How many times per week can you work each muscle group? Which body split is better for fat and muscle gain?
I´ve heard this questions a lot and they both refer to training frequency, here there´s not a right or wrong answer although there are some tips you can use to get better results.
Frequency refers to how many times per week you work each muscle, we´re going to divide it into low, medium and high frequency. If you follow a typical or the most common training split in bodybuilding which last 5 days plus one or two days of cardio you have low frequency because you are hitting each muscle group once per week, if you follow a 2 days split or a 3 days split and do it 2 times per week it´s medium frequency because you are working each muscle group twice per week and if you do full-body workouts 3 days a week that´s high frequency.
So the question is what is the best frequency for each fitness goal? and the answer is it depends of some other variable specially volume and intensity and it also depends of the other 4 principles of fitness and the time you´ve been training consistently.
If you are new to working out low frequency will give you amazing results, when you are starting out one of the most important goals along with getting in shape and losing weight is to develop good habits so following a low frequency and adding cardio is the best way to go. Another option is to try high frequency by doing full-body workouts 3 days per week on none consecutive days. This 2 options may seem contradicting but if you do full-body workouts 3 days a week the volume for each muscle group will be low and if you do low frequency and work each muscle group once a week you are able to add more volume. The goal here is to develop the habit of working out and we need to do it with things you like more, if you hate doing 3 or 4 day splits then it will be harder for you to get up and workout.
If the goal is fat loss and considering that you need to be on a caloric deficit it may be hard to do high volume workouts so moderate frequency is a great option, hitting each muscle 2 times per week gives your body the stimulus needed to keep the level of strength so that you maintain as much muscle as possible. With moderate frequency you can combine rep ranges, you can do one workout with heavy weight/low reps and the second workout with higher reps/lower weight.
If your goal is gain lean muscle mass you have 2 options, the first one is low frequency with high volume and high intensity, since you are working each muscle group once a week you are giving them enough time to recover but if the volume and intensity of each workout are not right it may not be enough stimulus for your muscles to grow. The second option is moderate frequency which causes more hypertrophy and it causes more muscle growth, you may not be able to do a lot of volume but keeping the intensity high is crucial.
There´s one more option for muscle growth which I´ve seen a lot of people using which is high frequency, working each muscle 3 days a week with full-body workouts. I personally don´t like this one but you can try it and if you like it and get results keep it. The problem with this one is that if you are too short on time I don´t think you can focus on all muscle groups with the same intensity and if you are really giving your all in your workouts you will burn out. Recovery is crucial for muscle growth and if you are hitting each muscle 3 times a week they may not have enough time to recover.
All variables work together if you have high frequency you need to go lower in volume, with volume high you go lower in frequency, intensity also depends off the amount of volume and frequency and they all need to consider enough time to recover. But to set the right frequency the other 4 elements of fitness also play an important role. If your goal is fat loss you need to make sure that you are giving your body enough nutrients to get you through daily activities and your workout while you are on a calorie deficit so that your body uses stored body fat.
If you want to gain muscle you need to give your body enough nutrients to recover, repair and grow and also enough energy to get you through the workouts.
You also need to have good quality sleep every night and rest and keep stress low. Your body recovers while you are resting and sleeping if any of this elements is not on point you won´t see great results.
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