Some recommend a low frequency, claiming that we don’t need to do that much work to make good progress. Others have an opposing view and recommend training as much as possible to cause significant disruption for strength and muscle gains.
So, who is right here? Should we follow a minimalistic approach or push ourselves as hard as possible?
What Is Training Frequency, Anyway?
Before diving into practical recommendations, let’s first get clear on what training frequency is. As far as weight training goes, frequency refers to two things:
• How often you do an exercise or train a muscle group
• How frequently you train throughout the week
For the sake of practicality, we will focus on the first definition today.
How Often Should We Train For Muscle Gain?
The bro split has been a popular way of training for muscle growth. The idea is to dedicate each workout to one or two muscle groups––for example, back and biceps, chest and triceps, and similar. You train a muscle group, then give it a whole week to recover before working it again.
This type of training has been the go-to choice for many years. But recently, experts and researchers have begun suggesting that we train our muscles two to three times per week. For one, doing so is beneficial because you can spread your training more evenly. Instead of cramming, say, 20 sets for chest on Monday, you can do ten on Monday and another ten on Thursday. In doing so, you can do all of your sets in a fresher state, lift more weights, and possibly build more muscle.
Second, research shows that muscle protein synthesis goes down to baseline within 36 to 48 hours following training. If we only train a muscle once per week, we give it an extra three or four days to recover. But if we train the muscle twice per week, we take advantage of the natural spikes and drops in protein synthesis.
With that said, training more frequently presents some issues, such as pushing yourself too hard. So, it’s essential to manage your fatigue and fuel your body well. Check out our new workout product Bulk Extreme for optimal performance in each session.
How Often Do You Have to Train For Optimal Strength?
What many people don’t realize is that strength depends on numerous factors. Sheer muscle size is one factor. A larger muscle has a more significant strength potential. But aside from that, strength depends on:
• Your skill with a particular exercise
• Neuromuscular capacity
• Level of comfort with handling heavy weights
Each of these improves through practice. In a way, strength is a skill. So, like any skill, it can improve through frequent and deliberate practice.
According to research, we should do the movements we want to improve two to four times per week. For example, if you want to improve your bench press, you might choose to do it three times per week. In doing so, you get better at doing the exercise, strengthen your neuromuscular capacity, and become comfortable with sub-maximal efforts.