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Frequency in Weight Training – How Often Should You Train?

By now the majority of you already has a certain level of knowledge about weight training and fitness in general.

Honestly, there are so many different variables to keep track of, not being neglected that it can get quite sometimes. Volume, intensity, the actual programme and nutrition to just name a few.

But what about Frequency in Weight Training? How often should you train every week?

Today, I am going to talk about the frequency, what that actually stands for in weight training, how you can determine it yourself and lastly give you some benchmarks for the optimal muscle growth.

To begin, what actually is Frequency in Weight Training?

Basically, frequency divides your training volume into several training sessions.

The training frequency describes the number of training sessions of a certain muscle group during a certain time. Normally, it is common to use a conventional 7-day week as a timeframe and then assess how often a certain muscle group is trained.

To illustrate, assume that you train your arms three times a week, then you would have an arm frequency of 3.

So far, so good. That’s pretty simple, right?

But what happens if your personal microcycle does not go up to 7 days?

Being the case when you train two days followed by one rest day, for example.

Weekday Workout
Monday Upper body
Tuesday Lower body
Wednesday Rest
Thursday Upper body
Friday Lower body
Saturday Rest
Sunday Upper body

Or the other way around:

Weekday Workout
Monday Lower body
Tuesday Upper body
Wednesday Rest
Thursday Lower body
Friday Upper body
Saturday Rest
Sunday Lower body

Now if you count the days of training quite blunt, this results in 3 upper body, as well as 2 lower body sessions in week 1 and in 2 upper body and 3 lower body units in week 2.

How do you get the frequency, based on 7 days?

You simply use the normal rule of three: Just assess how many times you go to the gym on average every day and count it up to 7 days. In our example we go exactly twice to the gym in a span of 3 days.

In order to find out how many times we train on average in one day, we have to find a number, then multiply it by 3 and again that results in 2.

Since we do not train every day, this number must, of course, be less than 1. Then we simply have to multiply that value by 7 so we get the number of average workouts (in 7 days).

Of course, you could refer the frequency on any other timeframe, but this way we can give more consistent recommendations since we always take 7 days as a point of reference.

So when we talk about training frequency, we always refer to a training week.

Frequency – Recommendations

To achieve the best possible muscle growth, I would recommend a frequency of 2-3. Thus, you should generally stress every muscle at least two and a maximum of three times a week.

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In order to understand the reasons for the above-mentioned recommendation, we will dig deeper into that topic now.

1.) Volume:

As you may already know, volume is the most important factor in building muscle.

If you’re not yet familiar with the basics of the optimal volume for hypertrophy, check our popular guide. Just click the highlighted link to read the whole guide.

Now suppose that your programme includes 30 sets of chest work per week. If you were to do all 30 sets in one day, the weight after the 15th sentence would probably be at rock bottom.

However, if you split those 30 sets into 3 sessions of 10 sets, you can handle much more volume in a week or a mesocycle. To clarify this aspect, let’s just go through a small example.

Let’s assume that we want to complete 9 sets over the week for our chest and the performance fall off per set is constant at 3%. Of course, the last number is completely fictitious and is dependent on many different factors.

Furthermore, we calculate the weekly volume for a frequency of 1 and 3. This results in the following average performance.

a) Average performance for frequency = 3

Set Performance
1 100%
2 97%
3 94%

Since we train our chest three times a week, we only have to complete 3 sets per session in order to get to the total of 9 sets per week. This results in an average performance of 97%.

b) Average performance for frequency = 1

Set Performance
1 100%
2 97%
3 94%
4 91%
5 88%
6 85%
7 82%
8 79%
9 76%


In contrast, this second table comes up with an average performance of 88%.

Thus, the average performance per chest unit is once 97% (frequency = 3) and once 88% (frequency = 1).

To get the weekly volumes, we simply have to multiply the average performance by the volume of the first set and the number of sets.

If we just assume that 1,000kg were moved during the first set, we get the following volumes:

Frequency of 3 =

3 * 3 * 1000kg * 0.97 = 8,730kg

Frequency of 1 =

1 * 9 * 1000kg * 0.88 = 7,920kg

The first 2 numbers of the calculations describe the number of sets per week (frequency * number of sentences per unit).

The last 2 numbers express the weight and the average performance (weight* average performance per set).

Since we start training more often (frequency = 3) with full performance, we have a significantly higher volume with the same number of sets and repetitions.

So, the next time someone tells you he is not training with a high frequency because he prefers high volume, it becomes apparent that this person could certainly make use of some private coaching in weight training;)

Namely, the frequency is primarily a tool to increase the weekly volume and the training stress.

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2.) Protein synthesis:

In simple terms, protein synthesis helps build muscle mass.

To better visualize the process, let’s just assume that our muscles are built like a brick wall. In that case, amino acids would be our bricks and the addition of new stones to increase the wall, the protein synthesis. In contrast, protein degradation (proteolysis) describes the removal of bricks from the brick wall.

