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Muscle for life

How Training Frequency Can Help or Hurt Your Muscle Growth

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How Training Frequency Can Help or Hurt Your Muscle Growth

How frequently do you have to train your muscles to make gains in the gym? Read on to find out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Optimal training frequency is a hotly debated subject.

Some people believe that you must train your entire body 2 to 3 times per week to make gains, whereas others believe that such an approach will only lead to overtraining. Further complicating the matter is the fact that people have made all kinds of crazy training routines “work” in terms of building muscle and strength.

Recommendations run the gamut from extremely low workout volumes (1 or 2 sets per muscle group) repeated several times per week to extremely high volumes (20 to 25 sets per muscle group) done more infrequently.

Well, the truth is optimal training frequency as a natural weightlifter depends on what you’re doing in each workout, both in terms of volume and intensity. 

Finding scientific help on the matter of optimal training volume is tough due to the number of variables involved, but something of an answer can be found in a large review conducted by researchers at Goteborg University.

I’ll get straight to the point and quote the research:

“Overall, moderate volumes (~30 to 60 repetitions per session for [Dynamic External Resistance] training) appear to yield the largest responses.” 

While advanced lifters seem to be able to stretch this range a bit, it has a lot of anecdotal support and is commonly recommended by educated, experienced weightlifters and bodybuilders. If you look at many of the popular, tried-and-true routines out there, the weekly workout volume generally falls in there somewhere (30 to 60 repetitions performed per major muscle group per week).

For example, my Bigger Leaner Stronger program has you do 9 to 12 sets of 4 to 6 reps per major muscle group. You move up in weight once you get 6 reps (which usually knocks your next set down to 4 reps), so the workouts range between 45 and 60 high-intensity reps. And people make fantastic strength and size gains on the program

My program for advanced weightlifters, Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger, entails doing about 60 to 75 reps per workout, with a combination of very high-intensity, high-intensity, and moderate-intensity work. This workout volume—both the number of reps and the intensities used—has both scientific and anecdotal evidence on its side. It works, period.

So, if that’s the workout volume, let’s get back to the matter of training frequency.

In Bigger Leaner Stronger, for instance, I recommend people lift weights 5 times per week and take 2 days off weightlifting. Each body part gets its own day (chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs), and thus each body part gets directly trained once per week. (Keep in mind, however, that due to the amount of compound lifting you’re doing in the program, you’re training a lot more than the primary muscle groups each day. For instance, the Deadlift and Squat trains a lot more than just your back and legs.)

Well, some people believe that such an approach is doomed—that each muscle group needs at least two full workouts per week to grow bigger and stronger. Both anecdotal evidence and clinical research says otherwise, though.

I have scores of success stories to prove that training each major muscle group once per 5 to 7 days produces phenomenal results, and research shows that proper workout volume and intensity appear to be more important than frequency.

That is, your muscles can only take so much of a beating every week and whether you accomplish that in one workout or 3, the results will be more or less the same.

The bad rap that “one-muscle-group-per-day” splits get is mainly due to poor program design: poor exercise choice, rep range emphasis, and workout volume. Most one-a-day  splits involve too much isolation work with low weight for high reps, which results in low workout intensity with volumes that are far too high.

“But what about protein synthesis rates?” you might be thinking. “Aren’t muscles fully recovered in 2 to 3 days, ready to get hit again?”

Well, research has shown that muscle protein synthesis rates spike at about 24 hours after a workout and return to normal by about 36 hours. This means that theoretically you should train each muscle group once every 2 to 3 days to stimulate maximum muscle growth, and there are weightlifting programs built around this principle.

These types of programs can work, but a common problem people run into with them is related to recovery. As training volume and intensity increases, so does the amount of time it takes for your muscles to fully recover, as measured by performance capacity.

Research has shown that even in resistance-trained, college-aged men, full muscle recovery can take anywhere from 48 to 96 hours depending on how they trained, ate, and slept, as well as other physiological factors like hormones and genetics.

If we look at other recovery-related studies, we see that most people’s muscles take closer to 72 – 96 hours to fully recover from an intense weightlifting session, that older men need more time to recover than young, and that larger muscles need more time to recover than smaller.

Furthermore, muscular recovery is only part of the picture.

