What Is the Maximum Recoverable Volume?

What Is the Maximum Recoverable Volume?

The Maximum Recoverable Volume is the point at which we will exceed our ability to recover from training.

Maximum Recovery Volume (MRV)

MRV is the maximum volume from which an athlete can recover, generally defined as the recovery from one micro cycle to the next (Israetel, 2018; Israetel & Hoffmann, 2017).

Recovery in this context is therefore a return to your usual performance ability (Figure 1) within the characteristics of the physical condition (Israetel, 2018; Israetel & Hoffmann, 2017).

Stimulus response

Figure 1. Stimulus-response model. Source: Israetel (2018).

It’s considered a (Israetel, 2018; Israetel & Hoffmann, 2017) «recovery»  if the performance on this micro cycle is comparable to that of the previous micro cycle.

So, knowing when you’ve exceeded your MRV is simple: you have a lower performance on this microcycle compared to your previous one.

Generally speaking (Israetel, 2018; Israetel & Hoffmann, 2017), the exact amount of training volume based on MRV would be determined on the basis that a drop in performance suggests that you have exceeded your MRV in your most recent micro cycle, but you do not experience a similar drop in the previous micro cycle.

Therefore, it’s likely that this MRV is between the volume of the penultimate and last microcycle.

The Importance of Training Volume

Manipulation of the resistance training (RT) variables is considered an essential strategy to maximise muscle adaptations (Schoenfeld, & Grgic, 2018).

Concretely, the volume of training appears to be one of the key variables for increasing muscle mass.

In relation to this, higher volumes show greater increases in muscle growth (Schoenfeld, & Grgic, 2018). It follows that those looking to maximise hypertrophy should train with protocols of multiple sets (Schoenfeld, & Grgic, 2018).

On the other hand, the volume of work must be manipulated according to individual response.

Based on this, and bearing in mind the current literature, more than 10 sets/week per muscle group seems to be a good starting point for volume programming in those whose goals are oriented towards hypertrophy (Schoenfeld, & Grgic, 2018). Substantial gains in muscle mass can also be achieved with volumes as low as 4 or less sets per muscle group per week (Schoenfeld, & Grgic, 2018).

On the other hand (Schoenfeld, & Grgic, 2018), the training volume must be contextualised as a function of over-training. That is, since constant training with large volumes accelerates the start of overtraining, it can be assumed that periodising the volume can improve hypertrophy (figure 2).

An optimal long-term strategy would be to alternate between high and low training volumes.

A good approach would be to progressively increase the lower workloads (e.g. 10 sets/muscle group/week) towards the higher ones (e.g. 20 sets/muscle group/week) over a period of several months, which can help promote a state of functional overreaching.

Volume hypertrophy

Figure 2. How to structure the volume for Hypertrophy training. Source: Israetel (2017).

However, Krzysztofik, Wilk, Wojdała & Gołaś (2019) provided a systematic, objective and critical review related to advanced methods and techniques (BFR, Drop Sets, sarcoplasmic stimulation technique, superseries and pre-fatigue) of strength that influence skeletal muscle in both recreational and competitive athletes.

They concluded that it is difficult to provide specific guidelines for the volume, effort intensity and frequency of the above techniques and strength methods.

However, well-trained athletes can integrate advanced RT techniques and methods into their routines as an additional stimulus to cross the plateau and avoid monotonous training.

Finally, the literature mentioned above (Krzysztofik et al., 2019; Schoenfeld, & Grgic, 2018) helps us see that the key is the correct determination of the training volumes:

  • Maintenance volume;
  • Minimum effective volume;
  • Maximum adaptive volume; and
  • Maximum recoverable volume.

Training Volume Indexes

Maintenance Volume (MV)

It refers to the mount of training (number of sets per muscle group) that allows the current level of muscle mass to be maintained.

In beginners, it’ll be 0, however, in intermediate or advanced level people it will be the minimum work they will have to do to keep the earnings.

The volume reference points may change slightly depending on the frequency of the training and its relationship to the muscle groups to be worked.

On the other hand, the main objective of this reference is to use periods of low volume training to rest the growth processes and allow complete regeneration.

And if the recovery capacity of the muscles is limited by the volume of training, a possible solution would be to reduce the workload of certain muscles (use of MV), giving priority in training to those target muscles.

