Training volume and frequency are two variables that can have the biggest impact on your aesthetic muscle gains. The current body of evidence suggests the optimal frequency for training each muscle group is anywhere from once every five days up to three times per week. According to those numbers you could design a variety of training splits to hit this “optimal” range. For example;
- Body Part Splits training each muscle once every 5 days.
- Upper/Lower Splits where you’re in the gym 4 days per week, training each muscle twice.
- Upper/Lower Splits where you are in the gym 6 days per week, working each muscle three times.
- Push/Pull/Leg Splits where you’re in the gym 6 days per week, working each muscle two times per week.
- Upper/Lower – Push/Pull/Leg Splits training each muscle twice per week.
- Full Body Workouts training each muscle three times per week.
Recent research also shows a benefit for training each muscle five to six days per week.
Kinda makes all those debates about the “BEST” training split or Full Body Workouts vs Body Part Splits seem silly, doesn’t it? After all, there’s evidence to back up the effectiveness of each one. They all freak’n work!
So, while others are wasting their time debating and arguing the reasons why their split is the best… I’ll be busting my ass in the gym taking full advantage of the anabolic benefits each split provides.
I believe that all training frequencies have merit and they work together synergistically. The Aesthetic Muscle Plan is based on this philosophy. AMP is broken down into specific training blocks that strategically incorporate each of the training splits above.
The Argument For Higher Training Frequency
The main reason to train a muscle more frequently in the case of hypertrophy, aka GAINZ, is to spike muscle protein synthesis more often. Early in our training experience we get to enjoy a 24 to 48 hour post workout anabolic response where muscle protein synthesis peaks. With serveral years of training under your belt, advanced lifters only get to enjoy a 12-16 hour post workout anabolic window. In other words, the longer you’ve been training, the more frequently you’ll need to train each muscle in order to experience the same amount of time in this elevated muscle protein synthesis state.
* It’s important to note that this is a bit of a generalization. Some advanced lifters still experience lengthy post-workout muscle protein synthesis, while some newbies fall short. As with everything, it’s very individual.
The Argument For Lower Training Frequency
The main benefit that comes from training a muscle less frequently is the substantial muscle damage that occurs from performing a higher volume of work in the training session. During the repair process after this higher volume workout, myonuclei are added to the damaged muscle fibers. Although protein synthesis is an important contributor to muscle growth, it’s the myonuclei that regulate the process of muscle protein synthesis. This is crucial for long term muscle gains, because the more myonuclei within a muscle, the greater potential it has for growth. In other words, if you aren’t including some lower frequency, higher volume workouts in your yearly training plan, you are limiting your gains and leaving some serious results on the table.
The take home message from this comparison is that although training a muscle once every five days or three times per week each fall into the “optimal” training frequency range for gaining muscle, they both have a unique benefit. You’ll also ‘feel’ a different training effect from either split as a result of the varying volume performed during each workout.
Optimal Training Volume
Based on the current body of evidence the optimal amount of volume to perform for each muscle group is 40-70 reps two to three times per week. That’s a pretty broad range spanning from 80 to 210 reps per week. A large part of it comes down to training experience. If you’re new to lifting, it’s wise to begin at the lower end of the recommended rep range. The longer you’ve been living the bodybuilding lifestyle, the more volume you can handle and the more volume you should perform.
Again, this is a general guideline. How you structure your training is going to make a big difference in how many reps you’ll perform each week. Performing 3 sets of 10 reps vs 10 sets of 3 reps may produce similar muscle gains, but the 10 sets of 3 will beat you up a helluva lot more and your workouts will last a helluva lot longer. It’s also important to note that no two reps are the same. If you’re performing a training protocol such as Myo-reps where you perform 15, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4 reps with only 15 seconds rest between sets, the first 10-12 reps won’t activate nearly as many muscle fibers as the remainder of the reps. But still, it’s good to have a general guideline to start from and then adjust based on the feedback you are receiving from your body.
Adjusting Training Volume Based On The Training Frequency.
There are two important factors that we need to evaluate when adjusting your training volume based on the frequency;
1) Performing enough work to cause enough muscle damage.