In addition, you should know that both processes occur simultaneously and at any time. To extend the brick wall, you just have to add more bricks to it than you will eventually remove. Consequently, muscle building can only happen if:

Protein synthesis > Protein degradation

In theory, therefore, there is both the option to increase the synthesis and to reduce degradation. While protein synthesis can be very strongly influenced, this does not equally apply to the protein breakdown (in healthy athletes).

Even a relatively small amount of protein is sufficient to inhibit protein degradation to its maximum. So if you really want to build muscle, you should try to maximize protein synthesis.

In the case of doping-free athletes, strength training, in addition to a high-protein diet, is the only option to significantly increase protein synthesis.

However, it does not stay elevated permanently but returns to its base value after roughly 24-72 hours. The period of increase is mainly determined by your training and your genetics.

Some time ago it was assumed that with increasing training level, the duration of the protein synthesis increase is reduced.

In fact, beginners (compared to advanced athletes) have experienced a longer lasting increase in their proteinsynthesis.

However, the mistake was to look at mixed rather than myofibrillar protein synthesis. This describes namely the protein synthesis of the proteins, which can contract and are therefore responsible for muscle growth.

In addition, muscle damage caused by training, which is significantly stronger in beginners, was left out.

Rather than building muscle, much of myofibrillar protein synthesis is used to repair this damage. If one excludes this factor, one can assume that the myofibrillar protein synthesis is not significantly influenced by the training level.

In summary, it can be said that after 3 days (at the latest) the muscle growth effect begins to decrease and accordingly every muscle should probably be trained at least twice a week.

3.) Practice

Skill comes with practice.

For example, if you bench more often, you will also be able to learn and perfect the technique much faster.

Not for nothing athletes train in technically demanding sports every day. Some weightlifters even go train twice a day. Especially as a beginner, this point is extremely important.

4.) Training quality

A higher frequency also increases your workout quality as you perform fewer sets of mental and physical fatigue. Maximum concentration is probably no longer effectively possible after 20 sets of squats.

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The result: The technique suffers, the targeted muscle may not be hit properly and the risk of injury increases.

5.) Theory and practice

The study situation clearly shows that a higher frequency at the same volume often results in better progress.

Furthermore, it was formerly (before the ever-increasing use of doping in the last 30 years) on the schedule of every professional bodybuilder to train each muscle at least twice a week.

Only since insulin, growth hormones and Co. became popular, the frequency was screwed down.

Even today, almost all professional bodybuilders use a higher frequency to improve their weak spots.

6.) Strength gains

At the same volume, a higher frequency seems to provide greater strength gains.

If you are only interested in muscle mass, you probably do not have to train every muscle more than two to three times a week.

At a frequency of 3, you would then have all the above-mentioned advantages in your pocket.

In theory, of course, a frequency of 7 is possible, but it makes designing that program much more difficult.

In that case, you need to adjust the intensity, load, and number of total reps properly to this high frequency because you have no buffer to offset overreaching sessions that eventually lead to extensive fatigue.

Also, for most (including me), this type of exercise will not be that much fun because the workloads need to be kept relatively low. However, this option is absolutely viable for those who prefer this style of training.

Finally, it must be said that having fun should always be in the foreground.

If you have a lot more fun with a low frequency and thus keep it rolling even better, then there is nothing against it.

It does not makes sense to have the “perfect” plan for 2 months and then surrender because you no longer feel like doing it.

The process of building muscle is a marathon not a sprint, guys. It’s more important to find a system that works for you in the long-run instead of helping you out for a couple of weeks.

Take home

Now, after I’ve talked quite a lot, let’s recap what you should keep in mind about frequency in weight training from todays article.

  • Usually, the frequency describes your exercise frequency per muscle group per week.
  • The optimum frequency for muscle growth: 2-3 times per muscle group per week
  • The optimum Frequency for Strength: 2-6 times (exercise-specific) per muscle group per week

How often do you train each muscle group per week? Do you focus on muscle growth or strength training?

Leave a comment below and let us know!

The same goes for any question, just drop a comment below or reach out to us on our social media channels.

Thanks for the read folks,

Claas


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Claas

Claas

Hi, I'm Claas. I am a passionate fitness and performance lover. For several years I have been training and developing my personality with dedication, ambition, and commitment to pursue my goals. During this time, I already had the opportunity to support many friends, family members and athletes on their journey to achieve their goals, both athletic or performance driven. Whether about nutrition, training, performance or self-development, for the last few years I was able to steadily improve my knowledge to provide our clientele with all my experience. I believe the key to a happy life, to pursue your goals, overcome challenges and convert your dreams to reality, is based upon mastering our four underlying four pillars; nutrition, fitness, productivity, and mindfulness.

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