Optimal Training Frequency

You’re fit, active, and have many fitness goals. The question is, how often should you train to reach them?

Prevailing wisdom suggests that training more frequently leads to better results, but is that always the case?

Let’s discuss.

How Often Should You Train As a Powerlifter
Powerlifters have one goal in mind: squat, bench, and deadlift as much weight as possible. While seemingly simple, that objective is often more complicated than we imagine.

According to research, training a lift more frequently throughout the week leads to quicker strength gains, even under volume-matched conditions. These findings make sense because our strength depends on multiple things:

  • Our skills with a particular exercise
  • Our neuromuscular capacity
  • Our level of comfort to lift weights close to our 1RM
  • Our muscular development
  • Our ability to excite ourselves for a lift

To some degree, each of these benefits from a higher training frequency. Doing a lift more frequently builds your skill, teaches your muscles to activate better, and makes you more comfortable with the movement pattern.

So, train each major lift (or some variation) two to three times per week. But be mindful of the volume and avoid doing too much in any given session. Doing so can lead to recovery issues.

Do Bodybuilders Need a Six-Day Split to Grow?
It’s common knowledge that training volume, the amount of work we do in the gym, plays a considerable role in muscle growth. More sets lead to more growth, so it’s only logical to assume that we should train as often as we can, right? Well, things are a bit more complicated than that.

Sure, doing more work at the gym can lead to more growth. But there is such as thing as training too much. Doing so leads to overtraining and muscle loss.

According to Brad Schoenfeld and colleagues, training our muscles twice per week appears better for hypertrophy than once. Training each muscle group twice per week allows us to spread our work volume. For example, instead of doing 15 sets for chest on Monday, you can do eight on Monday and the remaining seven on Thursday. In doing so, you train in a fresher state, your sets are of higher quality, and you can use heavier loads.

Should You Run Daily For Optimal Results?
Many runners have daily sessions and rest only once per week, typically on Sunday. That frequency can work quite well, especially for more experienced runners. It allows them to get into a rhythm, gain momentum, and make quick progress.

But daily running might not be as good for less experienced folks. Most notably, running leads to muscle soreness, which needs time to fade. Daily running might turn into a painful experience if you’re new to the activity. Like other activities, running also causes fatigue, which we need to recover from. You might be able to run daily for a while, but you would be at a higher risk of overtraining.

As a rule of thumb, you should start with no more than three weekly sessions and monitor your progress. So long as you make progress with that frequency, you shouldn’t add more work.

As you get more experienced, you can gradually work up to daily running. But make sure that you can recover well between workouts and that you’re making steady progress toward your goals.

November 19, 2021 — Daniel Felstein

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