocky foundation to build upon and can really ultimately maybe set us up for an unsuccessful addition of volume that doesn’t meaningfully improve our performance and maybe leads to an increased risk of injury for no reason. because we don’t really know why we’re training for more volume, right? Just doing more CrossFit metabolic conditioning workouts or just doing more accessory weightlifting or just running or biking more miles without a goal is really just adding meaningless volume to the equation. We need to understand why should we do this. So when folks come to you with that question of What should I be doing extra outside of my running or outside of CrossFit class? We should be asking back, why do you feel the need to add more training volume in? What specific deficit are you understanding or do you feel has been recently exposed that we need to add more training volume in? To just improve general fitness, with those folks we would say, Be patient, right? Continue going to CrossFit class. Continue if you’ve only been running for a year or two, continue your normal running training, right? Understand that high level performance often comes with most folks. When you look at them, they have a large training age, which means they have been doing whatever they’re doing for a long period of time. And so expecting to close that fitness gap in just a couple of years by just adding in more volume is not really an intelligent way to approach that. But if we have identified some specific deficits, then that can be an argument to maybe add in some extra volume. So, folks who are maybe long endurance athletes who are noticing the longer my runs, the slower I become. I perceive that I maybe need to add in some speed work. Folks may be doing CrossFit that say, you know what, I’m great when the weight is body weight or when it’s a low to moderate weight, dumbbell, kettlebell, barbell, whatever, I’m okay. But as we get heavier, I perceive that my strength, my upper limits of strength is limiting me from moving the weights around. In CrossFit class, where I’m perceiving that if I added in some more resistance training to whatever I’m doing, Maybe my tissues would be healthier or I don’t have some of the skills and I would like to begin to practice them, right? I would like to practice double unders outside of class. I would like to practice pull-ups or muscle-ups or handstand push-ups outside of class or maybe add in an extra day of running if I’m a CrossFit athlete. So understanding why we’re adding volume in is very, very, very, very important and it should be to address a specific perceived deficit and all the better if we can actually objectively test that so that we know if we’re starting to make up ground on that deficit or not with the extra volume that we’re being asked to add into our programming. So starting with why is very important.

WHEN SHOULD WE INCREASE VOLUME?
The next question is, when should we do this? I would argue that we should really only add in extra training on top of what we’re already doing when we feel like our current training has plateaued. Of that person who says, I have been going to CrossFit six days a week for 10 years, and I feel like my ring muscle ups are not getting any better. I feel like I have literally not added a pound to my max, clean and jerk, whatever. When a perceived plateau is there, That can be a good argument to begin to add in some extra volume, especially those folks, uh, endurance athletes as well. Like, Hey man, I have been running for a decade and my marathon pace got faster, faster, faster the first couple of years, but it’s been pretty much the same pace for the past two or three years of races. I feel like something needs to change. Or, again, those folks who do not have a skill. So that’s when we begin to action that extra volume. For me, over the past year, my extra volume looked like adding in some more running. Doing pretty well, pretty happy with my CrossFit performance, but when runs showed up, especially in workouts where the runs were longer, 800s, miles, workouts like Murph Hero workouts with a lot of running, really, really, really impacted my performance despite doing pretty well on the other stuff that wasn’t running. So beginning to add in extra running outside of CrossFit class.

