Now I get the question “How often should I train a muscle” pretty infrequently. So why would I think that this would be a good topic to write about? Simply put, most people have no clue. In a typical gym setting you’ll see people training each bodypart once per week. They’ll workout Monday through Friday (or they’ll intend to workout those days) then take the weekend off.
Why do they train each bodypart once?
They just don’t know any better. They either picked up a magazine that told them to do that or they walked in the gym and watched everyone else. Now if you flip the coin you’ll see that the other side is just as jaded. These people “know” what to do and they very well might have a knowledge background.
It usually goes like this…..
- Train each bodypart once
- Get angry that you aren’t making gains and train a select bodypart twice.
- Decide you like training one bodypart twice and train every bodypart twice.
- Make a switch, train full body, wear yourself out then get frustrated.
Or something like that…..
The point that I’m trying to hammer home is that very few people actually look at how often they should train a muscle from a scientific point of view. I know because for the longest time I tried various different types of routines. It’s easy to get confused
I did the full body routines (they’re awful for building muscle)
I did the bodypart splits (they rock for building muscle but most people don’t force themselves to lift heavy weight)
So what needs to go into figuring out how often you need to train a muscle?
It depends on these four factors( in no specific order).
- Your personal conditioning- If you haven’t trained for a few years, are new to training or are in bad shape then you can’t tolerant frequent training. If this describes you then you’re better off training each muscle once per week. Use how tired and sore you are as a indicator of when you should train that muscle again.
- How much work you’re doing- If you’re bombing any bodypart with a high volume of sets upwards to 15-20 then you’ll need more time to recover. It’s a bad move to hit that same bodypart during that week. You should won’t be able to recover. Now if you’re only doing 6-10 sets then the chances of hitting that muscle again during the week have greatly increased.
- How intense each set is- This is another reason why I have a issue with the “full body routines are better than bodypart splits” camp. Bodypart split training is generally low intensity, thus the need to recover is lower and the speed of recovery is greater. If you’re going to use a full body routine where you train every muscle with compound movements then you’ll need a lot more than 48 hours to recover. The more intense your training (as defined by how close you go to failure on each set) then less you’ll be able to train that area.
- Your goals-Everyone seems to forget this, your goals with your body and your training matter more than any piece of science. If you’re goal is to maximize muscular size then you’ll want to alternate periods of high volume, twice a week training with lower volume, once a week heavy training. If you’re goal is fat loss then you’ll want to alternate periods of full body training with metabolic circuits and cardio. The list goes on and on but your goals are the biggest deciding factor.
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