The central theses
The training frequency usually refers to how often you lift weights per week, but also how often you exercise a certain muscle group per week.
As a natural weight lifter, your optimal training frequency depends on how much total volume you make per muscle group per week.
Read on to learn how to decide how many sets you should do per week and how often you should exercise weekly to maximize muscle growth.
Optimal training frequency is a controversial topic.
Some believe that you should exercise your entire body two to three times a week, while others believe that this approach will lead to overtraining, injuries, and burnout.
Anecdotal evidence can be found everywhere.
Browse online forums and chat with other athletes. You will hear stories of fantastic progress in training important muscle groups only once a week and three, four or even five times a week.
Some weight lifters also mix it up and train different muscle groups at different frequencies.
For example, some say that smaller muscle groups such as shoulders, biceps and calves should be exercised three or four times a week, while large muscle groups such as the thighs only need one intensive workout per week.
If you turn to the scientific literature for an insight, you will get few reliable answers.
Some studies seem to show that higher frequencies work best, others show that you can make good progress with fewer workouts per week.
So what should you do?
Should you be wrong on the side of caution and keep the frequency low or on the opposite side of extremism or somewhere in between?
Here is the short answer:
As a natural weight lifter, your optimal training frequency depends on how much total volume you make per muscle group per week.
In fact, you can view exercise frequency as an instrument to achieve optimal weekly volume, rather than an essential element in building muscle.
In other words, there is no uniform answer to the question of the optimal training frequency.
Ready for the long answer?
What is the training frequency?
training frequency is just a fancy way of saying how often you exercise each week.
Most strength training programs involve a training frequency of 3 to 5 times a week, which means that you do 3 to 5 training sessions a week in weight lifting.
Some weight lifters become more specific and also track their exercise frequency for each muscle group.
That is, instead of just seeing how often they appear in the gym each week, they also see how often they exercise each muscle group.
For example, an upper-lower routine typically involves training four days a week and each muscle group twice a week (two lower and two upper body workouts). So if you press on the bench press on your first upper body day and on the incline bench on your second upper body day, train your chest twice a week.
It is important to check how often you exercise each major muscle group per week when designing an exercise program.
For example, you might have a training frequency of 5 times a week, but what if all of your workouts focus on upper body exercises? This does not lead to the desired results.
Summary: Exercise frequency usually refers to how often you lift weights per week, but also how often you exercise a certain muscle group per week.
Use this training and flexible diet program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days – without starving yourself or living in the gym.
What is the best training frequency for muscle building?
There are usually two answers to this question:
On the one hand, the traditional bodybuilding approach is to train and hammer each muscle group once a week until it is inflated, swollen, and sore.
On the other hand, many researchers, bodybuilders and trainers recommend exercising each muscle group two or three times a week.
Who is right?
The first thing you should know about exercise frequency is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution that applies to everyone. Instead, research shows that the ideal training frequency for you depends on several factors.
one Review study This riddle was solved by scientists from the University of Gothenburg.
They conducted a comprehensive search in every scientific study that looked at the relationship between exercise frequency and muscle growth between 1970 and 2006.
The scientists also limited their search to studies that concerned this. , ,
Use MRI or CT scans to measure muscle growth, which are considered the gold standard methods for quantifying muscle growth.
Uses healthy, undamaged people ages 18 to 59.
Reports all important details of the study design, including the number of sets and repetitions and the exercises of the subjects.
They also excluded all studies in which the test subjects had a negative energy balance (weight loss), which was significant reduced Muscle and strength gains.
In the end, 44 studies had to be examined, and when they gathered and analyzed all of the data, they found that training each major muscle group generally gave the greatest muscle gain two to three times a week.
However, the researchers carefully pointed out that this is only a rule of thumb and that you should adapt your training program to your goals, experience levels and recovery skills.
They also pointed out that beginners with lower training frequencies can often make excellent progress, while medium or advanced weightlifters need higher training frequencies.
That said, if you're new to weight lifting, you may only need to exercise a muscle group once or twice a week to maximize muscle growth. However, up to three workouts a week may be required as you approach your genetic muscle building potential.
The results of this article are also supported by several other studies, including by scientists from the University of Alabama. Lehman College. the Auckland University of Technology, and the National Research Institute,
That said, you can find many anecdotes from even experienced weight lifters who have done well to train large muscle groups only once a week.