HOW DO WE INCREASE TRAINING VOLUME?
Now, how do we do this? This is as important as why. How do we add in volume in a very intelligent manner? The key is with anything else, just like when somebody first began an exercise program, we need to start low. We need to go slow. We need to stair step this volume. A lot of folks perceive a deficit or otherwise feel like they want to add in more volume and they just do more of what they’re already doing. And sometimes they do it every day, right? The person who leaves CrossFit and goes to Planet Fitness and does an hour on the stair stepper. or does an hour of machine weights, whatever. Adding in a big chunk of volume, again, if we don’t have the foundation of why and when we should be doing this, can be a really unintelligent decision. So we should do this carefully. For me, this looked like one extra day of running for a couple of weeks, two extra days of running for a couple of weeks, so on and so forth. Using a running coach to very carefully and controlled add running volume in on top of working with a nutrition coach to make sure that I was fueling appropriately. So making sure that if we do come to the decision that we could benefit from extra training aside from what we’re already doing, that we do it very, very, very, very carefully. What we’re trying to do adding in extra exercise pieces is we are trying to push ourselves maybe into a short period of what we would call overreaching, functional overreaching. We’re pushing the margins just a little bit, but we also need to be mindful of all the other training that we’re doing, and we have to be careful that this functional overreach does not become overtraining, right? We need to make sure that if we’re adding an extra stuff, we respect this new volume. We do it carefully. This extra volume should come with a progression in a deload. So for example, my running coach always had me on four week cycles. where every fourth week was a deload, added a little bit of miles every week for three weeks, and then a deload, add, deload. That deload week is a chance to give my body a break, go back to essentially my pre-running amount of volume, but it’s also a great week to assess how did my body respond to the previous three weeks of training. Should we continue with the next block of extra volume? Or should we stay where I was at? Or should we maybe even regress a little bit because it was a little bit too much of an overtraining feeling rather than that functional overreach? And again, being objective with why are we doing this can really help us know did that little burst of extra volume create a change? Did mile split times go down? Did a race time go down? Did strength go up maybe two pounds or five pounds or whatever? Can I do two muscle-ups now instead of one muscle-up? So on and so forth. Having those objective indicators lets us know, okay, we’re making the progress we want to see, and as long as everything is feeling good, we’re good to continue going to that next step on the staircase of increasing volume. And when we think about how we add in this training, most importantly, we have to ensure that this extra training does not impact the normal training, right? The worst thing you can do is have your extra volume, make it so that when you show up to your normal training, so in my example, I never wanted to get to a point where my running made it so that I could not come to CrossFit, right? That’s a dangerous spiral to get into, where now my normal baseline strength and conditioning program can’t be performed, and now I’m adding extra volume even though I can’t handle the current level of volume I was already doing before I added in my extra training. So being sure that whatever we’re training at baseline, CrossFit, weightlifting, running, whatever, that does not become impacted by whatever extra stuff we’re doing. Now that being said, if we’re feeling good, we feel like we’re making progress, we are objectively making progress, and our normal training is not impacted Okay, continue to either maintain that extra thing, whatever you’re doing, or maybe even progress it a little bit.

WHO IS APPROPRIATE FOR EXTRA VOLUME?
Now the final part of the equation is who should do this? I would argue the answer is very few people should do this. Who is the type of person that is appropriate for extra volume? that person should be incredibly consistent with whatever they’re already doing, right? Which by default erases most of the people who want to do extra volume. A lot of people perceive a gap in fitness between maybe themselves and their friends in CrossFit class or themselves and their friends and their run club or whatever. They want to close that gap even though What they don’t want to hear is that maybe the gap there is because they’re already not consistent with what they’re doing, right? They hit the snooze alarm a couple days a week on CrossFit class or going for their run, right? I want that individual who is already incredibly consistent with their normal training. They are training four to six days a week, every week. They understand the importance of active recovery and rest days. They are prioritizing their sleep and their nutrition. The volume means nothing if we can’t match that volume with an appropriate dedication to recovery. Again, we’re trying to create bouts of small windows of functional overreaching. We’re trying not to throw somebody into a downward spiral, a death loop of overtraining where they’re going to be at increased risk for injury, where their fatigue, their soreness, whatever is going to impact all of their training, not just the extra volume that they’re now doing. Most people are not consistent enough with what they’re already doing to consider taking on extra volume. And I think that’s tough to hear, but it’s the right decision. for you as the coach, the clinician, whatever your role is, to have in a conversation with that athlete. If you are only coming to CrossFit on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, you sleep in on Tuesday because Monday wrecked you, you sleep in on Friday because you’re sore, you don’t come to the gym on the weekend, let’s see what your fitness looks like when you’re consistent with your current fitness routine, and then maybe later on we can revisit talking about extra volume. I have found in my coaching career that the folks who come up to me and tell me, hey coach, I’m ready for butterfly pull-ups, happen to also be, coincidentally, the people who maybe can’t even do strict pull-ups, right? The folks who are able to tolerate extra volume, extra skill progression, are the folks who are already very consistent and it’s very clear that they, because they are consistent with their normal level of training, recovery, attention to their sleep and diet, They are aware, and I am also aware, that they can probably handle extra stuff, and that the people who want it really, really, really, really bad are almost always likely the people that should probably not do it because they are so inconsistent already.

