MRV | Guide to Basic Strength Concepts
You’re in the middle of a training block, it’s the 3rd session of the week and you have competition style squats, but the last two weeks these sessions have been getting progressively tougher and you just haven't felt like yourself. You start warming up and get to your first working set - everything feels wrong. It was supposed to be a 3x3 and you barely reached 2. You ask yourself, “Why is this happening? I've done everything im supossed to and this happens?” What you could be experiencing is being "too close to the sun for too long", or in other words overreaching your MRV.
MRV stands for maximum recoverable volume, which at its core is a fatigue management tool. Each athlete has a maximum amount of training volume they can endure. Once this threshold is reached, desired adaptation will occur, but continued training above this threshold will rapidly increase fatigue, causing decreased adaptation and an increased possibility of injuries. One way to think about this is a seesaw: to have it balanced you would need to have equal amount on both sides. Now, what happens if one side has more weight then the other? It will collapse to that side causing an imbalance. The key is to shift the focus to either side depending on the response of the athlete while not going too far to one side causing a complete collapse.
The vital component to understanding this principle is variability. Every athlete will have differences in the amount of volume they can tolerate in each phase, (hypertrophy, strength, peaking, active recovery) so, it's important to remember there will not be a “one shoe fits all” to this approach.
Hypertrophy MRV- The volume above which muscle size decreases
Your MRV will be of the highest volumes from the other phases due to the intensities being used to achieve the effect desired.
Knowing when you’ve overreached the MRV within this phase is hard without having the equipment to be able to measure muscle growth.
Some signs that you have reached this spot would be:
Inability to maintain usual reps with 65-75%
No longer achieving pump from training session/ meeting minimum work efforts through sessions
Feeling dull and achy as opposed to sore
Strength MRV- The volume above which strength decreases
The goal of this phase is to maintain strength performance, so once there is a decrease in performance, it’s a good indicator that we have potentially surpassed the MRV
Key points to remember when trying to have maximal force expression is we need the nervous system not to be overly fatigued.
One way to determine that the MRV is being surpassed is with the following example: Let's say an athlete squats 315x3x5, then next week 325x3x5, then the following week you 330x3x5,3,3. At this point we are seeing a drop off in performance, indicating the potential surpassing of strength MRV and training should be adjusted accordingly.
Peaking MRV - The volume above which maximal force expression and stable technique decreases
The volume will be far lower for this phase, as the goal through peaking is to have the fatigue very low so that your able to express strength at the top end of your abilities
Peaking MRV needs to factor in the nervous system recovery because in order to express maximal force, we need the coordination to perform the movement most efficiently
One way to determine if you’re at your MRV is if you are able to perform heavy sets of 1-3 as expected, while having good technique, you're probably close to or below MRV. If missing reps or technique is falling apart then this would signal that you are most likely surpassing the MRV
Active Recovery MRV - The volume above which fastest recovery rates decrease
The goal in this phase is strictly recovery. It is not to be pushing the boundaries but to be applying enough volume to allow the areas that were affected by fatigue to get movement and blood flow to accelerate the recovery process.
One indicator that can be used to define the volume used in this phase would be using ¼ of the volume used within the hypertrophy phase.
Remember that it's important to always have an idea where your MRV sits within the specific phase you are in. If you’re a coach, always have an idea of where those lines are for the athlete and constantly making adjustments to keep them within the pocket.
There's a ton of variability when it comes to applying this concept. The key is understanding your responses to certain training stimulus and having more of an educated understanding of the responses your body is providing you under certain circumstances.