The answer is, as usual: It depends. Frequency is more of a way to organize your weekly volume than it is a distinct training variable. As long as the total weekly volume and intensity are set correctly, you can get relatively the same muscle growth with different training frequencies. That’s why programs that appear to be very different produce very similar results.
Even if they used different training frequencies, they were usually based on a formula:
- 35-90 reps per muscle group per week (overlap included)
- 5-15 reps per set (weights between 70-85% of 1RM)
- Mostly compound exercises but not exclusively (depending on repetition range)
- Rest periods between 30 seconds and 3 minutes (depending on the exercise and load)
- Main goal of training is Progressive Overload
As long as a program is based on these points, you can be certain it’s effective.
The truth is if a low frequency routine includes the proper volume and intensity, it can be very effective. A lot of people have gotten incredible results from this type of training. Because the training frequency is low, the volume done each session must be higher.
THE TRIANGLE OF EVERY WORKOUT ROUTINE
As a shape, this routine would look like the triangle on the right. What’s important is that the surface of the triangle is the same.
The Upper, Lower splits or Push, Pull, Legs are probably the most popular programs that have you train a muscle group twice a week. When the frequency of training is increased, but the intensity is kept high, the volume done each session must be reduced. This is to allow sufficient recovery between workouts. If the workouts are alternated on non-consecutive days you do each workout once every 4 or 5 days. As a shape this routine would look like the triangle on the right. Again, the area of the triangle is the same.
Another popular routine is full-body training 3 times a week. Because the frequency is this high, the volume done each session must be even lower and only a handful of exercises can be done. This type of training is usually best suited for beginners. Sometimes powerlifters use it as well. Let’s look at the Big 3 Routine for example. Monday, Wednesday and Friday the same 3 exercises are done: Squats, Deadlifts and Bench Press – 3 sets of 5 reps each. If you analyze the total volume you’ll see that the targeted muscle groups are trained with 45-90 reps per week (legs get hit the hardest) with an intensity of 80-85% of 1RM. Again, fitting the formula given in the beginning. As a shape this routine would look like the triangle on the right.
Because the training frequency is so high, the volume done each session must be very low to allow the use of high intensity.
If you’re using 75-85% of 1RM (meaning weights you can get 5-8 reps per set with) you can’t do a lot of volume per session. Doing 90 reps in sets of 5 in a single workout is an excellent way to get seriously overtrained or injured. Doing 45 hard reps twice a week is also usually beyond the limits of what you can recover from. But if you’re using lighter weights, it’s much easier to accumulate volume. If you’re doing sets of 10 you can easily get close to the top of the range for weekly volume. Of course most good training programs include both heavy and lighter sets in the same workout. You may do 20-25 reps with 75-85% of 1RM and 25-35 reps using lighter weights. Combining different levels of intensity seems to produce the best results anyway.
SO AFTER ALL IS SAID AND DONE AS LONG AS THE AREA OF THE TRIANGLE IS THE SAME THE MUSCLE WILL GROW.