It seems that when it comes to designing bodybuilding programs to gain weight and build muscle mass, all of the attention is placed on the amount of sets, reps, and exercises to perform.
Yes, these are big factors to consider when following a workout routine.
However, there’s still one factor left out of the equation most of the time….and it’s a big one, if not the biggest!
I’m talking about training frequency……the amount of times you train the same muscle group within a specific amount of time (usually per week).
99% of all weight training routines now-a-days recommend that you train a muscle once a week.
That means that if you trained your chest on Monday you don’t train it again until next Monday.
The basis for this is that if you train a specific muscle intensely you must give it 5-6 days of complete rest in order for enough time to have gone by to allow that muscle group to repair, recover, and grow from the workout.
Funny, because I used believe this as well.
When you look at bodybuilding history, this whole “train a muscle only once a week” philosophy hasn’t been around since day one.
Decades ago, back in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s the majority of bodybuilders trained each muscle way more than just once a week.
They would train each muscle several times per week, with a higher amount of volume and frequency (but we’re just going to focus on frequency in this article).
And what’s interesting about this is that many feel today that the physiques of those decades are of much higher quality than those of today.
Sure, individuals like Mike Mentzer popularized cutting back drastically on training frequency, but it really wasn’t until the mid-80’s and 90’s that training a muscle only once per week became the norm in bodybuilding circles.
However, since the masses began to cut down training a muscle to just once per week, have we seen major progress in people’s muscular development and muscle weight gain???
Because we’ve heard and read it thousands of times over the past 2 decades we all tend to think that training a muscle more than once a week will surely lead to overtraining, especially if you don’t use anabolic steroids.
But is this really the case?
Before we get into specifics as to the optimum training frequency to build the most amount of muscle mass at the quickest rate without overtraining or burning out, we need to see if in fact it’s true that any more than once every week or once every 5-6 days would lead to the over-taxing of muscle group.
Take a real close look at the medical references cited in articles that recommend to only train a muscle once a week (“infrequently”, as the proponents say).
Every time a study is mentioned that supposedly had several groups of individuals training, one training less than the other, whenever they give the results of those groups, it is always tracking who gained more strength………NOT who gained more weight and muscle size.
There’s a huge difference between the two…..gaining strength or building size.
And no, the two don’t go hand in hand (more on this in a future article).
Sure, these studies may prove that training “infrequently” may be more efficient for building muscular strength (…and that in itself isn’t really true either, as I’ll also write about later on), but it doesn’t prove that it is more efficient for building size….growth.
The problem with evaluating what most articles / weight training routines recommend is that they are all going off of the pursuit of strength instead of size.
It seems to them that as long as you are gaining strength, then you must be gaining size. Right???
Hah! What a joke. Anyone that has ever worked out for a significant amount of time knows that you can get stronger and stronger every week, yet still look the same in the mirror.
So, first off in our “optimal frequency evalulation” is that we cannot go off of any of these scientific studies, nor can we conclude that just because training a muscle once a week may help you get stronger it will also make you bigger.
Real life experience has proven time and time again that this isn’t how it works in the “real world”.
Be looking out for part 2 of this article, as we’ll go deeper into this very imporant topic for all of us looking to gain muscle weight and build mass.