What is training frequency
To build mass effectively we have to subject muscles to some kind of a resistance – the best form of it in this case is lifting weights. To keep them growing steady we need to increase the weight over time – even small but constant progress. Besides, muscles need rest. They can’t be trained every day. Of course to achieve the fastest and the best resutls we have to keep repeating the training every so often – it is called the training frequency.
What happens if we train too often
Common sense would tell us that if we want to be the best at certain sport we should practice it every day. And this is true. However bodybuilding is a little bit different than other activities. It is very demanding sport and success in it depends not as much as from the training itself but as from the nutrition and the lifestyle we lead.
One of the basic bodybuilding rules says that to make muscles grow you have to let them rest. They don’t grow during workout, at the gym, but they start as soon as we finish the cool-down and consume post workout nutrition. The biggest gains occur when we sleep.
By lifting weights we are ‘damaging’ muscle fibers, kind of breaking them a little to let them grow a bit bigger, thicker and stronger. However if we hit them too often they will not have time to recover and therefore won’t grow. Besides it will cause an opposite effect – it can actually weaken muscle fibers and make them even smaller.
How much time muscles need to recover
We can divide all our muscles into groups:
Each muscle group needs minimum 48 hours to regenerate. Smaller muscles like biceps or forearms (part of an arm) recover a bit faster however there’s no point to train them more often than any other body parts because we wouldn’t achieve even development and therefore aesthetic physique. Only exception could be the lagging muscle group, underdeveloped properly and smaller than the rest. It could be hit more often to reach the right size.
How often to train certain body part
It would be not possible to exercise fully all major body parts in the single session. That’s why we divide them into groups and train each of them in different days. It’s called a split.
Although muscles need only around 48 hours to recover there’s too many groups to train all of them every other day therefore usually certain body part is trained once per week.
Example of Push/Pull/Legs split (3 days per week):
Monday (push): Chest, Shoulders, Triceps;
Wednesday (pull): Back, Traps, Biceps;
Friday (legs): Legs, Abs;
Example of upper/lower/upper body split:
Monday (upper body): Chest, Back;
Wednesday (lower body): Legs, Abs;
Friday (upper body): Shoulders, Traps, Arms;
Notice that each muscle group here like chest or legs is trained every 7 days. It has plenty time to regenerate and grow.
The key to successful muscle growth is constant progress. From training to training we want to lift slightly heavier weight (progressive overload) or do few more repetitions than on a previous session. When we become more advanced we should slowly increase the number of sets as well. And later to increase the stimulation even more and achieve the best results we can increase the training frequency.
Example of push/pull/legs split where each muscle group is trained more often (every 4-5 days):
Monday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps;
Tuesday: Back, Biceps;
Wednesday: Legs, Abs;
Friday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps (start cycle over again),
Saturday: Back, Biceps;
Monday: Legs, Abs,
Tuesday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps (start cycle over again),
Wednesday: Back, Biceps;
Friday: Legs, Abs;
Saturday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps (start cycle over again);
Example of push/pull/legs split where each muscle group is trained twice a week:
Monday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps;
Tuesday: Back, Traps, Biceps;
Wednesday: Legs, Abs;
Thursday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps (start cycle again);
Friday: Back, Traps, Biceps;
Saturday: Legs, Abs;
As you can see each muscle group is worked out more often (every 4-5 days) or even twice a week. It gives us also enough time to recover and by training every body part so frequent we can achieve the maximum potential growth. However I have to warn you to not train like that from the start because 6 days a week schedule is very demanding and extremely taxing for the body. So as with everything in bodybuilding take your time, progress slowly and don’t change anything until you stop to grow. There’s no point to work twice as hard if you make progress anyway.
Most of people train each muscle group once a week or as often as every 5 days and this is really enough to build mass. But there are also exceptions: beginners, people who had a break in weight lifting and competitive or professional bodybuilders.
People who start bodybuilding or had a long break don’t need to and shouldn’t train their muscles with very high volume or intensity. Usually they perform between 2-4 sets per muscle group in only 1 exercise that’s why they are able to hit all their body parts in one session in a form of full body workout. Because their workouts are relatively light they can train all muscles as often as every other day.
Professional bodybuilders need to go to extreme if they really want to win serious competitions and challenge themselves with the highest class athletes form the top of the world. That’s why some of them go as far as training even twice a day – double split – and assaulting each muscle every other day.
Hitting each body part once a week is really enough to build muscle mass. As long as you train with the right intensity, tempo and repetition range you’ll be growing for a long time. Once your progress slows down you can add few more sets or another exercise to your workout and apply some shocking methods. Then you can increase the training frequency.
Don’t jump to deep water straight away. Don’t change anything in your workout as long as you’re making progress and don’t try to hit each muscle group twice a week from the start. Leave it for the time you’ll need to provide more stimulation for your muscles to grow. Don’t copy the training of professional bodybuilders either. You’ll not grow faster by training harder. It’s all about slow but smart and steady progression.