Ahhh the age old question, "How many days a week should I train?" Asking this question is inevitably going to come up with 1001 different answers all contradicting each other so I thought I'd explain the science of training frequency with it's equal pros/cons and then let you decide for yourself how often you'd like to workout!
FIRST OFF - HOW DOES MUSCLE GROW?
We first need to get a solid understanding of how muscle itself actually grows. It's quite simple, to begin we need a stimulus & this stimulus is something that triggers our muscles to grow! A stimulus can range from challenging ourselves by climbing a rock wall to lifting a new weight on the bench press, it really doesn't matter. Now this new stimulus actually creates small micro tears inside our muscles as a result of performing something we are not used to. (these micro tears are a huge reason why we feel that post workout soreness that can be somewhat debilitating - this is called "Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness " or DOMS for short.)
Our body is constantly trying to repair itself, so to fix these micro tears it promotes something called "protein synthesis" which really is just the building of new muscles to make them bigger and stronger which then allows your body to lift that new stimulus with ease. You see the physiology of muscle growth really does go back to primitive times, so your body won't grow unless it feels it needs to in order to help you survive. So if I'm a caveman who is lifting heavy rocks to build my house or climbing rock mountains to escape from a predator my muscles will then grow to accommodate that heavy rock/rock wall FOR MY SURVIVAL!
Coming back to protein synthesis, it usually takes 2-3 days to fully recover these micro tears BUT some people end up working out that same muscle the day after just hitting it! This completely neglects that 2-3 day rest period and it's here where all the confusion comes in.
THE VOLUME, FREQUENCY AND INTENSITY RATIO
So you may be wondering how people can possibly train the same muscle the next day when most say you need an adequate 2-3 days to fully recover. We need to first take into consideration the balance of Volume, frequency and intensity, here's what they mean:
- VOLUME - the total amount of reps/sets you do per workout, so doing 10 sets by 10 reps with 7 exercises a workout would be VERY high volume where doing only 3 exercises with 3 sets of 5 reps would be relatively low volume.
- FREQUENCY - This is how often you hit that muscle, so of course hitting biceps 6x a week would be a very high frequency where hitting them 1x bi weekly would be a low frequency.
- INTENSITY - this is the amount of force or energy you exert in your workouts so if you're bench pressing your maximum weight for 1 rep you would be using your highest intensity! If you were benching 30% of that 1 rep max for lets say 20 reps you would be using a low intensity.
With that out of the way, there's something called the "Bulgarian Method" and this is where people train the same muscle multiple times a day using their heaviest weight! Whaaaat how is that even possible? See people using the bulgarian method do have a very high frequency and intensity BUT to compensate they also have VERY low volume! They're only hitting around 2 exercises for a coupe sets of a 1 rep max. That is SUPER LOW VOLUME but that is exactly how they are still able to recover/grow from doing this! y'see even with a high intensity and frequency if one can compensate with very low volume while still keeping adequate rest and nutrition; their bodies are still able to catch up and repair those micro tears. The reason the average fitness enthusiast advocates people to rest 2-3 whole days before hitting that same muscle is because the average joe trains with much higher volume, because of this increased volume more micro tears occur and this of course requires more rest between training!
BUT keep in mind that if people using the bulgarian method were to train that frequently with the same high intensity AND were to also train with a high volume, they would burn out. Period. No ones body can sustain that much stress. There would be no way that protein synthesis could properly take place and because of that you would most likely start to lose muscle.
SO HOW DO I KNOW WHEN ENOUGH IS ENOUGH?
The next question you might ask now knowing that people CAN burn out would be "how do I know when enough is enough?" There are 2 main signs we must pay attention to in order to understand when our bodies simply can't take anymore.
To find out these 2 main signs along with a final recommendation on how often you should train throughout the week, check out my Youtube video down below which explains it all in depth!
I hope to see you all there and I wish you all the best!