Sometimes you think you’re doing everything right but the results just seem to evade you. You stare at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what you might be doing wrong. After all, you’ve got the important training principles firmly conquered: the mind muscle connection and progressive overload, and your diet is in check. Yet, equipped with this knowledge something seems to be missing because you’re not satisfied with the direction you’ve been heading. What may be wrong? Well, ignoring the possibility that you may understand these training principles but are not executing them properly when training, it just might be that you have hit a plateau with your training and you need to really ignite the flame again. Outside of employing common low-scale strategies like negatives or supersets, it may be time to overhaul your mentality and destroy your body with extra frequency. Not only hit your muscle groups hard, but often. In this case, we’re referring to a frequency of training that allows you hit each muscle group 2x per week.
Now you may be asking: “2x per week? Isn’t that enough recovery time? Surely I hit my chest hard enough on chest day that it needs a nice long rest before I can fully hammer it again. In fact, if you train too frequently without allowing your muscles to recover you will wind up overtraining, and delayed onset muscle soreness will not be your only problem!”
One word: false. There is a common misconception around the industry that is pervasive and somehow finds its way to everybody. That misconception is the idea that it is quite easy to overtrain a muscle group. As a result, it is actually better to provide your muscle groups with longer rest periods to ensure “full” recovery and allow you to hit them again for maximum growth when they are fully rested and at their peak performance levels. This is simply not true. Well, you certainly want to make sure your targeted muscle group for any particular training day is fully rested and at its peak performance, but you certainly do not need to limit yourself to training each body part 1x per week to make this happen. You can devise a schedule that works well enough to provide you with the ability to hit your muscles 2x per week yet allow the appropriate levels of rest necessary. The most important component of this, of course, is understanding how long it takes muscle groups to recover.
The concept of recovery times is not complex. The bigger the muscle group, the greater the amount of time necessary to ensure proper recovery after a successful day at the gym. When working out your chest, back, and legs you will naturally require a greater period of rest and recovery than when working out a mid-level muscle like the shoulders or the small time biceps, triceps, and calves. A good rule of thumb is to allow the large muscle groups 3 days in between training and the shoulders and smaller muscle groups 2 days of training before jumping to train them again. This is a rule of thumb, however, because recovery is based on a multitude of factors that cannot all be accounted for in every individual situation. Assuming you have a successful workout by causing your day’s targeted muscle group to achieve muscle fatigue, factors that may influence recovery rates include hours of sleep, diet, genetics and daily activity levels. I don’t think it is unreasonable to assume an individual who hits the gym, goes to work performing manual labor, and follows that up with a party after work that cuts into his sleep will probably require more rest time between hitting the same muscle group again than an individual who hits the gym, goes to work at a desk, and follows that up with tv and bed. On average, at least, the second individual will probably need less recovery time because his lifestyle allows his body to simply rest more. However, this does not mean the first individual cannot hit each muscle group 2x per week. He just needs to make sure he develops a training schedule that provides at least his bigger muscle groups with a greater interval of time between training sessions. To see which muscle groups work well together, visit our Best Workout Schedule article.
Hitting each muscle group 2x per week has pretty obvious benefits. With a proper diet, increasing the frequency with which your muscles are torn and rebuilt naturally allows an individual to spark some new growth. This does not mean that hitting each muscle group 2x per week will suddenly double a person’s results, but it may certainly help break plateaus and increase your results because the muscle has more stimulation. After all, proper stimulation through muscle fatigue is the key to starting the process of building muscle, and if you are eating above your maintenance calories, the nutrients will always be there to maximize the potential growth of that stimulation.
Day 1: Shoulders/Arms
Day 2: Legs
Day 3: Chest/Back
The key when increasing training frequency like this is to make sure that you distribute the volume of work you do on each particular muscle group. This is not necessary, but it is also not necessary to stick with the same volume because you may wind up trying to handle too much volume in a weekly span of time. For example, if you handle 5 exercises for shoulders of 4 sets each every time you go workout shoulders, and 3 exercises of 3 sets each every time you hit biceps or triceps, you can easily see doing this twice a week may have drawbacks. Again, you have to adjust for your individual response to the increase in training frequency. As a suggestion, try lowering the amount of shoulder exercises to 3 or 4, or lowering the set numbers. This goes for any muscle group. With double the frequency, you will still wind up with more volume. To add, also remember that the most important thing is to train efficiently, not to just plow through exercises because that is your goal and you want to make sure you do x number of exercises or sets for a particular muscle group. Your goal should always be achieving muscle fatigue for your targeted muscle group, that’s it. You may need more volume to do this, but most likely if you really focus on hitting the muscle group correctly and not just moving the weight, you can lower the volume and still reach that objective. In the end, it is all about experimenting, but taking your training to the next level with an increase in frequency may be your next step towards success. Try it out. Good luck!