This question gets asked a lot by people who are in the beginning and intermediate phases of lifting weights. Many times they have picked up various weightlifting magazines and read articles depicting the training styles of current bodybuilders.
The line of thought goes, if they built that type of body training six days a week, maybe I should too!
While that might feel good for about a week or two, after that you will quickly find yourself in a state of being overtrained.
High Frequency Training
You can train a lot. In fact many people train 5 to 6 times a week. But you have to consider the type of workout. Routines based on endurance and muscle tone are different than serious, heavy duty muscle building. When you are stressing and damaging as may muscle fibers as possible each session it puts an incredible toll on your body to recover and grow. Along with that energy needed for recovery you need physical and mental rest.
Bodybuilders at the professional level typically have a few things working for them that make high frequency, heavy and intense workouts possible. To start with they have been working out for years and their body has adapted to an increasing workload. Additionally they usually have a higher genetic capacity for recovery. On top of that some have been known to use ‘assistance’ of a chemical variety to speed up recovery.
Rest to Grow
For most natural lifters we need to rest so we can grow. True muscle growth occurs outside the gym. You can make incredible muscle gains working out only three days a week. If you feel like more time needs to be devoted to muscle growth, then spend it instead in the kitchen working on your nutrition.
A great three-day split for muscle building would be:
- Monday – Legs
- Wednesday – Chest/Shoulders/Triceps
- Friday – Back/Biceps/Abs
By using big exercises like squats and deadlifts on Monday and Friday respectively you are going to ensure increased testosterone in your blood for bonus anabolic benefits on the days in between. Since that involves two rest days where the muscles are recovering and growing the effects will become more efficient.
You can also freely push it as hard as possible using intensity techniques like drop-sets, rest-pause, or even 5×5 training. Because you have a full day of rest between sessions and another two at the end of the total body routine your body has plenty of time to recuperate. For those who worry about muscle atrophy and the body breaking back down, it doesn’t happen that fast. Also if you take advantage of utilizing a great diet your body will break down less muscle anyway.
More isn’t always better. Advanced bodybuilders usually follow different rules. As they look a lot different than the average Joe or newer lifter; that should be expected. By the same token you can’t expect to copy their current training regime to get their results. Now a program they used at the same stage you are now would be much more useful, but for some reason those aren’t printed in the big magazines as often.