A Bodybuilders Maximal Recoverable Volume Charge [MRV Series Part 2]


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In part 1 of the MRV series we learnt exactly what MRV is.

I highly recommend you check that out before reading this next piece (click here). As I said I started this series because of the huge value understanding the concept of MRV has had to my personal results and my clients. Thus, I wanted to share that with you, the reader.

Today we are talking about systemic vs. sum MRVs.

Think of your systemic MRV like your mobile phone battery.

You’ve got a certain amount to use before you need to re-charge that bugger.

Now think of each of your muscle groups as applications on your phone.

You know:

  • facebook (pecs)
  • twitter (back)
  • snapchat (quads) etc.

If you were to just use facebook your phone you’d be able to be on there for hours, but if you wanted to use facebook, twitter, myfitnesspal, instagram, snapchat etc. you’d have much less time, because you’d have to spread the battery use you had available.


If all battery was used on the one app:

  • Facebook: 20 hours
  • Twitter: 30 hours
  • Instagram: 15 hours
  • Snapchat: 10 hours

You see in sum we would have 75 hours, but because we have to spread these demands in reality it would look like this:

  • Facebook: 10 hours
  • Twitter: 15 hours
  • Instagram: 10 hours
  • Snapchat: 5 hours

Our system can only take 40 hours totally.

Even though if it was put towards each app individually the sum of that time would be much greater. Thus, we come to a situation in which we have a limited total amount of battery usage to spread between various applications, if we were to add up all the time we could potentially spend on each app it would be much more time then we’d have available, due to battery constrains.


This is very much like our systemic and individual muscle group MRVs, as you can see above.

Your biceps, glutes, quads, calves, pecs etc. all have their own MRV, and in sum they’d put us over our personal systemic MRV, we simply don’t have the ‘battery’ to allow us to max them all out. We have to decide how we’re going to allocate our systemic MRV (you know your total battery charge) towards these competing individual muscle group MRVs (just like we use some of our battery use on facebook and some on twitter).

“The sum for the MRV’s in the entire body is going to be higher than the system MRV for the entire body. If you tried to train every muscle as hard as they could recover, you’d get sick and would overtrain. ” – Mike Israetel

Table of Contents

 Allocating your MRV Charge

So now we know we cannot just keep adding more volume to each of our muscle groups.

And so we need to somehow spread this effectively.

We can either spread it out evenly across muscle groups, or we can choose to put more to some whilst allowing others to maintain or progress more slowly. The way you choose to do it should probably come down to your training experience/level of advancement.

  • Novice (~0 to 5 years): even spread of volume

  • Intermediate (~5 to 10 years): even spread or bias towards strong points

  • Advanced (~10 years plus): even spread or bias towards weak points

The key is you should for at least the first 5 years of training is to generate overall mass, to build a solid foundation before you specialise. To do anything different would be like trying to sculpt a masterpiece out of a tiny amount of clay, it just wouldn’t work, what you want is a large amount of clay before we chisel away to create a great piece of art.

[bctt tweet=”Generalise then specialise” username=”revivestronger”]

As generalists we’re training everything pretty hard, but not as hard as it could be.

If we choose to specialise we must take away from somewhere else, because as clearly shown above we have limited resources and cannot simply add. If you’re training every body part for 20 sets and you found this is your MRV, if you want to bring up your biceps and train it to its individual MRV which is say 25, then we need to take out 5 sets from somewhere else.

The key lesson here is that once we are at our system MRV we cannot simply add more.

Once we’re at a stage in our training career in which we find progress is slowing and we have a solid foundation we can put some muscle groups on the back burner, whilst prioritising others.

See also  Podcast 150: James Hoffmann - Sleep & Recovery for Hypertrophy

A Word from Mike Israetel

So to ensure I haven’t misconstrued this subject I asked if Mike would read it over, he kindly obliged and asked for the following to be added, and so, to quote Mike directly:

“A serendipitous arrangement of training variables occurs in the longer-term allocation of training within systemic MRV constraints. Beginner lifters should be training ALL of the muscle groups they want to grow on an even spread, but doesn’t that mean that we have to go pretty easy on each muscle’s training volume to keep the sum total volume within systemic recovery abilities? It does, but the good news is that beginners can grow easily from relatively little volume per muscle group, so that having to train all body parts equally and thus keep per-muscle volume lower is actually going to result in very impressive all-around growth.

As the lifter becomes more advanced, individual muscles begin to require more and more work to progress at their best rates, and, very conveniently, it also becomes the time when specialization (no longer having to train all muscles hard and being able to free up some extra recovery capacity for focused muscle groups) becomes best practice!

And to add to the serendipity, more advanced lifters can hold onto muscle better during low-volume “de-prioritization” phases of training, so not only do they have the freed up volume by being able to de-prioritize some ares, but those areas are at lower risk of regressions during de-priority than they would be if a beginner tried such emphasis/deemphasis routines.”

==> Part 3: 4 Variables that impact your Training Volume


If you liked this, you will love:

Join my free facebook group or add me on snapchat (revivestronger) and ask your question there, I will respond asap. Or if you’re after a fresh training programme I have a free 4 week plan using DUP that you can download for free here.

One more thing…

Do you have a friend who would love the above? Share this article with them and let me know what they think.

[bctt tweet=”Your Maximal Recoverable Volume Charge- MRV Series Part 2″ username=”revivestronger”]

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