Intense weightlifting places a lot of stress on the nervous system, and research has shown that this fatigue can “accumulate” from workout to workout. If it becomes too great, overtraining symptoms set in, which includes a dramatic reduction in performance, depression, sleep disturbances, and more.

The bottom line is the combination of proper training volume and high workout intensity using a once-per-week split works incredibly well when done properly.  For example, here’s a very standard Monday to Friday approach:

Day 1:

Chest & Abs

Day 2:

Back & Calves

Day 3:

Shoulders

Day 4:

Arms & Abs

Day 5:

Legs

Day 6:

Cardio or Rest

Day 7:

Cardio or Rest

Rest days can be interspersed:

Day 1:

Chest & Abs

Day 2:

Back & Calves

Day 3:

Rest

Day 4:

Arms & Abs

Day 5:

Shoulders

Day 6:

Legs

Day 7:

Rest

The order of muscle groups trained can be tweaked as well:

Day 1:

Legs

Day 2:

Chest & Abs

Day 3:

Arms

Day 4:

Back & Calves

Day 5:

Shoulders & Abs

Day 6:

Cardio

Day 7:

Rest

If weak point training, which I talk about in Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger, were included, it might look like this:

Day 1:

Chest & Abs

Day 2:

Back & Calves

Day 3:

Shoulders

Day 4:

Arms & Abs

Day 5:

Legs

Day 6:

Shoulders & Back (weak points)

Day 7:

Rest

So,  in the end, finding the right training frequency for your body is going to involve simply trying different splits and seeing how your body responds.

That said, whatever your split, if you’re emphasizing heavy weightlifting in your workouts (and you should be), I recommend that you limit your weekly reps to the 50 to 75 range.

 

What’s your take on training frequency? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Chris

    Hi Mike,

    I disagree on this one.
    You can’t say that “research demonstrates or shows” that frecuency doesn’t matter when you have only 2 studies, both with untrained subjects, both short term and both with very vague conclusions.

    And on the first one the Upper/Lower group showed better improvements that fullbody but there is no split routine group there. So, you can’t asume that a 5 day split routine would be equal in results.

    And on the SNC, proper programming helps with this issue too, even with high frecuency. Good high frecuency routines avoid overtraining,but not overreaching.

    That’s my opinion.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment Chris!

      I feel you. There’s a dearth of research on splits but I know Schoenfeld has this on his list. For now it’s tough–we have to cobble things together from what we have available.

      That said, I do have quite a bit of anecdotal evidence to pull from as I’ve worked with over 1,000 people at this point and been able to see a LOT firsthand.

      What I’ve seen is that simply increasing frequency isn’t a magic pill. Total weekly volume and intensity is much more important.

      • Chris

        Thanks for the reply Mike,

        I’m not saying that a split routine is a bad way to go 🙂
        But I think that when volume and intensity are kept equal I think that a higher frecuency is a really good way to go.

        I’ve tried several routines and I got my best results with an Upper/lower.

        Anyway, we really need more data, I strongly agree with that.
        Thanks again ^^

        • Austin

          Great to have someone who disagrees too. Thats how we all learn. There is an article im currently reading called ‘undulating periodization’ i think sums up this subject well if u can find it online give it a read. Bottom line of it was that everyone is different and outside factors of life very much reflect on what you can do within a training week, season etc. this article is a cool template to start from but much reading and learning is needed to fully understand how to make best gains. Im still working on that part too 😉

          • Michael Matthews

            I totally agree Austin.

        • Michael Matthews

          I totally agree Chris. Some people WILL respond better to more frequency.

          I think conditioning level also has something to do with it. As an advanced weightlifter, I’m not sure I could maximally train my big muscles on an upper/lower split because doing something like pulling and squatting big weight on the same day would just kill me, haha.

  • frametheory

    Hey Mike,

    Funny thing, I came to the site to ask this specific question and turns out you wrote an article on it just now. ha

    Im restructing my routine, but I only have it so I do 3 sets of dumbell chest press per week. Really not interested in anything else for chest so I wonder if I should do 5 sets of 4-6. Since Im only working out chest once per week. This goes for all other muscle groups as well. What do you think? I mean, I dont want to hop around and do flys or other nonsense exercises after bench.

