Everyone has heard of and tried the training style of hitting one body part a day each week. While that routine and training style has stood the test of time, it may not be as optimal as we all used to think. While many, including myself, love training one muscle a day and hitting it hard from all angles and using multiple exercises to really tear the muscle fibers down, it has a lot of flaws that may actually hinder muscle and strength growth.
Traditional Bodybuilding Split
In any fitness magazine you read, you will see a routine where the bodybuilder lays out his workout split, and it’ll look something like this :
Monday: Legs & calves
Tuesday: Back and Biceps
Wednesday: Chest and triceps
Saturday and Sunday: off
While this does seem like a smart tactic for training, hammering away at the muscles one day at a time, there just isn’t enough frequency to keep the muscles growing and forcing them to adapt to greater stimulus. I will admit, this style of training is very useful for beginners who need to develop their skills and perfect their form, and also high level bodybuilders, because they use steroids and that helps them recover and grow and sustain muscles a lot more efficiently than natural lifters.
What Is High Frequency Training?
High frequency training is just as simple as it sounds. You hit each body part more than once a week, usually 2-3 times each muscle group is what is best. This allows you to add more time under tension throughout the week for each muscle, and also helps develop and fine tune your form. As we all know, the only way to get better and improve at a lift is to perform it over and over. The more frequency added to a workout regimen, the more stimulus you provide the muscle to force it to tear down and grow bigger, better, and stronger.
Also, high frequency causes greater muscle protein synthesis, the key factor to adaptation responses in the muscle, lasting 2-3 days, which is why greater frequency aids in strength and hypertrophy . The whole concept of training is to better yourself, and while low frequency work may be good for a few months, it will stall progress and ultimately hinder your gains. With this high frequency style, hitting each muscle twice provides more muscle breakdown, meaning more growth (if eating properly). It also means, a new way of progression. Using this style, you can add more progression schemes to always add weight to the bar. For example, you can train chest on Monday and do 3 sets of 10 to hit the hypertrophy aspect of training, and then on Thursday you can do 8 sets of 3 to hit the strength aspect and build denser muscle mass. Then each week you hit the desired reps, try to progressively add 5lbs and hit the reps the following week.
Common High Frequency Training Mistakes
Now there are many people new to this style, so obviously mistakes are bound to happen. Here are a few mistakes, and ways to fix them.
The first mistake is, the more frequency the better; meaning hit your muscles 4-5x a week, and not lower training volume throughout the week. While that could be a great way to stimulate your muscles and force growth since that is extreme amount of workload, your body will crack under all that training and volume, and you will overtrain.
The second mistake is too much volume for each workout. We’re all used to high volume approach of 20-30 sets a workout, but that type of volume is too high for every workout day after day, and also very time consuming. Most recommendations are to have about 10-15 sets a muscle group each workout, max! This allows proper recovery within the allotted days in between the two days you train a certain muscle.
The third mistake is not enough volume. There needs to be a happy medium with this style of training. Everyone trains differently, and recovers differently. So the low and high end volume training will be subjective and only figured out by experimenting with it yourself. However it is common sense that training a body part with 2-5 sets a workout will not be the best scenario to help build muscle. If you are doing bodybuilding assistance work; tricep pushdowns or curls or pull ups , then that is fine, but for major muscle groups such as legs or chest and back, at least 6 sets is ideal. Again, this style can be made into anyway you’d prefer, but working out every day doing 5-8 sets a muscle group, 7 days a week, will get very boring and played out, and honestly you would feel like each workout isn’t adequate enough!
High Frequency Training Examples
There are many ways to fit this program into your lifestyle and preferences. Here are some examples of high frequency workouts.
- Push, pull, leg – this can be either a 3 day on 1 day off split, or 6 days on 1 day off split. It is up to you and your preferred way to train. This is pretty self explanatory, but one day you do all your pushing movements; bench press, shoulder press, dips, close grip bench press, pushdowns, etc. The next day you do your pulling movements; deadlifts, rows, curls, pulldowns, etc and the next is legs.
- Upper, lower – this is usually a 2 day on 1 day off split, but can be 4 days on 3 off if preferred. This again sounds just like it is. One day you do all your upper body movements; chest, back,shoulders,arms. The next you do legs. Then take off , and repeat.
- Full body workouts – this is where you essentially do the basic compound lifts each workout, 3 days a week. So the split would be a Monday Wednesday Friday type of workout plan. The main key point is to have a few compound movements to hit your entire body, then at the end you can add a couple assistance exercises for your weak points, if need be. This is a good choice for having fewer working sets for each muscle, Since the time in between workouts is less and every muscle gets worked 3 days a week.
Those are the 3 most common ways to split up a high frequency workout plan, but the options are essentially endless. The main objective to take away from this is to hit your major muscle groups at least twice a week and add enough volume each day to produce a great muscle stimulus and promote as much growth as possible. This style of training has been around awhile, but just recently seems to have become popular, and it should be! Anything to help build muscle mass and strength, faster and more optimally, is okay in my book.
- Martin Koevoets. http://www.powerliftinguniversity.com/3-reasons-high-frequency-training-is-objectively-better/