Last Update  On June 21, 2012
Training A Muscle Group Once Or Twice A Week?

by Rusi
Training frequency is a very important factor when it comes to building a serious routine. The most common question is whether you should train a bodypart once or twice a week. Short answer: the more often the better (but not always).

Training Each Bodypart Once a Week

This is a quite common strategy used by professional bodybuilders which in my opinion makes it not optimal when it comes to regular people like me and you. Professional bodybuilders are not interesting, at least their training is not. This is due to the fact that they aren't natural and this changes the game by a mile.

I've seen ridiculous training footage of many professional bodybuilders, Jason Huh and his partial bullshit comes to mind, which will not produce any kind of results for regular people. Back to the question - training a bodypart once a week for a natural is not optimal in most cases (not always) due to the lack of stimulus.

Training is the stimulus and the initial phase of the growing, cutting...etc process. The main goal of the workout is to cause a reason for adaptation, reason for change. Let's say you start a manual labor job such as construction and callouses are appearing on your hands due to the materials and items you are dealing with every day. The callouses are the way the body tries to adapt to the situation in order to make our life easier. Same things happens when you start running with thin shoes - the skin under the foot gets thicker. However what happens when you change your hard labor type of job or when you stop running - you get back to normal, callouses are starting to fade....etc. It's the same when it comes to training except that callouses are replaced with muscle fibers - when we try to do hard exercises the muscle fibers enlarge in order to improve the leverages of the joint so that the given task becomes easier. That's body's reason to get bigger. Now if we go back to the callouses example and ask the question: “What happens if I only work once a week? Will I still have callouses?” The answer is: Probably but there is no doubt that training/working more often will cause more damage and more callouses.

So, to summarize this paragraph  - once a week can work but more frequency works better unless your are taking illegal substances - in this case everything works.

Training Bodypart Twice A Week

This is the most optimal way to train if you are a “regular” person. It provides time to recover and opportunity for a lot of work to be done. However by saying twice a week I don't mean repeating the same exercises as in:

Day 1: Chest + Biceps + Delts
Day 2: Legs
Day 3: Back + Triceps
Day 4: Chest + Biceps + Delts
Day 5: Legs
Day 6: Back + Triceps
Day 7: Day For A Prayer

No. This is a recipe for disaster and chronic pain unless the second days are super light and low on volume which will be a waste of time and money (unless you workout at home). By training muscle group twice a week I mean the following.

Day 1: Legs + Push (chest)

Bench Press
Triceps exercises

Day:2: Rest

Day 3: Shoulders / Vertical push +pull

Overhead press

Side raises

Day 4: Rest

Day 5: Back + Chest

Straight leg deadlift (optional)
Leg Press
T-bar rows
Dips or push-ups
Bicep exercises

Day 6 Off
Day 7 Off

Note: This program is just an example.

If you look at this routine there isn't a single muscle group that is not trained twice a week. (Note: calves are not included but that's because they are special - you can do them three times a week if you want). On Day 1 you train legs, chest, front delts and arms. On Day 3 and Day 5 you hit chest, front delts and legs again. You also train back on Day 3 (pull-ups) and then on Day 5 (back day). In other words every muscle group has two days but the exercises on those days are different. For example on Day 1 you do squat for legs but on Day 5 you do deadlifts and leg press which are different in terms of stress on the body but still hit legs pretty hard. That way both the joint and the nervous system get to “rest” even though you are still working hard each bodypart twice a week.

On top of that since you are doing compound exercises each body part is actually worked much more than twice a week. For example you squat on Day 1 and the squat works the lower back hard. On Day 3 you press overhead which works core too. On Day 5 it's deadlift time and lower back hell again. Same with triceps. On Day 1 you kill it. On Day 3 you hit it again with overhead press and pull-ups (triceps long head)...on Day 5 dips and push-ups are coming.

Training Muscle Group Three Times Week

Training muscle group three times a week will work only if you have light and medium days as in the famous 5x5 routines. However in this case you are not really training three times a week because some of the days are light or in other words you can switch them for full rest and nothing bad will really happen. I dare you to try it.

Q: Bro, what about Smolov? You squat 4 times a week.

A: Smolov is a good program if you are going to die unless you improve your squat as much as you can in three months or you are looking for intense hip or knee pain. In other words Smolov fucking sucks and most of the people who decide to do it don't ever finish because of overuse injuries caused by the extreme frequency and volume.

I've never done Smolov but just recently I did a high volume bench program in attempt to increase my bench press as much as I can in few months and I can tell you that my shoulder was shut down in about a few workouts. I started the program since I wanted to make bigger progress in shorter period of time and because of the overuse injury of my shoulder I actually lost that training time and instead of “arriving earlier” I don't even know if I will “arrive later” at all. It's all due to the frequency and high volume I was doing. Also, I guess, having average genetics and not taking steroids is part of the problem as well. But this was good enough indication for me that sticking to two times (one bench session and one incline or shoulder focused session) a week is my best option.

I advise you to stay away from mad routines like Smolov. It's for the best in the long run. Who cares if you add 100 pounds to your squat in three months as promised by the program (not very likely) if you end up with chronic pain which will hunt you later. I would be happy with 40-50 pounds increase in that period of time and I bet my knees, hips and lower back would agree. This is too much.

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