    My routine right now is 3 sets of chest and 3 sets of shoulders on same day. And so forth – 3 sets of back and 3 sets of biceps on tues and so on.

    But yeah I might just do one muscle a day but do like 5 sets. But Im wondering if 3 sets per week would be just the same. I mean, I keep adding reps/weight so i figure if im getting stronger its working. I dont know, maybe 4. Granted I dont like spending too much time in the gym, especially when i want to include abs.

    i will figure it out.

    • Michael Matthews

      Personally I would do at least 40-50 reps per week for chest and many guys do upward of 80 if it’s lagging.

      That said, if you really don’t want much more chest development then you can keep it at 3 sets per week…

      • frametheory

        Actually yeah, I should turn it up a notch.

        • Michael Matthews

          Let’s do it. 🙂

  • Raul

    Hi Mike,

    What would you recommend if legs are my weak points? In Bigger Leaner
    Stronger we work with 36-54 reps.

    If I want to work more on my legs and keeping in mind the weekly limit range is 50 to 75, would you recommend to add those extra reps (20reps) in day 6? If so, which exercise do you recommend? Compound or Isolate?or how would you split leg excercises for those 2 days?

    Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question. I would add 3 sets of squats to back day, after deadlifts. Turn it into a lower body day, basically, and then hit the legs again a few days later.

      • frametheory

        Actually yeah, I should turn it up a notch.

  • Clay

    In your ultimate chest workout post you talk about training for Myofiblir Hypertrophy and that it took you about 2 years to develop your chest in your before and after blogpost.

    However, in most of the research that I have done on the 2 different types of Myofiblir and sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy. Websites such as polinquin group state that the rep ranges to get stronger without getting bigger are in the 4×4, 5×3, 6×2 ranges. http://www.poliquingroup.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/PrinterFriendly.aspx?ID=1215&lang=EN

    I seem to recall you distinctly state that you noticed your muscles would get pumped and then deflate when you trained for Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy and that you recommend training Myofiblir. Will training for Myofiblir hypertrophy eventually get you to the size that Sarcoplasmic will, but it just takes years vs, Months? Do you ever train Sarcoplasmic?

  • Brian

    Wassup Mike, I’m trying to get stronger bigger and leaner but I’m debating between BLS or BBLS, I have about 4 years of weightlifting, but I am not satisfied yet. I’m 22 years old weighing 170lbs with about 15% body fat with chicken legs. Which of your plan should I follow and if it’s BLS how long should I follow that routine before I start BBLS. And what’s the best way to increase the size of my lower body, especially calves. Thanks

  • Brian

    Wassup Mike, I’m debating wether to purchase BLS or BBLS, I have about 4 years of weightlifting, but I am not satisfied yet. I’m 22 years old, 5’10 weighing 170lbs with about 15% body fat and chicken legs. Which of your plan should I follow and if it’s BLS how long should I follow that routine before I start BBLS. Thanks

  • Brian

    Wassup Mike, I’m trying to get stronger bigger and leaner but I’m debating between BLS or BBLS, I have about 4 years of weightlifting, but I am not satisfied yet. I’m 22 years old , 5’10 weighing 170lbs with about 15% body fat with chicken legs. Which of your plan should I follow and if it’s BLS how long should I follow that routine before I start BBLS. And what’s the best way to increase the size of my lower body, especially calves. Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey man! I replied to your email. 🙂

  • James

    Hi mike so much confusing info out there on this! Great article though! What about people like layne norton who’s doing crazy amount of volume? Think he’s doing the big three four times a week at the minute lol
    Also, another question I know you said you can build muscle eating at maintenance – isn’t that effectively a recomp? And is there any data out there to say how much muscle you can build a week eating at maintenance? I know it’s about half a pound a week in a surplus if you do everything right! Cheers, james

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah there is a ton of contradictory info on this subject. Trying things for yourself is a must.

      Norton’s program would probably kill me, lol.

      You can build while maintaining but it’s very slow in my experience. Recomp usually refers to losing fat and building muscle simultaneously.

