How To Avoid Wasting Time In The Gym When Building Muscle

I recently sat down with Jordan Lips. 

In the episode we discussed junk volume for hypertrophy. 

If you want to listen to the episode click HERE

I love this topic because I think junk volume is a very useful/important term for people to understand when it comes to building muscle. 

If you go to the gym regularly and dedicate the time, then surely you want to make sure what you are doing is effective and efficient. 

I know I don’t have 60-90 minutes to waste per day and neither do you. 

Most questions people have around training for muscle growth are essentially how can I avoid doing junk volume, whether they know it or not. 

So lets dive into what junk volume is. 

Jordan mentions that junk volume has no formal definition, so you cant google it and find an answer. 

However, on one of his recent Instagram posts he mentions it is “shit you’re doing for little/no benefit

Basically you are doing things, but it isn’t doing much. 

Not only are you dedicating the time, putting forth the effort and adding fatigue (which can increase injury risk), but you aren’t getting much if anything out of it. 

Sounds terrible to me. 

Here are 3 ways you could be doing junk volume: 

1. Sets not taken close to failure

Again there is no formal definition of failure, so we are sort of just winging this. But for the sake of this blog, lets say failure is when you cannot get another rep with good form. 

Unfortunately this still isn’t a concrete thing, but it atleast gets us in the ballpark. 

But I said “close” to failure, so there is some leeway. 

With online clients we use a concept called Reps in Reserve (RIR). If you need more information on RIR listen to this podcast HERE

Lets define close to failure as 0-4 reps of failure in our sets. Just so you can visualize this in your head, 3-4 RIR would be where your form starts to slow down a bit. 

Anything north of 4 reps in reserve would be considered junk volume. 


Because you are doing stuff and adding fatigue, but you aren’t getting as much growth as you could be if you go closer to failure. Essentially you are leaving gains on the table but are putting in the work and time.

Therefore that time spent doing that isn’t as effective or efficient as it could be. 

Too many people go to the gym and sort of just lolligag through everything. 

While that’s better than nothing, if you do that all of the time, you are wasting a lot of your time when you would be better served pushing yourself a bit more. 

As a beginner you can get away from staying far away from failure, but the longer you train, the more you have to push yourself in your training if you want to continue to progress (which if you are reading this, I’m talking to you ;)) 

Make sure most of your training is within 0-4 reps of failure. 

From time to time (maybe every 4-6 weeks) you can take a week where you stay further away. 

2. Sets lower than 5 reps and higher than 30

The next thing Jordan mentions as junk volume, are sets that are outside of the recommended rep range. 

Initially we thought to build muscle you must stay in the 8-12 rep range. But luckily over time we have found that this range is much larger. 

In saying that, if most of your training was in the 8-12 rep range you would see some GREAT muscle growth. 

Some exercises are better in certain rep ranges though. E.g. squat is better in the 5-10 than the 15-20, and lateral raises are better in the 10-20 than the 5-10. 

In the episode Jordan mentions that this doesn’t mean 1-5 reps are bad, but when it comes to building muscle, anything less than 5 reps just isn’t as efficient for the amount of work you are putting in and the fatigue that is generated. 

For something like powerlifting or olympic weight lifting the 1-5 rep range is GREAT. But for hypertrophy it is not as effective. 

Anything north of 30 is again a lot of effort for not a lot of return. 

Doing anything is going to help, so it’s not like 1 rep or 40 reps won’t grow muscle especially if it’s close to failure but as Jordan puts it “at best it’s massively inefficient, and at worst it’s no growth”. 

With online clients who are looking to maximize muscle growth, we make sure that they are working in the 5-30 rep range to maximize efficiency. 

3. Too much volume in one session

The third thing that could be considered junk volume according to Jordan is doing too much in one session. 

We hear we need more volume for muscle growth, but at some point this can give diminishing returns, and sometimes even hurt muscle growth if you do too much in one session or throughout the week. 

As the picture shows, volume is an upside down U shaped curve where doing more does give you more gains, but after a certain point the returns start to diminish. 

So how much volume?

First, you can check out this blog HERE as I had a deep dive into this topic. 

But for this blogs sake, here are a few recommendations:

In his book Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy Dr. Brad Schoenfeld mentions that 10-20 sets per week seem to be the optimal amount for most. Some people may be able to go up to 30 sets per week on certain bodyparts. 

But in order to do this, you must build up to that amount and be able to make a solid case for doing more than 20 sets per week on a muscle group.

In one workout Schoenfeld states that the current research shows around 8-10 sets per workout seems to be on the higher end for most before they start to see a decline in muscle growth.

In saying that, this doesn’t mean you should go straight into 8-10 sets per workout for each muscle group. 

With online clients we start with around 3-4 sets and then work on way up based on recovery. 

There you have it. 

To sum this up, Jordan mentions his main takeaway from junk volume is that:

“If its too light or too far from failure…its junk…and even if its not…..more isnt always better.” 

If you agave more questions on this topic please feel free to reach out on Instagram, or send me an email

Lastly, if you need more guidance and structure around your training, fill out the coaching app HERE and lets get to work. 

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