In the past few years, there’s been a lot of interest in high frequency training programs, which involve working each muscle group 4, 5 or even 6 days a week.
The idea is that exposing your muscles to a stimulus more often will cause them to adapt more quickly, leading to better, faster results.
This is certainly true in terms of strength.
That is, spreading your weekly training load across more training days has been shown to increase strength gains – possibly because the quality of each training session is improved, or simply that you get to practice the lifts more often.
However, the research on training frequency and muscle growth is more of a mixed bag. While some trials show that more frequent training accelerates gains in muscle size, others don’t.
Researchers from Croatia, for example, found that spreading the training load across six rather than three weekly workouts had no beneficial effects on muscle growth.
Gains in muscle thickness, measured in the triceps and quadriceps, were much the same in the 3- and 6-day groups. In fact, ultrasound scans show that the biceps grew a lot faster in the group training three days a week.
In another study, a full-body training program, where each muscle group was trained three days a week, failed to outperform an upper/lower split, which involves hitting each muscle group twice a week.
Statistically speaking, there was no difference in muscle growth between the two groups. However, it was subjects in the upper/lower split group who saw the fastest gains.
What’s more, not everyone responds in the same way to an increase in training frequency.
In fact, a 2019 paper shows that roughly 3 out of 10 subjects gained more muscle when they trained a muscle five times per week. Another 4 out of 10 saw faster results when they trained that same muscle 2-3 times each week. The others made similar progress irrespective of how often they trained.
In other words, two people can respond very differently to the same training program. The only way you’re going to find out what works best for you is by tinkering with various elements of your training program to see how your body responds.
And, if you’re looking for a training program to help you do exactly that, one incorporating the latest science on training and muscle growth, take a look at MX4 at the link below:
Christian Finn, M.Sc.
Founder of Muscle Evo