  • dama

    Mike if you could help or point us in the right direction it would so help !! My daughter is on a quest to get healthy, hormones balanced as we went on a meat veg fruit lots of veg and fruit way on eating. She went from 198 to 190 by trying to do this idea on vacation . Then we did it pretty strong when she came home bit she did eat what she wanted at times went from 190.6 – 177.6 this was in a range of 1 mth vacation 2 months home..she got a trainer to help.she goes 3 a week.then she went to a nutritionist really what’s to balance hormones we already have those results..The nutritionist puts her on a 1231 calorie pattern. 4 oz grain 2 c veggies 1 c fruit 2 c dairy 4 oz meat..her weight was 178. This with a 3 hr workout per week..she is a small frame. .5 ‘ 3 ” the problem her trainer has that she has loss muscle mass instead of gain from first measurement. Is that front to much protein fruit veg from the way I was feeding her ?

  • Billy VanCannon

    Hi Mike, I just read Mark Rippetoe’s book on Basic Programming and it makes by far the most sense to me and my personal experience. Like all things in life the answer to this question is “it depends”. Newbies can recover in 48 hours and practically everything works so for fastest results they can do a couple workouts a week on the same muscles. That only lasts a few months though and then what you are recommending seems to be optimal for the vast majority of us. I also just read Arnold’s book and he was doing 2 full body workouts a day (the original “split routine”) 6 days a week. Well, he was a genetic freak and also admitted to some steroids, but that is the complete other end of things where the advanced person has to really push the limits. Most of us don’t have the genetics, steroids, or time, so we don’t have to really even consider this.

    Congrats on the book. I am going to download it now.

    • Michael Matthews

      You’re spot-on Billy.

      Arnold’s workout schedule was inhuman. Sure, he was on a TON of drugs but his workouts were just grueling. I remember reading that some modern bodybuilders on all the same drugs (and more, probably) tried to follow his schedule and just couldn’t cut it.

      Thanks on the book! LMK what you think!

  • Aymen Oueslati

    hey thank you for all ; please is this the best way to lose fat and build muscle?:
    i always get up 14h in summer and i eat 4 meals in 2-3 hours protein and carbs and fruit and vegetebals and i drink 15 ice glasses of water and this is my plan always
    monday: afternoon biceps and back workout , at the night HIIT(i don’t use machines just jumping jacks and burpees and others 20 sec every exercice and 20 sec rest)
    tuesday:triceps,chest,shoulders, at the night same HIIT
    wednesday:legs and 15 min abs workout (abs at the night )
    thursday :rest( eating pizza and sugar and its my cheat day)
    friday and saturday and sunday : HIIT on empty stomach
    and repeat
    please bro is this the best way to build muscle and burn fat or i must do the hiit direct after my lifting weight (bcz i prefer to do hiit at the night not after my lift weights direct)
    i eat less and i lost 20 kg in 2 months and now it become slow to lose fat i don’t know why (i eat the same things)
    thank you for help <3

  • sid

    Hi Mike My first time writing to you. I stumbled on to your book bigger leaner stronger in January of this year and cant tell you what a revelation it was to me. I’m 51 years old and through the years from the time i was a teenager i always tried to work out but after either 3 weeks or 3 months i would give it up either to disappiontment with results or injuries because i wasnt doing things right or later on do to work. I am in the landscaping and construction fields. But since i read your book and really found out what it takes to get bigger and leaner and stronger the results are amazing. I am about 5-8 and went from wieghing 205 down to 170 over a six month period and am now about 174 since I stopped cutting and have gained in muscle and the clothes i bought when i slimmed down fit better than before. I have treied your once every week training different muscle groups and that was fine but have been working out the different muscle groups 2x per week and have seen better results. my work out is like this
    chest, triceps + legs 1 day
    arms, shoulders and back 2nd day
    rest 3rd day
    same for days 4+5
    rest or abs day 6+7
    I haven’t been doing any dumb bell work outs
    I think because of the nature of my work my body is more used to intense physical actvity so this seems to be working out. I have been doing this for about 4 weeks now and have seen better results and while I might be sore for a little while it seems to go away with the rest days I feel good. So any way Just wanted to touch base with you it is the first time anything I’ve read about working out and dieting has ever made seens to me. thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      That’s awesome on your gains! Exciting! I’d love to feature you on the website as a success story! What do you think?

      You can definitely work out like that so long as your weekly volume isn’t too high.