2) Your ability to recover from that work.
Let’s revisit the training splits above and match the volume to the frequency shall we;
Body Part Splits training each muscle once every 5 days.
For this split I’d recommend that you push the upper limit of the optimal rep range and if you are an advanced lifter with several years of bodybuilding under your belt you may even want to exceed it. It’s not uncommon for us bros to perform 100-130 reps per workout when following a body part split. For example;
A1 Dumbbell Flys 3 sets of 10 reps
B1 Incline Bench Press 3 sets of 4 reps
C1 Dips 3 sets of 6 reps
D1 Decline Dumbbell Bench Press 3 sets of 8 reps
E1 Cable Flys 3 sets of 15 reps
That’s a total of 129 reps for the workout. Some will argue that after you surpass the 8 sets in the workout you reach a point of diminishing returns, but for us advanced lifters it may be exactly what we need to cause enough muscle damage in order to add more myonuclei to the damaged muscle fibers. Sure those last 10 sets may not be as effective as the first 8, but I’ll take those extra gains any day, while the minimalists sit their wondering why their not growing. With body part splits you’re definitely going to require 4 to 5 days for your muscles to fully recover.
Upper/Lower Splits where you’re in the gym 4 days per week, training each muscle twice.
For this split I also recommend that you test the upper limit of 70 reps per muscle group per workout, because you’re only training each muscle twice per week and you have three days of complete rest to aid in recovery. I wouldn’t recommend exceeding the 70 reps unless you are following a training protocol such as 100 rep sets where you use a light weight while performing an activation set of approximately 20-25 reps. Reason being is that the majority of those activation reps are not causing significant stress to the muscle. Here’s an example;
Day 1: Upper Body – 8 sets of 4-6 reps
Day 2: Lower Body – 8 sets of 4-6 reps
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Upper Body 70 reps – moderate rep sets in the 6-12 rep range focusing on hypertrophy
Day 5: Lower Body 70 reps – moderate rep sets in the 6-12 rep range focusing on hypertrophy
Day 6: Off
Day 7: Off
Upper/Lower Splits where you are in the gym 6 days per week, working each muscle three times.
This split is going to require you to pay close attention to your recovery. Here’s what I recommend for advanced lifters;
Day 1: Upper Body 70 reps – high rep sets, typically utilizing a protocol such as Myo-reps.
Day 2: Lower Body 70 reps – high rep sets, typically utilizing a protocol such as Myo-reps.
Day 3: Upper Body 40 reps – low rep sets focusing on strength
Day 4: Lower Body 40 reps – low rep sets focusing on strength
Day 5: Upper Body 70 reps – moderate rep sets focusing on hypertrophy
Day 6: Lower Body 70 reps – moderate rep sets focusing on hypertrophy
Day 7: Off
As you can see, your rep range doesn’t have to be the same each workout. You can adjust the volume based on your ability to recover from each workout. If your strength hasn’t recovered between workouts and you’re feeling ‘banged up’, you may need to dial down the volume a bit.
Push/Pull/Leg Splits where you’re in the gym 6 days per week, working each muscle two times per week.
Here’s my favorite method for performing this split;
Day 1: Push 9 sets in the 4-6 rep range.
Day 2: Pull 9 sets in the 4-6 rep range.
Day 3: Legs 9 sets in the 4-6 rep range.
Day 4: Off
Day 5: Push 9 sets in the 8-12 rep range
Day 6: Pull 9 sets in the 8-12 rep range
Day 7: Leg 9 sets in the 8-12 rep range
Day 8: Off
Upper/Lower – Push/Pull/Leg Splits training each muscle twice per week.
This split would be very similar to the one above;
Day 1: Upper Body 9 sets in the 4-6 rep range.
Day 2: Lower Body 9 sets in the 4-6 rep range.
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Push 9 sets in the 8-12 rep range
Day 5: Pull 9 sets in the 8-12 rep range
Day 6: Legs 9 sets in the 8-12 rep range
Day 7: Off
Full Body Workouts training each muscle three times per week.