CASE EXAMPLE: RYAN
A really good example I have is our friend here at the gym. His name is Ryan Battishill. You may know him. He develops a lot of your websites. He’s a website developer by trade. He’s a member here at our gym. I love how calculated and intelligent he is with just a little bit of extra training every day after class. So I want to tell you a little bit about him and then tell you the volume that he’s added in in the results. So Ryan’s been doing CrossFit for five or six years now. He has a history of running as well. He has a good morning fault squat. So a very kind of hingy squat. It tells us there’s maybe a deficit in the quads, wants to get better at gymnastics, and wants to train for a half marathon as well. So, a lot of different goals, but it’s good. Again, why are you adding extra volume? Are you just doing it meaninglessly, or do you actually have a goal? Okay, we have a couple of goals here. We want to improve our foundational lifts, we want to improve our back squat, our deadlift, We want to improve running. We want to improve our gymnastics. Okay, good. We have concrete objective ways to know that volume is working. What does that extra volume look like? And I think you would be surprised to hear that his extra volume is about 10 to 15 minutes a day after class. It’s nothing crazy. One day he does an EMOM, usually a 10 minute EMOM of strict pull-ups and push-ups to help his gymnastics foundations. One day he focuses on front rack barbell step ups to focus on quad strength. Another day he does hip thrusts to work on his posterior chain and low back strength. And a fourth day of the week he adds in a couple extra miles of running. Nothing he does conflicts with his ability to come to CrossFit five days a week. He’s a Monday through Friday regular, very consistent with five days a week of CrossFit training, very consistent with his nutrition, very consistent with his recovery, right? Somebody that’s getting on most nights, eight plus hours of sleep, getting plenty of fuel as well. What are the results? A lot of people might look at the work he does and say, there’s no way that 10 to 15 minutes of extra work could translate into anything meaningful, right? A lot of us look at extra volume, we think, if I want to be better, I need to run five miles extra a day, I need to do an extra hour of CrossFit a day, right? I need to do more and more and more volume instead of really intelligently planned extra accessory work. Over the past year of adding in that extra volume, he has broken through plateaus on his back squat, his deadlift, and his bench press from all of the strict gymnastics, the front rack step ups, and the hip thrusts. He has improved his running, even though he’s already a great runner, in accordance with his goals to be able to run and complete a half marathon. and his gymnastics are certainly becoming on another level. His kipping pull-ups, his toes-to-bar, his muscle-ups, his handstand push-ups are all also improving accordingly because of his focus on strict gymnastics work. So I hope from that you glean that when we’re talking about adding extra volume, it doesn’t need to be this grueling stuff. It doesn’t need to be very high-intensity stuff. It just needs to be intelligently designed in a way that does not affect our current training, And that puts us in a short state of functional overreaching, but does not become this long-term overtraining issue. Understanding that as we increase that volume, our nutrition, our calorie intake should increase as well. And we definitely need to make sure that our recovery is on point because we’re now taking on extra physical volume that our body will need to recover from.

SUMMARY
So extra volume, why should we do this? We should do this only to address a specific perceived deficit that we can objectively measure the impact of extra volume on. When should we do this? When we have perceived a plateau, right? If every time we’re testing a lift or testing a mile pace or a 5k pace and we are still getting faster, getting stronger, whatever, we have not yet reached that plateau. And so I’d argue it’s not yet a time to consider taking on extra volume. If we do decide extra volume, extra work, extra accessory work is appropriate, how should we do that? We should do that very carefully. We should do that as a stair-step approach. We should do that in a manner that we can reassess the impact of our extra training. Is it actually working? And we should do it in a way that our normal training is also not impacted. We should never be skipping our normal run because of our strength training or our speed work. We should never be skipping CrossFit class because of our extra running or our extra accessory work that we maybe do before or after class should not impact our normal training. And then who should do this? Again, I would argue a very small amount of people should actually do this. Folks who are already incredibly consistent with their normal training routine, who are training four to six days per week, understand and are consistent with recovery, right? The stuff that happens outside of training, diet, sleep, nutrition, recovery. and folks who are aware of the nutritional goals are meeting them and are also aware that adding extra volume is going to increase the demand on how much and the dedication we have to our recovery. And then finally understanding it doesn’t have to be crazy high volume, crazy high intensity to have an impact. 10 to 15 to 20 to maybe 30 minutes of extra work just a couple of days a week can go a really long way if the extra volume is done in a meaningful manner to address those extra deficits. finishing a metcon and doing another metcon is usually just going to result in that metcon being of even lower intensity that you may have to scale the weights and the ranges of motion more rather than coming over and doing some front rack step-ups or doing some strict pull-ups or doing some sort of skill practice or really judicious strength piece or run piece, cardio piece, something like that, right? Extra metcons, a 60-minute AMRAP, at the end of a 40-minute AMRAP is really not going to push the needle. Again, we’re looking for that functional overreach and making sure we don’t push that into overtraining. So, extra training, who, when, why, and how, those are our thoughts. So, hope you have a wonderful weekend. If you’re going to do 24.1, I hope you have fun. My advice, go fast at the start, go fast in the middle, go fast at the end. It’s designed as that kind of workout. Low skill, high work. one of my specialties. So hope you have a great Friday. Have a fantastic weekend. If you’re going to be on a live course this weekend, we hope you enjoy yourselves. Have a great Friday. Have a great weekend. Bye everybody.

OUTRO
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