Most people only train their muscles once per week. New research shows that training more frequently might provide more room for growth. Learn more here!
If you’re looking for a new approach to your training plan to stimulate new muscle growth, this might be the answer you need.
You may or may not have heard of “high frequency training”, but it could be the way to see changes in your physique.
For years, bodybuilders have followed a traditional training split, which utilizes a low frequency but high volume training split.
In other words, they train each muscle group once per week, but perform a large amount of reps and sets within that session.
The high frequency training plan is the opposite of this. It involves training each muscle group two, three, or even four times per week, but performing less sets per session.
Based on some research studies, there are a number of benefits of a high frequency training plan.
The exciting part is that if you’ve only ever used a traditional training split, the new stimulus of the change in training format will produce muscle growth.
There are numerous factors supporting the use of a high frequency training plan as part of your yearly training routine.
Firstly, a high frequency training plan allows you to stimulate both whole body and localized muscle protein synthesis multiple times throughout the week. Muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is the biological action required by our cells to lay down new muscle fiber. When we workout, MPS levels rapidly increase, helping us add new muscle in each and every training session.
You may be wondering why we would want to train the same muscle two, three, or four times per week compared to once? There are two reasons behind this approach.
First, MPS levels tend to rise to the same point after the workout if you are doing 8 sets (lower volume) or 15 – 20 sets (higher volume traditional split). Second, MPS levels remain elevated for anywhere between 12 hours to 3 days. The length of time depends on how advanced you are.
For example, one study showed that advanced athletes and those who weight trained on a regular basis only saw an increase in MPS for 12 - 24 hours, as their body is familiar with the stimulus. In contrast, a beginner may see MPS increases for two to three days.
With these two factors in mind, a large window of opportunity exists where MPS is not elevated. In other words, the muscle isn’t stimulated for growth. For advanced athletes who are training each muscle once per week, there may be four to six days within the week that the muscle is dormant and not growing.
In contrast, by using a high frequency training plan you can train that muscle every 2 - 3 days, allowing you to keep MPS stimulated more consistently, instead of allowing it to decline back to a normal resting level.
In addition to the main benefit of keeping MPS elevated more often, high frequency training provides other unique benefits and factors which support its use.
The total volume per session (how many sets and reps you perform per workout) is a key driver in muscle growth. One issue is that people think “more equals better” but this isn’t always the case.
Based on the research, once you’ve done around 5 - 10 sets per muscle group, the body doesn’t require any further stimulus nor will it grow to any significantly greater extent. So, if you’re doing 20 sets for your chest once per week, the second half of your workout, or your last 10 sets, may be a waste of time and energy.
The stimulus your muscle needs for change can be achieved within 5 – 10 solid sets. Beyond that, the muscle is fatigued and the stimulus isn’t producing beneficial results.
Remember, by doing less sets per workout, such as 5 - 10, you can keep your energy level high on each set and perform it with 100% intensity. This will ensure you’re getting the most out of each set, rather than continuing to train a fatigued muscle at a low intensity.
A trained muscle only grows for 1 - 2 days after the workout. This means for the other five days before you train it again, it remains dormant. This doesn’t sound like a very effective way to add muscle, does it?
However, using a high frequency training plan allows you to stimulate that muscle two or three times per week, helping you on your quest to add more muscle. If you want to maximize the amount of muscle you can pack on your frame during your growth period, a high frequency split may be the best route, or at least a new training tactic, to consider.
Some of the initial research into a high frequency training plan was performed in elite and Olympic powerlifters in Europe. A traditional split, where the subjects trained each key lift once per week, was compared to a high frequency training plan where they trained each lift three times per week.
Interestingly, they kept the total volume the same for the week. Half the participants performed a large amount of volume for each lift in one session, whereas the high frequency training group split that volume over their three sessions.
At the end of the study, they found significantly greater improvements in the high frequency training plan group, even though all the lifters were doing the exact same quantity of work over the course of the week. These improvements included greater muscle growth as well as increases in strength.
Like in any aspect of life or sport, practice makes perfect. If you look into the training routine of an elite athlete in any other sport outside of bodybuilding, they are training their key skills every day.
So, why does that logic fail for bodybuilding? Why is it that bodybuilding is the only sport that is built upon training the key lifts or movements just once per week?
For bodybuilding, you need to recover and repair to a greater extent than in most other sports, however this does not (and should not) take 5 or 6 days. While we certainly aren’t saying you should squat your max every day, if you want to get stronger or to build bigger legs, then surely you should be taxing these muscles more than once per week.
Monday: Push (Chest, Triceps, Shoulders)
Tuesday: Pull (Back, Biceps)
Wednesday: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Calves)
Thursday: Push (Chest, Triceps, Shoulders)
Friday: Pull (Back, Biceps)
Saturday: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Calves)
This training split allows you to train a muscle group twice per week (which is double if you are only currently training once per week).
Additionally, it still allows for intense sessions with plenty of volume as the work is being divided by a few muscle groups per session.
If you’re still using a traditional training split, switching to periods of a high frequency training plan may be the perfect solution to break plateaus and turbo charge your results.
Give it a try today and monitor your progress to see if you reap the rewards of a high frequency training plan!