Does Increased Training Frequency Lead To More Muscle Growth? Here's What The Research Says About How Often You should Work Out.
What training frequency do you need to build muscle?
The bros will tell you to smash each body part once a week. But modern theory says you should ditch the bro-science BS and increase training frequency.
So who's right? Does training a muscle more than once per week lead to greater hypertrophy?
And if so, is it practical in the real world? After all, you've only got a finite amount of time to train.
In this article, you'll discover what the latest research says about the optimal training frequency for building muscle. And you'll also find out how to translate the science into your day-to-day training.
So if you want to maximise your time in the gym and build the most amount of muscle possible, then read on.
And if you'd prefer to listen to the audio version of "Training Frequency: How Often Should You Work Out?", click the play button below.
A New Study In Training Frequency
By now, all but the most die-hard gym bro agrees that training a muscle more than once per week is more optimal for building muscle.
But the die-hards have been clinging onto their bro-splits tighter than Hans Gruber grasps the ledge of the Nakatomi Plaza's 35th floor. So is now the time to say, "Yippe-Ki-Yay Mother-Fucker" and kill off the bro-split?
Multiple studies have shown benefits to spreading out training volume across multiple sessions. Even where volume is equated, there appears to be a statistically significant benefit to an increased training frequency.
So the question is not if training more frequently is better for hypertrophy. It's whether or not training a muscle group 2, 3, 4, or even 5 times a week leads to greater gains.
And so enters this study by Zaroni et al (2019).
18 strength-trained men adopted either a Full Body Workout, training every muscle each day, for 5 days. Or a Body Part Split Workout, training muscles once per week. There was crossover in some respects. For example, biceps would have been trained on back exercises and triceps on pushing movements. So training frequency would have been more than once per week in certain instances.
That aside, the results were quite stark.
The participants following the Full Body Workouts increased muscle in the biceps and quads, significantly. There was also a definite trend in tricep growth. However, this was deemed statistically insignificant. Not only that, squat 1RM also saw a marked increase compared to the once per week group.
Another Study On Training Frequency
Brad Schoenfeld's research team completed a similar study in 2015 looking at difference in training muscle groups once vs three times per week. The results also showed a greater increase in muscle growth, particularly in the biceps. Their research concluded,
"The findings suggest a potentially superior hypertrophic benefit to higher weekly resistance training frequencies." Schoenfeld et al 2015.
Clearly an indication that if you want t-shirt busting arms, do 'Arm Day' everyday (jokes... please don't do that).
Prevailing evidence highlights that increased training frequency has distinct advantages, compared to lower frequencies. So unless you want to chase "The Pump" like a meth-addict hunting their next fix, you're better off increasing training frequency for each muscle group.
The Benefits Of Increased Training Frequency
So why is an increased training frequency more beneficial for building muscle?
The main reason, is due to greater potential output and progressive overload.
Think about it, after 3-4 tough sets of squats, how likely are you to perform at your peak for the next 3-4 leg exercises? In truth, fatigue is going to increase and your ability to train hard will diminish. So instead of training until you can barely walk, increasing training frequency and spreading the same set volume over multiple workouts, might lead to greater output for each exercise.
Although, this is not a universal truth. Because there is research to show no significant difference in hypertrophy between high and low frequency training.
Training muscle groups multiple times per week also reduces the Rate Of Perceived Exertion (RPE). And with reduced RPE, you may be able to push harder in your workouts, which in-turn leads to greater overall output.
It's also likely you'll experience less Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). thereby aiding recovery and your performance in subsequent training sessions.
The Bottom Line On Training Frequency And How Often You Should Work Out
Studies show similar or enhanced levels of muscle growth with higher training frequencies, so the smart move is to ditch the bro-split for good.
Training a muscle once a week might leave you walking out of the gym pumped up like a car tyre. But in terms of building muscle, it's likely to leave you feeling deflated.
Instead, follow the prevailing trend of current research and aim to increase training frequency.
Do this, and you're likely to be able to recover quicker and generate more total output each week, and within each workout. This results in increased progressive overload and muscle growth over-time.
If you're a beginner who's training 3 times per week, then 3 x Total Body Workouts would be an ideal way to train each body part multiple times each week. Likewise, if you're more advanced and training 4-6 times per week, increasing the frequency with which you train each body part will work to your advantage. And here's a few examples of how you could set up your training to do just that.
- 4 Days Per Week: Upper / Lower x 2 or Total Body x 4.
- 5 Days Per Week: Push, Pull, Legs, Upper, Lower.
- 6 Days Per Week: Push, Pull, Legs x 2.
All of these are good options to increase training frequency and maximise hypertrophy.
So it's time behead the bro-split and club that MOFO to death with a barbell upside the head. Find a way to increase training frequency and maximise recovery in the most efficient way possible, for you.
What are your thoughts on adopting an increased training frequency? Does it work for you, or do find the traditional bro-split works best? Let me know in the comments below, or drop me a message on Instagram (@iron_paradise_fitness).
With Training Frequency Solved, Here's The Next Step In Achieving Your Fitness Goals
After reading this article, you might be clear on training frequency, but what about all the other pieces of the puzzle? Maybe you feel my personal 1:1 coaching would help accelerate the process of achieving your fitness goals. And you'd be right!
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