A lot of strength coaches are concerned about overtraining these days and tend to stick to a moderate training volume to be on the safe side. While I think having a conservative approach and taking care of your athletes is a good idea I feel there are definitely times when a cycle of high training volume can be of benefit. You just have to know when to apply it and to which type of athlete.
When someone needs to put on some muscle mass quickly then a high volume of training can be very beneficial. By exposing the muscle fibres to the same movement for a high volume, it forces the muscle fibres to grow. It is good to use if you have hit a plateau in muscle mass gains, it shocks the body and forces it into adaptation.
You can also use a high volume of training to get leaner. By using big compound lifts, a high number of sets and reps, and using shorter rest periods you are able to generate a lot of lactic acid in the blood which can in turn help accelerate fat loss. This is due to the release of growth hormone and also the impact this type of training has on heat shock proteins (another great tip I learnt from Charles Poliquin). William Kraemer has done research on the best protocols for the release of growth hormone and showed that high reps and short rests of 30 to 60 seconds produced the greatest increases.
Increased fitness levels are another benefit you see with a high volume of training. As mentioned above the lactate you produce is very high with this type of training. By training this way your body gets used to the high levels of lactate and also gets better at clearing it from the blood. When you go back to your sport, you are much fitter from these benefits. My favourite thing about it is you don’t have to do any additional interval work when you are training with a high volume, the amount of work you do is more than enough. So you have the benefit of added muscle mass and increased levels of work capacity.
Mental toughness is another benefit of an increased training volume. If I ever feel as though I am being, or starting to get lazy in my training, I tend to increase the volume. It is the fastest way for me to get my mind back into a state of focused training. You can’t get through some of the workouts if you don’t have that burning desire inside yourself. It’s a great way to bring it back out if you have been sitting in a comfort zone. It tests how bad you really want something and how hard you are willing to push to achieve it. Also, once you go back to lower volume with increased intensity it feels a lot easier, your work capacity is better, and you can repeat more sets and reps at a given load.
As mentioned above it is important to time these cycles correctly and apply them correctly for maximum benefits.