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Frequency in Focus

Should you train each muscle group once or twice a week? Here’s my answer…

Frequency in Focus

I answer questions on training, nutrition and supplements literally every day from countless JYM Army members and other inquiring minds via social media. But let’s face it, the 140 characters I’m limited to on Twitter isn’t always enough to get my point across. And even when I’m able to elaborate, some of my responses get lost in the madness of Facebook! So what better place to answer more questions for JimStoppani.com subscribers than right here at my virtual home base?

Q: I’m still not sure whether I should train each body part once or twice a week? What’s the difference in these two frequencies?

–Joe W., Charlotte, NC

A: You should use both frequencies. By that, I mean you should change up your training frequency from time to time, just as you change other training variables like the exercises you do, rep ranges and total sets. Both training frequencies offer benefits. Training once per week guarantees that your muscles will be recovered by the next training session. That means when training once per week you should push each muscle group to its limit, using higher volume and high intensity training techniques to ensure that the muscle requires a longer recovery period.

Training more frequently (twice per week) allows you just enough recovery while allowing you to build on the previous workout. What this is referring to is the effect that training has on the genes in the muscle cells. When you train, you activate these genes, which stimulate muscle growth. This activation stays ramped up higher than resting levels. If you rest too long between workouts, the activation of these genes returns to resting levels, which means the next workout will only ramp the genes to a similar level as the previous workout. One theory holds that if you train a muscle before the gene activity falls back to resting levels, you will build on the gene activation and boost it even higher, and therefore better stimulate muscle growth. Bodybuilders have been successful using both training frequencies. I suggest you alternate each method every 8-16 weeks.

That said, once-weekly and twice-weekly frequencies aren’t your only options. Keep your mind open to training each muscle group even more than two days a week, even if just for a short period of time. My Daily Grind program, for example, hits each body part five days a week. I don’t suggest you do this forever (after all, Daily Grind is only a five-week program), but a small dose of high-frequency training can certainly be beneficial, especially if you’re stuck on a plateau.

Training each muscle group three times a week is also very common by way of the classic whole-body training split. A typical schedule here would be Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but any three days will work provided you have at least one non-lifting day between each for recovery. The whole-body split is usually done by beginners, but any advanced individual can use it to shake things up from time to time.

Bottom line: Keep an open mind when it comes to training frequency, and find out what works best for your body and your individual goals. And never forget the importance – and effectiveness – of variety!



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