The Training Frequency/Mass Building Connection

Practical advice on how much rest is needed to grow


The high-volume workouts of the early days of professional bodybuilding were legendary. Magazines such as Muscle Builder/Power would report that the top bodybuilders would train daily, often performing as much as 20 sets per bodypart! Let’s look beyond the hype.

Regarding the length of a workout, the Strength Sensei quipped that if you were in the gym for more than an hour, you were not training – you were making friends! Likewise, for packing on the maximum amount of muscle in the shortest time, he didn’t believe in training more than two days in a row. Yes, there are exceptions with elite bodybuilders. However, the Strength Sensei believed that non-stop training often leads to overtraining and reduces the ability to handle heavy weights. If you can’t handle heavy weight, your training intensity decreases, making it difficult to recruit the high-level motor units of the muscle.

What is the best weekly training split? There’s no single, correct answer, the Strength Sensei proposed three options:

Split #1: 3-Day Split. For those with limited training time and recovery ability, the best approach is the train three days a week, working the entire body each day, and resting at least one day between workouts. Doing two total body workouts, back-to-back, would be counterproductive.

A good approach with this split is Monday/Wednesday/Friday. The extra day of rest on the weekend boasts your energy level for the upcoming Monday, plus it’s nice to have the weekend off. Also, if you miss one workout, the schedule can be moved up a day to complete the three workouts. If you miss Monday’s workout (as life sometimes gets in the way), you can train Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday and be back on schedule on Monday.

Split #2: 4-Day Split. This is the workout the Strength Sensei felt was the most effective, and he said he prescribed it 60 percent of the time. Examples include Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday, or Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday/Saturday. The first option leaves the weekends free and gives you two days rest so your energy will be higher for Monday. Further, if you can’t make the Monday workout, you can switch to the TWFS option and be back on schedule on Monday.

Regarding what bodyparts to train on these four days, the Strength Sensei proposed these two options:

Option A

Monday:      Back and Triceps

Tuesday:     Upper Thighs and Abs

Thursday:    Chest and Biceps

Friday:        Shoulders and Calves

Option B

Monday:      Hamstrings and Calves

Tuesday:     Back and Shoulders

Thursday:    Quads and Calves

Friday:        Chest and Arms

Split #3: 5-Day Split. What about a five-day split? It’s a demanding time commitment, and for this reason, it’s one the Strength Sensei only prescribed to about 20 percent of his clients. However, to adhere to the frequency patterns of no three training days in a row, the cycle takes eight days rather than seven, and you lose weekends. But if you want to give it a try, here is an example:

Monday (Day 1):            Back and Calves

Tuesday (Day 2):            Chest and Forearms

Wednesday (Day 3):       Rest

Thursday (Day 4):          Posterior Chain and Abs

Friday (Day 5):              Shoulder and Arms

Saturday (Day 6):           Rest

Sunday (Day 7):             Quadriceps and Calves

Monday (Day 8):            Rest

Repeat the split, but now starting on Tuesday.

Charles R. Poliquin was a champion of hard work to make gains, but if you’re trying to get big in a hurry, carefully plan your training frequently to get the rest you need to grow! (TSS)


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