When it comes to weight training, the frequency of which you perform your program will have a direct impact on how well you recover, and therefore improve.
We all know that more improvement means more strength and muscle growth.
For example, if your workouts are to frequent, you might increase the chances of overtraining which leads to more muscle breakdown and poor muscle growth.
If you space your workouts too far apart, you might not be providing enough stimulation needed for muscle improvement.
What is the best workout schedule to get the most out of your routine? If you would have asked me this question when I was 20 years old, I would have said that you need to train each body part 2 times per week.
However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that I know my body a lot better. You see, when I was younger, I’d give each body part about 3 days to recover and than I’d hit it again. So, if trained chest and back on Monday, I’d hit them again on Thursday. This is what my old training schedule looked like when I was young and burly 20 year old;
When I was following this schedule, I was just starting out at university so I had all the time in the world to train. I’d take all my classes in the morning and I’d train all afternoon. Overtime, my body became accustomed to this sort of schedule but if there is one thing that I can remember about this time was sore joints.
My commitment to getting big and strong was very high so each workout was very intense involving very heavy weight. It didn’t matter if my body was sore or not, I’d hit the weights with a vengeance.
I think it was after an injury that I had to re-adjust my weight training schedule. If my memory serves me correctly, I tried doing a heavy bench press and Pop! My pectoral muscle went out on me.
This happened around March and I was out until June. It was in June that I started playing around with different weight training styles and different workout times. I think one of the workout schedules I adopted was from Bill Starr who is a renowned strength expert.
He preached intense workouts with plenty of rest in between. I started to train each my upper and lower body as two separate workouts. That is, on day one, I performed my upper body and on day four, I’d train my lower body. I’d rest for a couple of days and than I’d do the whole thing over.
These were good times and the gains I made following that program were probably some of the best of my life. I was about 23 years old and I’ve never been that big and strong since.
I think one of the main reasons is because my body was well rested when I hit the weights. Each workout was out of this world. I watched my diet and ate very clean foods. Since that time, I’ve never changed my workout schedule. I only hit one muscle group once per week. Here’s what I learned over the years when it comes to planning my workout schedule:
• I give my muscle group plenty of time to recover but not enough time for it to go stale. This is usually every 4 to 5 days. This is very important because it might be more or less depending on your body type, age, gender, and intensity levels. However, on average, I’d say 4 days of rest for each muscle group is plenty and should provide you with enough recovery time.
• I have a life now and I don’t live to train like I used to. That is, I have a job and a relationship so I can’t train for an afternoon. I devote one hour after work to an intense workout and I get the job done. I don’t like to spend anymore time than I have to at the gym.
• Our lives dictate on when we can train. Sometimes we can only give 3 hours per week to train. That’s fine because 3 hours is plenty of time to hit each of your muscle groups hard and heavy and grow. As long as you can consistently get into the gym to train for those 3 hours, and on a well laid out program, you’ll do fine.
• I never try and train a muscle that’s sore. I truly don’t understand why there are still trains of thought out there that preach “training through” a sore muscle group. A sore muscle is a warning sign to your brain. Ignore this warning sign and you’ll wind up with an injury.
This will be your measure when it comes how many times you need to train per week. It may take you a couple of weeks but you’ll come to realize how long it takes your body to recover from your workout. Once your muscle stops aching, it’s safe to say you can train it again. Personally, that can be two to three days for me but I always give it another day.
Now, with that being said, I think it’s ok to train a primary muscle group that has a secondary group that’s a “little sore”. For example, let’s say you are training back and are doing bent over barbell rows. However, you trained legs two days ago and your butt and thighs are still a little sore. This shouldn’t provide too much of a problem when training your back. However, what may pose as a problem is if your legs are so sore that it hurts to even bend down. You need another day to rest, if this is the case.
You will have to use some common sense here and judge the condition of your own body.
• I plan my workouts in times when I have the most energy. I’ve tried working out at 5:00 AM and it didn’t work. It’s hard to squat hard and heavy when you’re asleep under the squat rack. Each of us have different “internal clocks” and will have different times of the day when we have the most energy. Find this time and stick to it.
As you get stronger and improve with each passing week, your body will become accustomed to your program and you won’t get a sore. However, you have to carefully gauge when your muscle is recovered. Now, you may take more or less time so you will have to adjust your weight training schedule on that.
Your muscles might take two days to recover, if that’s the case, you might be able to get away with training two times per week. However, as soon as you start to get consistently sore joints, you might want to rethink your strategy.
Ok Blake, what’s your point? My point is to try and train each muscle group once per week. If you find your muscles are recovered and need more stimulation, try training them once every 4 days. This should provide enough muscle recovery to grow.
Blake has been weight lifting for about 28 years now. He's 45 years of age and started seriously training when he was 18 years old.
Blake is the founder of Building-Muscle101.com, a successful fitness website that has been around for more than 15 years.