Greater strength gains were made with higher frequency training. Muscle mass responses equally between training a muscle group 2 or 3 times a week when the volume is similar.
DOES HIGH TRAINING FREQUENCY RESULT IN BETTER MUSCLE GROWTH? TRAIN EACH BODY PART TWICE OR THREE TIMES A WEEK? SUMMARY
- The greater strength gains are made with greater training frequency for muscle growth.
- Muscle mass responses equally between training a muscle group 2 or 3 times a week when the volume is similar.
THE IMPACT OF TRAINING FREQUENCY ON MUSCLE GROWTH: A CLOSER LOOK
Muscle growth, or hypertrophy, is influenced by various factors, with training volume being a significant determinant. Training volume is calculated by multiplying the number of sets, reps, and weight lifted during a workout. One method to augment this volume is by increasing the frequency of workouts. In the context of resistance training, frequency refers to the number of sessions dedicated to a particular muscle group each week.
Several studies have explored the effects of training frequency on muscle growth. Some research indicates that full-body training routines, where each muscle group is targeted 2-3 times a week, lead to more significant muscle gains compared to split routines, where each muscle group is trained once a week. The rationale behind this is the increased frequency of muscle stimulation in full-body routines. (1, 2)
However, it’s essential to consider the total training volume when comparing different training frequencies. Past research often didn’t equate the volume between groups, which could skew the results. In a notable study that did account for this, participants either followed a split routine (training twice a week) or a full-body routine (training three times a week). Despite the difference in frequency, the total volume of exercise was kept consistent between the two groups. The outcome? Both groups experienced comparable gains in muscle size and strength, suggesting that when volume is equated, frequency might not play as pivotal a role as previously thought. (3)
HIGH TRAINING FREQUENCY WITH EQUAL VOLUME STUDY
To date, there has not been a study to replicate the findings of using various training frequencies but having similar total training volume and its effect on muscle growth and strength. Researchers had subjects trained in 2 sessions, where every muscle group was trained twice per week with 9 sets/per session. The other group trained in 3 sessions; every muscle group was trained 3 times per week with 6 sets/per session.
All other training variables (e.g., exercise performed, exercise order, range of repetitions, rest interval between sets and exercises, etc.) were similar between the groups for 11 weeks. All the sets were taken to complete muscular failure. Researchers measured body composition and strength before and after the 11 weeks of training.
All the subjects consumed adequate protein, with at least 1.1 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
At the end of the study, the total training volume was similar for all the groups. Both groups trained with 18 sets per week for each bodypart. There was no difference in changes in muscle mass between the groups when the volume was equated. Based on the current results and similar results for both increases in muscle mass, volume is more important than the frequency for promoting muscle growth.
HIGH TRAINING FREQUENCY RESULTS IN BETTER STRENGTH GAINS
The group training each muscle thrice a week made better strength gains in the bench press and squat. Increasing training frequency may be a viable approach to increasing muscle strength in well-trained athletes. Although total muscle mass was not different between the groups, some individual muscle groups responded better to the higher training frequency. For example, the percent change in muscle growth was better for the anterior quadriceps, triceps, and biceps; all favored the higher training frequency group. However, other muscle groups, such as the quadriceps, favored lower training frequency(4) See the chart below.