A Spotlight on Training Frequency

The rare exceptions in which high-frequency training is justified.
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I’ve written extensively over the years in my column and in the editions of my book, Extreme Muscle Enhancement, cautioning bodybuilders not to overtrain and that quality is more important than quantity. I still hold to that creed, but with some very interesting exceptions worth considering.

To begin with, it has been ingrained in all of our minds that the more you put into something, the more you get out of it. This pretense is complicated by the fact that committed muscleheads out there simply love to be in the gym, so it’s tough for them to hold back on training. It’s not our fault. People like us just love to train. But the fact is that, for the most part, more is not better. It takes a tremendous degree of self-control to resist the temptation to stay out of the gym when your body actually needs the break. I remember four-time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler describing it best to me—how he absolutely loved being in the gym, but if he went and trained as much as he really wanted to, he would’ve never gained the mass he needed to win bodybuilding’s most-coveted crown.

However, there are rare exceptions in which high-frequency training is justifed. This is perhaps most vividly illustrated as it relates to the training of a weaker muscle group that one feels is lagging behind. You can try keeping after that particular target area by increasing the training frequency. But in order to avoid overtraining that region, you must slightly dial down the total number of sets per session. You’ll still be doing more total volume per week  for that body part, but not as many as you would by just doubling up on the workouts. Again, simply adding another full duplicate session during the week is a mistake because it’s too much.

As a result, triceps training will go from a total weekly volume of 13 sets, all the way up to 23 sets each week. Just keep in mind that I said absolutely nothing about dialing down intensity. Backing of intensity is yet another pitfall you must resist. In fact, the training intensity has to remain very high in order for this to have a chance of working. That’s the reason one should not just double the sets. If you did that, odds are that at 26 sets each week it would simply be doing too much to reach the kind of training intensity needed for deep muscle growth. Intensity is predicated on physical recovery and psychological disposition. Both of these necessitate rest and time out from the gym. Intensity is critical because if you lose it due to too much total weekly volume, you will at best maintain or more likely lose muscle mass.

High-frequency training is a delicate balance in which you have to pick and choose your battles. You can’t push forward on all fronts without taking major backward steps. The temptation will be there to do it with other body parts in the same session (again the compunction you must resist that more is better). In the triceps example I gave, if that were your chosen focus, then this should be the only body part you are high-frequency training during that preordained time period. If you want to target another area, then you have to go back to your regular triceps routine frequency while focusing on the next area. - FLEX

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