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Jesiann

    Just read your article on training adequately. You say at the end of the article ” I recommend that you limit your weekly reps to the 50 to 75 range”. I’m following the One Year Challenge. Not counting warm-up reps, my max per workout is 30 reps. Am I wrong here? Your book suggest a ‘working rep’ is 8-10 so… I surely don’t want to be investing my time incorrectly. Loving the challenge but want to be doing it right for maximum results. Again, I thank you.
    Also, please add your email address to your response.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      Yeah something is wrong. You’re doing 9-12 heavy sets per workout with 8-10 reps per set…

      • Jesiann

        Ok… Forgive my ignorance… But the One Year Challenge book has 4 warm-up sets then 3 working sets of each exercise. You define a working set as 8-10 reps. Where am I going wrong? Sorry dude, but you’re the expert and the contradiction has me scratching my head… Could you please spell out what I’m doing wrong? My husband is fixing to begin the Year One Challenge as well (will get the book tomorrow!!! Yay!) and I want him to be training accurately as well. Of course, I must say that I’ve seen positive subtle results by following the workouts as given in the book so I’m very happy… Maybe I should just stop reading so much! Lol

        • Michael Matthews

          Sorry for the confusion!

          Yes 3 working sets for each exercise, so a total of 12 working sets per workout, with 8 to 10 reps performed per exercise.

          We may be saying the same thing, haha. LMK!

  • Jay

    Hey Mike, so does this mean that we should workout like:

    4 sets 10 reps each for Chest on Monday

    4 sets and 10 reps each for Back on Tuesday and so on?

  • Josie

    Hi Mike,
    I’ve just realised that I have only been doing one full rest day from weights, and not two per week (but I have only been doing cardio 4-5 times/week). It’s ended up this way as I have to combine my weight and cardio workouts to fit them all in (not the best I know) and would go over an hr/workout if I took a 2nd day off weights. Am I disadvantaging myself majorly by not having a 2nd day off weights? Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question! I really depends on how your body is doing. If you feel good and are making gains, you’re good to go.

  • Greg

    Love your books! One question: what day would be an indirect workout for chest?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! The pecs don’t get much love. A bit with the military press but for the most part you have to directly train them.

  • Cal

    Mike I think you know what you are talking about. I am about to incorporate a golf specific weights/training programme so I want to get ripped but flexible. have you got any experience with sport specific training on that basis. Is your book still a relevant purchase in my case? Hope to hear from you and thanks for sharing mate. Regards, Cal

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Cal!

      I actually recently got into playing golf and have been studying quite a bit of the biomechanics behind it and yes, BLS would be a great program for you.

      In fact a buddy of mine, who’s a scratch golfer, recently started lifting on BLS is amazed at how quickly he’s noticing more distance in his long game without any loss of flexibility or mobility.

  • Alex

    Hiiii Mike !!!
    Hope u r doing well.
    Well I m more focused towards cutting my tummy fat. I would like to know how many days in a week I should concentrate on it. It will be great help if u can help me with exercises as well.
    Thanks in advance.

  • Mark

    Hey Mike big fan of the book BLS and the workouts. I have a question for you that I would like to pose through email. What’s the best way to contact you? Thanks.

  • Mark

    Hey Mike big fan of the BLS book and workouts. I have a questions I’d like to pose through email. What’s the best way to contact you? Thanks.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man! You can find my email address in the back of the book.

  • Renier

    If I can only train 3 times per week what split would you recommend me, mike?what do you think about this
    day1 : chest bicep
    day 2: back and tricep
    day 3: legs and shoulders

  • abraham

    Hi mike. I want to add hill sprints into your bigger leaner stronger program, we’re would you fit them? Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question. I would probably do them 2-3 days after legs day and hope for the best, haha.

  • Pauline

    I am one of your’quiet’ subscribers. I check my emails and read your articles because they are easy to understand and to the point.

    Since reading your free e-books it’s like a weight (get it?) has been lifted. All the hoo-ha is gone! Rubbish myths about what girls can do, and concepts that have ruled my fitness knowledge (an example being the ‘abs conspiracy’ – that I must do a million ab exercises to see definition) are out the door!

