A very common question, especially amongst lifters who are relatively new to the practice (maybe 1 or 2 years of continuous training) is, how often should I be exercising each muscle group?
Unfortunately there is no definitive answer to this question. The optimal frequency of which you train each individual muscle group will vary from person to person, and depend on a variety of factors.
Whether your goal is to increase muscular size, strength, or performance, the critical component is going to be the efficiency of your recovery. We know that improvements to muscular size and strength and not made in the gym, they are made during the body’s recovery period. The act of exercise is the stimulus for the growth, but not the growth process itself.
The more quickly a muscle group can recovery, the more frequently you can train it. Generally speaking, this is why you will be able to perform an isolation exercise at a higher frequency per week than you could compound exercise. The compound exercise requires multi-joint movement and tax your body to a much greater degree than the simpler isolation exercises meaning it takes longer for your body to recovery before it is ready to attempt the movement again.
Of course, there are plenty of variables to the above statement, such a volume, load and intensity. If your load was light enough, you could probably work through a squat session 3 times a day, every day of the week, although you would have to question the efficiency behind this. The key take away being that frequency is going to be determined by recovery.
Recovery is primarily governed by two factors, rest and nutrition. It is essential that you provide your body with the correct nutrients, in adequate volume, it needs to rebuild after it has been broken down. Once your body has the nutrients it needs, you now need to ensure you give it the time it needs to use those nutrients to repair and rebuild. In an ideal situation, if your goal was to get as big and strong as possible, you would do nothing but eat, sleep and workout.
People are not robots, and therefore the importance of mental recovery in the recovery process should not be overlooked. The debilitating effects of mental stress on the body can be, and often are, far more serious and take much longer to overcome than any physical stress. Mental stress and its effect on muscle growth and performance is in itself a topic which requires more than a simple blog article to even begin to explore, however the point is that we should not forget this vital component in the recovery process.
The bottom line here is that your training frequency, regardless of training purpose, will ultimately be decided upon by your ability to recovery from each workout. Don’t be afraid to schedule a week off to allow your body time to recuperate. After all, I think we can all agree, the most important thing is to stay healthy.
*The views and/or opinions expressed in the blogs are not necessarily those of Training Nation, but of the author