Most advanced lifters could handle 70 reps for each of the three full body workouts. Trouble is, it may turn each workout into a marathon session. As mentioned above, you don’t need to hit the same rep target each workout. Here’s my preference for a full body plan;
Day 1: Full Body high rep sets, typically utilizing a protocol such as Myo-reps. 70 total reps per body part, which may sound like a lot for a full body workout, but protocols such as Myo-reps are very time efficient.
Day 2: Off
Day 3: Full Body 6 sets of 3-5 reps for each body part. Total reps will be low for this day, but the workout is demanding on your body.
Day 4: Off
Day 5: Off
Day 6: Full Body 8 sets of 8-10 reps for each body part
Day 7: Off
Full Body Workouts training each muscle five times per week.
My workout partner and I have really enjoyed experimenting with high frequency full body workouts during the past 12 months. Our first experiment focused on the low rep range, mainly because the supportive research for high frequency training focused on powerlifters. We found that after the first couple weeks we felt great, but at the end of the 4th week our bodies were pretty beat up. But we knew there was something to this high frequency training, so we kept experimenting with it. Here’s one example of a high frequency full body plan;
Day 1: Full Body high rep sets, typically utilizing a protocol such as Myo-reps. 60 total reps per body part.
Day 2: Full Body 4 sets of 3-5 reps for each body part.
Day 3: Full Body 6 sets of 10-12 reps for each body part.
Day 4: Off
Day 5: Full Body 6 sets of 6-8 reps for each body part.
Day 6: Full Body 6 sets of 8-10 reps for each body part.
Day 7: Off
Something I found interesting while experimenting with these various training frequencies is that I was always under the impression bodybuilders transitioned from full body workouts to body part splits so they could increase the volume that they train each muscle. I was a little misguided here. It’s true that the body part split allows you to add more volume in a single workout, but because you require more recovery time between workouts the total volume for the higher frequency workouts becomes greater at the end of the week.
Now it’s clear that body part splits serve a great purpose toward your long term gains as a result of the additional myonuclei they add to your muscle fibers, which is caused by the significant damage from the higher volume training session. But again, this is only one piece of the puzzle.
Strategically combining training blocks of lower frequency training with higher frequency training appears to be the key to unleashing your full anabolic potential while experiencing long term muscle gains.
Each of the workout splits above are very effective for sculpting your body into a chiseled work of art. But, each split carries it’s own unique benefits. In order to maximize your anabolic potential, it would be wise to cycle through the various splits in a strategic manner.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet, is the enjoyment factor. Some people gravitate toward full body workouts while others prefer body part splits. The more you enjoy a particular split, the greater effort and focus you’ll put toward your training. Therefore, it’s smart to spend the bulk of your training year following your favorite split, while strategically shifting gears and following a different split every few months.
I hope the examples above have provided you with some valuable insights to take your training to the next level. You could easily take this information and run with it on your own, but if you would prefer to take all the guess work out of your program design, I HIGHLY recommend you look into the Aesthetic Muscle Plan. AMP is the exact same workouts I’ve been following to get cut and jacked. Each training block strategically flows into the next, while utilizing the unique anabolic benefits that each training split provides.
Alright! Now it’s time to bring on dem gainz!
Embrace the process. Discover the joy in the journey. Sculpt a Masterpiece,
About The Author
Scott Tousignant, BHK is a Physique Coach and Elite Natural Bodybuilder with the UFE.
Scott specializes in helping regular men and women sculpt their body into a chiseled work of art.
Viewing training as an art form and your body as a sculpture is a simple shift in mindset that brings out the beauty in your ongoing body transformation.
The art of molding and chiseling an aesthetically pleasing physique with spectacular symmetry, proportions, and carved out detail is one of life’s most rewarding and fulfilling experiences…
…It’s an opportunity for self growth and self discovery that will impact every area of your life.
Learn more about Scott’s physique-focused training programs:
AMPlify Aesthetic Muscle Gains and Strip Away Stubborn Sacks Of Fat with AMP – Aesthetic Muscle Plan
Get a taste of Scott’s hardcore physique training programs with Physique Phreak
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