Well, a comprehensive one Review study published in 2018 by scientists at Lehman College offers the missing piece of this puzzle.
The researchers (including Legion Scientific advisory board member James Krieger) analyzed 25 studies that looked at the relationship between exercise frequency and muscle growth.
The results were surprising.
In contrast to previous studies, they found no connection between exercise frequency and muscle growth. That said, it didn't matter how often people exercised a muscle group during the week – they gained more or less the same amount of muscle.
However, there is a catch:
This only applied to studies in which the participants completed the same amount of the total training volume (measured in repetitions per week per muscle group) in both the high and the low training frequency.
For example, if one group did 30 repetitions of breast exercises twice a week, while another group did 20 repetitions of breast exercises three times a week, they gained approximately the same amount of muscle because both groups did a total of 60 repetitions of breast exercises per week.
That said, as the researchers deepened the data, they found that higher frequencies usually led to more muscle growth when one group did more volume than the other.
In other words, if you a quantity If you increase the number of repetitions per week for a specific muscle group, you can usually make more progress by spreading these repetitions over several workouts instead of combining them in one session.
However, if you only do a moderate amount of volume per week for a particular muscle group, you can do all of this in one workout without fear of compromising your results.
For this reason, the authors have come to the conclusion that provided you do enough total volume, you “. , , can choose a weekly frequency per muscle group based on personal preference. "
That said, the ideal training frequency for you largely depends on how much volume you do per muscle group and week.
Before we continue, we would like to point out that there are several ways to quantify the training volume.
Repetitions are one, but personally, for various reasons, I prefer to measure training volume by counting "hard sentences" (sentences that are close to technical failure) this article,
So if I refer to "volume" I will talk about it in the context of hard sets in the future. This does not fundamentally change what we have dealt with so far in relation to the relationship between volume and frequency. It just makes it easier and more practical.
Summary: If you do a lot of volume (reps) for a particular muscle group each week, you generally make more progress by spreading those reps over two to three workouts. However, if you use only a moderate amount of volume, you can do everything in one workout without affecting your results.
How to find your ideal training frequency
At this point, you probably want to know how to find out how often you should exercise each major muscle group to maximize muscle growth.
That is, how many sets should you do per main muscle group per week?
So the ideal training volume for muscle building is beyond the scope of this article, but the long story is short that most people maximize muscle growth by doing 10 to 20 sets per muscle group per week.
If you're a beginner, you can build muscle effectively with fewer sets (10 to 12). If you are an advanced weightlifter, you can do better with more sets (12 to 20). In some rare cases, e.g. For example, if you correct a muscle imbalance or prepare for strength training, you can benefit from doing 20 to 25 sets a week for certain muscle groups or exercises.
The next question is how to distribute these sets over the week.
Again, there is no hard and fast rule here, but I've found that the following works well:
Doing 10 to 12 sets per muscle group per week gives you the greatest flexibility in terms of frequency. You shouldn't have any problems doing all of them in one workout if you prefer, or more if this fits your schedule or style better.
However, if you do more than 15 sets for a muscle group per week, you should split these sets into 2 or more workouts per week.
Well, you've probably learned firsthand that you can only do so many productive sets in one workout before fatigue sets in and performance drops.
For example, if you want to complete 20 sets of breast training in a single workout, you are likely to feel good for the first 6 to 8 sets. After 8 sets, you would start to feel tired, but you can go on. After another four or five sets, however, each repetition is gassed and ground, and you have 8 sets left.
At this point, the only way to end the workout is to reduce your weight or repetitions, or to bring each set to an absolute failure. All of this will hamper your strength and muscle gain over time.
A better approach is to do 10 to 12 sets in one workout, let your chest recover for a few days, and then do another 8 to 10 sets in another workout.
This approach is also supported by science research The study, carried out by Hosei University scientists, shows that spreading your training volume over several days a week reduces the amount of effort experienced during each workout.
That said, despite having the same total workout volume, using a slightly higher frequency makes your workouts feel easier (which of course allows you to train harder and use heavier weights).
Therefore, higher training frequencies are inherently no better than lower training frequencies – they just make it easier to do more sets a week.
Here is an example of this principle in action.
