What is the ideal training frequency for muscle-building and fat loss?
Matt: Regarding muscle-building, I think it somewhat ideal to hit each muscle group every 4-5 days. If it takes a muscle 72 hours to recuperate then you need the time to do so and seeing as during a muscle mass building phase you are going to be pushing the pounds, it seems to make the most sense to allow enough time to recover and grow.
With fat loss, and I have nothing to back this up other than personal experience, I like to train more often to keep the metabolism at a premium at all times, hitting the entire body twice a week. We all understand the value of EPOC and to get the most from it I believe it ideal to constantly tax the muscles.
Avoiding injury during fat loss, however, is paramount. The increased level of activity and the reduced calories for recuperation make for a potentially dangerous scenario. When training each muscle group twice per week I’m more likely to do fewer exercises as well as fewer sets. Heavy sets will still occur but not as frequently.
Having said all of this, and I’m going to be taking a closer look at this in an article soon, I’m beginning to question how often a muscle should be trained for optimal growth due to the limited amount of time that protein synthesis is enhanced following training. It may be that the extra recovery time is not needed during a muscle-building phase and we would be better served to adopt a twice per week, full body training split at all times.
Colin: Welcome back Michael, I look forward to chatting with you! Okay now for my response:
Matt, it’s amazing you said what you did about training each muscle twice per week for muscle-building because I’m about to completely change how I do things for a bulk I’m starting this month. I’ve been training a one muscle group per week split for the last few years whether I’m in a fat loss or muscle-building stage. I’ve been reading alot lately about to really build muscle training each muscle twice per week, in different ways, is ideal.
I’m beginning to wonder if too much emphasis is put on overtraining and in turn many people are in a sense undertrained. What I will be doing is a heavy/power day twice per week, once for upper body and once for lower body. Rest and then I’ll spend three days splitting up light/hypertrophy type of work followed by another rest day. All days are very high intensity days, just different types of emphasis. This will be an experiment for me but something I’m very excited about trying and seeing how it goes.
Personally I think for fat loss it’s better to only hit everything once per week because of exactly what you mentioned, increased chance for injury. For fat loss I like a good 4 day weight lifting split with a good two or three days of hard interval work.
Michael: Oh man, you used the “I” word… Ideal. From personal and practical application of text-book theory, I’ve gotten the best response from my body when I do pure split training, hitting each group just once a week. I actually gravitated there through trial and error before learning the actual arguments behind this approach. If we want sustained fat loss, the most effective approach in my opinion is to boost the metabolism via increased amounts of lean muscle tissue. So now we have two reasons for increasing mass. 1) because we want more mass; and 2) because it will promote sustained fat loss.In my experience, if I tear a muscle down sufficiently enough, it takes that 72 hours to heal the micro tears. And then you need a few days after healing for new cell creation. I don’t pretend to know exactly how long, but 2-3 days. If I go too soon and tear the muscle back down again before the entire cycle is complete, I stop the process – and therefore progress – at that point. Once I stayed true to this formula, I started seeing consistent improvement on both ends of the spectrum.
Dara: For muscle-building I like a split that hits every muscle once, possibly hitting slow to grow areas twice. I agree you need the time to let the muscle repair itself and don’t forget that the nervous system also needs to recover from the stress that heavy lifting puts on it. Listening to your body here is key, if you feel you need an extra day or two of rest, then take it. For fat loss, I like to increase training frequency and split up my cardio and weights. So most days of the week I will work out twice a day, spaced as far apart as I can. This keeps the metabolism fired up and also allows you to maximize the hormonal response to each different kind of exercise, which allows you to maintain your lean mass while burning off the body fat.
Round 1: The best fat loss method
Round 2: Fasted vs fed cardio for fatloss
Round 5: The best 3 exercises
Round 6: The ideal training program
Round 7: How much protein for fat loss
Round 8: The last 10 pounds