Elements of Training: Frequency

We have discussed the Elements of Training and how they work together to make your training better. The first variable in the Elements of Training is training frequency.

Defining Training Frequency

In its simplest form, training frequency refers to the number of times a muscle group is trained each week. It is one of the important variables in your training routine. Changes to the frequency variable have a profound effect on your training results. Even frequency itself depends upon other variables in order to work at the best level possible.

Recovery and Frequency

When planning a training program it is not enough to layout the exercises and in what order they will be performed. You also need to know how often to do these exercises over a given time period. Optimal recovery time is necessary to maximize your growth potential. Taking enough time in between sessions is one key element to the frequency variable.

At one point in time I was doing a 3 day a week program. I got to a certain point where I could tell I was not recovering. I took the advice of a mentor and lowered the frequency to just 2 times a week. While my brain was screaming that it didn’t make sense, my body responded. This additional recovery time enabled me to make some fantastic gains.

How much is right?

There are really 3 schools of thought on frequency:

  1. Train three times per week
  2. Train six times per week
  3. Train hard and return when you can lift more

Train Three Times Per Week

The proponents of this type of frequency would generally point you in one of two directions. You will either use a full-body routine or you will do a split, but rotate through the upper and lower during the week. I personally subscribe to the 3 days a week, full-body frequency method. That does not mean I don’t change it up at different times of the year, but my overall preference is for this frequency.

Train Six Times Per Week

Mel Hennessey prescribes to the idea that if you want to improve on a certain lift, execute it 6 days a week. The Bulgarian strength athletes also subscribe to this method. Absent other stimulus, this is probably an effective way to train if, for instance, you wanted to increase your bench press numbers.

Train Hard and Return When You Can Lift More

This method leaves you training a given muscle group every 3 to 10 days. Fred Hatfield was a major proponent of this method. This method is essentially “play it by ear.”

My Thoughts

I believe training frequency is the one variable that is very much related to your genetics. Each individual is going to work best with a different frequency. This variable increases in importance the longer a person has been lifting. Frequency is also dictated by how much time you can devote to training. Most people are definitely able to train once every five days.

Frequency is a variable that will change depending upon your needs and what you are trying to accomplish. Some very successful programs work on varying the frequency of the training. You have to conduct your own experiments and see what is best for you. Once you find it, stick to it. Your training success will skyrocket!

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