This is a push workout from the 5 day version of my strength training program for men, Bigger Leaner Stronger:
Bench press with the barbell
Warm up and 3 hard sets
Incline bench press with barbell
3 hard sentences
Dumbbell bench press
3 hard sentences
3 hard sentences
In this case, do 9 sets of chest exercises and 3 sets of triceps exercises. In all chest exercises, the triceps are trained to a certain extent, so you actually do about 6 to 12 sets of triceps exercises.
Later in the week, the program includes a further 3 sets of chest exercises in the form of a bench press with a tight grip, resulting in a total of 12 sets of chest exercises per week.
For other important muscle groups such as the biceps, you only train them directly once a week (e.g. workout 5 in the 5-day program).
In reality, however, you train your biceps twice a week because they are also indirectly trained by the rows of dumbbells and lat pulldowns you do on Workout 2. Your biceps will get too trained a little bit on the bench press, in particular when pushing backwards and grip.
Some people may still rate this workout routine as far too low, but the truth is that you don't have to train every major muscle group with more than 10 to 12 sets a week to maximize muscle and strength gains as a beginner. Therefore, you don't need to exercise each muscle group more than once or twice a week.
The bad reputation that "one muscle group gets per day" is mainly due to a poor program design in terms of below-average exercises, rep range and training volume.
Many low quality "bro splits" require too much isolation work with low weight for high repetitions, which leads to low training intensity and excessive training volume for inferior exercises.
However, if you don't make the same mistakes and follow a well-designed exercise program like "Bigger Leaner Stronger" or "Thinner Leaner Stronger", you can train each muscle group once or twice a week.
You don't need to take my word for it either. I have Dozens of success stories to prove that the weekly volume and frequency of training in my programs deliver phenomenal results.
Now everything you've learned so far is mainly suitable for beginners. What about advanced weight lifters?
The closer you get to your genetic strength and muscle building potential, the harder it will be to keep working to make progress. And that mostly depends on making more volume and lifting heavier weights than as a beginner.
Therefore, you usually want to increase the training frequency in order to better manage the additional volume and the additional load.
For example, I'm creating a new second edition of my advanced and advanced weightlifter program, Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger, and it has a little more volume in it than in Bigger Leaner Stronger.
They do a total of 16 sets of chest exercises a week – 25% more than Bigger Leaner Stronger – and don't want to do all of this in one workout.
As you learned earlier, you would need to reduce your weight or repetitions, or bring the last few sentences to complete failure. This is far less productive than dividing the volume into more workouts.
In the 5-day version of Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger, for example, you do a training session with 8 sets of chest exercises on Monday and another training session with 8 sets of chest exercises on Friday.
So in the end it is important to remember the training frequency that it is not so important. The most important thing is the total weekly training volume (sets). The training frequency should increase with increasing volume.
Summary: The ideal training frequency for you depends on how much weekly volume (sets) you do for each muscle group per week. If you do 10 to 12 sets per muscle group per week, you only need to train each muscle group once or twice a week. If you do 15 to 20 sets per muscle group per week, you can train each muscle group two or three times a week.
The conclusion for the best training frequency to build muscle
For decades, bodybuilding orthodoxy has been to blast each muscle group with a punitive amount of volume once a week.
This can work if you have excellent genetics and even better steroids. For the rest of us, research shows that this approach is wrong.
In reality, the ideal training frequency for you depends on how much total volume (sets) you do per week for each main muscle group.
That means, high or low training frequencies are not inherently better or worse. The details matter.
For example, if you try to pack too many sets into a single workout, the quality of those sets will deteriorate with the intensity of the workout. You'd better split these sets into two or even three workouts.
However, if you are relatively new to weightlifting and don't need to do as many sets per muscle group per week to gain muscle and strength, you can only train each muscle group once a week.
Over time, however, you will reach a point where you need to do a few sets per muscle group per week to progress. The most productive way to do this is to increase your training frequency.
There are no definitive guidelines for how many sets you should do per muscle group and week, or exactly when you should increase your exercise frequency. However, I've found that the following works best:
If you're still relatively young in weightlifting, all you have to do is train each muscle group with 10 to 12 sets a week to maximize muscle and strength gains. If you want, you can run all of these sets one day a week without sacrificing the quality of your sets.
If you are a medium or advanced weightlifter, you need to train each muscle group with 15 to 20 sets a week to maximize muscle and strength gains. In this case, you should split these sets into two or more workouts per week.
To learn more about strength training programs for high and low frequencies, read this article:
The 12 best scientifically based strength training programs for muscle building and strength building
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