Minimum Effective Volume (MEV)

This concept refers to the amount of training that increases muscle size.

Any work below this element would only be considered maintenance.

In fact, the average weekly training volume must be above the MEV. A good strategy is to start the first week of the mesocycle using the MEV, and from there, increase the workload.

One issue to consider is the relationship between the MEV and the athlete’s level of experience.

This relationship becomes visible based on the fact that the MEV and the MV are usually very similar, however, as the athlete’s experience level increases, the MEV leaves the maintenance volume behind.


Maximum Adaptive Volume (MAV)

Finally, the last element refers to that volume of work where the athlete achieves the greatest gains in muscle mass and performance.

It’s a much broader index than the previous volumes, as it changes widely within each mesocycle.

The latter is because when a muscle group is trained, the systems adapt, and larger amounts of training are needed to stimulate optimally.

Therefore, the AVM rises continuously during the mesocycle.

Volume indexes according to muscle group

As a practical reference point, in the following image you can see the guide that Mikel Israetel (2017) proposed for training volumes according to muscle group.

These recommendations should not be taken literally, as they are estimates based on his years of experience, and as the author himself comments

“…they have to be individualised and recycled…”


Figure 3. Hypertrophy training guide. Source: Israetel (2017).

Maximum recoverable volume and individual differences

The number of sets per muscle group mentioned above has to be related to the individual differences and to the principles of sports training. (Israetel, 2018; Israetel & Hoffmann, 2017).

In relation to this, a series of points will be necessary to take into account to determine the ranges of the volume of each index (Israetel, 2018; Israetel & Hoffmann, 2017):

  • Adapt the reference values to your physiological and physical context.
  • Inter-dependence between recovery, training, nutrition and psychological aspects.
  • Relationship between the type of exercise and intra- and inter-microcycle organisation with the MV, MEV, MAV and MRV.
  • Exercises with high loads and full ROMs: lower MEV and higher MRV values. The most effective exercises have lower MEVs and higher MRVs.

Determining the MRV

Based on the previous premise that the MRV is the maximum recoverable volume, it’s logical to think that we have reached or exceeded it when the yield decreases.

In other words, performance is worse compared to the last week of work, and, therefore, one could suspect the achievement of the MRV.

But has the actual average MRV been determined or is there an error in assessing and interpreting the results? The answer is simple, two strategies are needed: repetition and recording.

Another consideration to be taken into account is to establish the relationship between decreased performance or ability to recover with external reasons (stress, family problems, illness, etc…).

Finally, I’ll specify the steps to be taken to correctly determine the MRV in a reliable and valid way (Israetel, 2018; Israetel & Hoffmann, 2017):

  1. Start the mesocycle with a relatively low work volume (a reduced number of set per muscle group).
  2. Add 1-2 sets per muscle group a week.
  3. Identify the moment where performance dips.
  4. Unload in the training.
  5. Start the new mesocycle (2º) adding 1-2 additional sets per muscle group and repeat sets 1-3.
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 two to four times, and set the average number of sets per week in which the performance decreases.
  7. Estimation of the current MRV.
  8. Increasing MRV: use of a high intensity micro cycle after the micro cycle where performance decreases (use of simple exercises).

Bibliographic sources

  1. Israetel, M. (2017). General Training: Mesocycle Design for Hypertrophy. Renaissance Periodization.
  2. Revive Stronger (2017). Revive Stronger.
  3. Israetel, M. (2018). How to find your Maximum Recoverable Volume (MRV). Propane Fitness.
  4. Schoenfeld, B., & Grgic, J. (2018). Evidence-based guidelines for resistance training volume to maximize muscle hypertrophy. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 40(4), 107-112.
  5. Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G., & Gołaś, A. (2019). Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(24), 4897.
  6. Israetel, M. & Hoffmann, J. (2017). Volumen Landmarks for Muscle Growth. Renaissance Periodization.

Related Entries

  • Training Principles.
  • How to plan Strength Training for Beginners? Keep reading....
  • Do you know the symptoms of Overtraining? Click here.
  • What is the role of Heart Rate Variability (HRV)? Find out in the following link.
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About Ivan Sotelo
Ivan Sotelo
Iván Sotelo is a specialist in Prevention and Physical-Sports Rehabilitation, with experience in professional football teams.
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