Training frequency is defined by the number of training sessions in a week. Training frequency is often a miss understood and undervalued
variable of training. Most people will argue over the number of sets, reps and exercise selection but few will examine what is their optimal frequency. Which is based on many factors such as recovery ability, sleep, nutrition and lifestyle. With most variables of training the most important point to remember is that it should be based on the individual. Not what the latest trend is or what your favorite athlete is doing.
People choose to copy the same workouts of their favorite bodybuilder with no regards to their training age or lifestyle. The usual program design is to stockpile as many workouts together in a week as possible. The idea behind this belief is that the more training days I can get in the stronger I can get and the more muscle mass I will be able to put on. This style of applying random workouts will get you very little progress in the long run. A scientific approach to progression and adaption needs to be applied so that continued progress can occur.
Professional bodybuilders train twice a day 6 days a week, each session lasted over 2 hours. While many Olympic level athletes have multiple training session a day lasting hours, some skill based and some strength/conditioning based. These are very high training frequency’s that are needed to dominate at the highest level. However, this high of training frequency was built up over decades of training and should not be attempted by a novice trainee. This is because the most important variable of training is recovery. Progressing during training means that you are recovering from workouts. An athlete attempting to increase frequency must insure that they do so slowly that they can adapt to the increased stimulus.
If you are a strength athlete there are many different training frequencies that have been tested and worked for many athletes. Stan Efferding Squatted/Bench Pressed once a week and Deadlifted every other week before he broke world records in Powerlifting. While the Bulgarian Olympic Weightlifting Team Squatted 9-15 times a week and dominated the Olympics for decades. Both systems were successful in their sports but were based off the individual. Stan was an older athlete and was not able to recover from a higher workload. While the Bulgarian National team only needed a few athletes to turn out on the Olympic stage so many got hurt or didn’t progress.
Athletes can train with such a high frequency because of their recover abilities. They are consuming massive amounts of calories and sleeping 10 hours a day. These athletes can accomplish these recover abilities because their sole job is to be an athlete. When choosing what frequency, it is important to take an objective look at your lifestyle. If you’re working 60 hours a week, have kids and a significant other those will come before training. Picking a frequency that you can consistently make progression. If you are going to add to your workload then you also need to add to your recovery abilities so that you can recover. This means adding more calories, reducing stress and sleeping more. If you can’t do this then there is no need to add to your frequency. Don’t chose the maximal frequency you can do in a week choose the optimal frequency.
For someone who wants to train hard but still has many other life commitments then a once every 5 days per body part is a great starting point.
Day 1: Quads and hams
Day 2: Chest and biceps
Day 3: off
Day 4: Back, Shoulders and triceps
Day 5: off
Here is a sample split for someone who can only make it to the gym every other day. This would be based on an eight day cycle.
Day 1: Chest, back, Biceps. Triceps
Day 2: off
Day 3: Legs and shoulders
Day 4: off
Here is another sample frequency based off someone with time constraints and looking to improve their big 3 lifts.