by: Konnor Fleming
photo by: Athena Pelton
I love the workouts we do at Alchemy. Call me biased, but the way our class structures integrate yoga, strength, and conditioning, is – in my opinion – unrivaled. Thanks to the functional movement patterns we use and the various rep schemes and time domains we plug them into, I am confident when I walk out of class that I got better in some way, shape or form. Be it becoming faster, stronger, better conditioned, more mentally resolute, or any combination thereof, I stand by our workouts’ ability to create favorable adaptation.
And while the workouts do change every day, understandably we still develop favorites. I was a football player and a short sprinter in college so any chance I have to go fast, I’m all about it; if you gave me the option between a workout that features fast, explosive movement with built in rest and one with moderate volume, moderate pace I’ll take the former every time. Some love workouts with a more constant pacing, some gravitate towards a descending ladder that features a gradually increasing pace, and others prefer set time domains.
But through all of these formats, there seems to be one type of workout in particular that gets no love: high volume.
Let’s be honest with ourselves here – aversion to high volume is pretty understandable. When you look at a workout and see 100 squat throws (or 100 reps of anything, for that matter), it’s pretty understandable to not be the most inspired to attend. Big numbers are daunting; it feels as though there’s no end, there’s concern it will take forever to complete, and the execution of those reps can feel very monotonous.
But here’s the thing – it’s all of those things that should get you in for that very workout.
Workouts with high reps of a few movements are unrivaled in their ability to build mental resilience. To be able to go into a task – any task – and not only attempt it but accomplish and crush it is a skill transferable to all walks of life. In my humble opinion, the ability to respond to adversity is one of the single most important lessons someone can learn. We, as Alchemists, have the opportunity to embrace that lesson together, in our supportive and empowering community, and do so in a way that makes us physically healthier than we were when we walked in…I mean, where do I sign up?
And there are ways to do it, I promise. My absolute favorite high volume mantra is: “Big sets physically, small sets mentally.” The idea is to keep your body moving through big sets, but think of it as a bunch of small sets strung together. I think you’ll find it will almost always be more mentally approachable, and more enjoyable, than thinking of the set as a single, insurmountable entity.
Take those 100 squat throws from before, for example. By itself, those feel like a near impossible task; most people can’t – nor would they want to – do 100 squat throws in row. But I’ll tell you what, I’d bet you can do five squat throws in a row…and with a couple of breaks along the way, I bet you can do twenty sets of five squat throws. And then before you know it, “I can’t do that” becomes “I just did that” …and if there’s a more empowering feeling than that, well, I’m yet to find it.
At the end of the day, there are a million and one excuses to avoid high volume workouts. But here’s the thing: there are even more reasons to take them head on. What these workouts lack in the glam and the glitz, they make up for in the grit and the resolve.
So next time you see a workout with high reps? Make it a point to go. Your whole self – physically, mentally, and psychologically – will be better for it.
Konnor is a coach and Director of Product Development at Alchemy. The programming we do day in and day out? He’s on it. He’s guaranteed to make your day, and we’re not just saying that – he’s known for his inspirational cheers during his classes. In his free time you can find him singing with his a cappella group, living it up on the softball field, or chowing down at Chipotle.