    I’ve started using weights and am now concentrating on strength, with simple, no BS exercise and nutrition. I have toned up more in the last 2 weeks than I have exercising religiously in the last 2 years!

    If I can do it anyone can! Thankyou Mike! (I really appreciate it).

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Pauline! I really appreciate it.

      That’s awesome! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

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  • Ahmed

    Hi mike I’m 16 years old 5 ft 8 and I weight about 155. I’m beginner to weight lifting (2 months) and I’m doing full body workout 3 times a week! I am a huge follower to your articles and I do trust the information that comes from you is the best! So what do you think as a beginner should I continue my 3 day full body workout or should I go to split like you mentioned in this article?

    Another question if you don’t mind, as a beginner do you advice me to get the bigger leaner stronger book? (Total honesty please) like is the program good for my age height and weight?

    I’m sorry for bombarding you with questions lately 🙂 many thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey man! That’s great on what you’re doing!

      Full body is okay as a beginner but you’ll want to come off it soon. I would say month 3 make the switch.

      Yeah BLS is perfect for beginners. I wish I had it when I started!

      • Ahmed

        Thanks man you the BEST! No joke!

        You literally replied to all my questions on others articles too!

        Thanks you so much!

        Im going to purchase the book 😉

        • Michael Matthews

          My pleasure man! Thanks! LMK what you think.

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  • Jack

    Hi Mike. What should I do if I can’t get 4 reps of added weight after I hit 6 reps on previous set…? Thanks.

    • Michael Matthews

      I would go back to the previous weight and work with it until I can do 6-6 and then try jumping up again.

  • Luka

    Just want to thank Mike for his unselfishness in sharing his knowledge with everybody. I know you work hard both in the gym and in the office but somehow you find time to respond to every email or comment. I’m from Croatia, half of the USA haven’t even heard of my country, but you have responded to my question in just one day and that shows some great human qualities. It’s nice to know that even though we’re miles apart there’s a guy who I admire and who can give me some answers first hand. Thans Mike, keep up the great work.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Luka! I really appreciate the kind words. 🙂 Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

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  • Jules

    Hi Mike,
    I keep reading about beginners who are starting out with a full body workout for 3 times per week. I keep seeing websites stating that a five day split is optimal for an intermediate or advanced person , not a person who is new to lifting. My trainer put me on a five day split sort of similar to your routine where we split up body parts. I’m 5’6 and 125lbs 22% body fat. My trainer said it is because her height is similar to mine and she said her body responds best to this training. Is this an appropriate method or should I ask my trainer(who is a female fitness model ) to give me a 3 day full body split. What’s the best one for muscle gain? Thank you!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah those are common advices. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/full-body-workout/

      • Jules

        Mike, that was just what I needed to hear! I was going insane with all of the 3 day split articles and yours makes so much sense. As a beginner who is brand new to lifting, I can make gains on just about any reasonable routine.

        If I’m following a five day spilt, similar to yours, how much of a difference will I see in my body after 3 months?

        I know I shouldn’t just be focusing on the mirror, but it would be really motivating to see a difference! . I guess I need to trust the process and results will come. I also noticed that my trainer is very keen on progressive overload which makes me trust her technique.

        • Michael Matthews

          Exactly. I’m all for simplicity and efficiency.

          If you’re new to the type of weightlifting I promote (heavy, compound), you can gain 5-6 pounds of muscle in your first 12 weeks.

          Check this out:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-much-muscle-can-you-build-naturally/

          It takes about a year for most guys to reach a point where they’re impressed in the mirror.

          • Jules

            You said guys…. How about a girl? So 5-6lb in 12 weeks for a woman as well?

          • Michael Matthews

            About half that, actually.

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  • Shai Magen

    Hi Mike, I have a question about splits- some of the splits on your site are like- chest on Monday, back on Tuesday, arms on Wednesday. your arms are not overtrained on wedensday after you did heavy chest and back workouts the days before?

    • Michael Matthews

      It depends how you lay your week out. Here’s what I like:

      Day 1: Chest & calves
      Day 2: Back & abs
      Day 3: Shoulders & calves
      Day 4: Arms & abs
      Day 5: Legs (including calves)
      Day 6: (Optional) weak point training

      • Hey Mike, First off, thanks for the article.

        I have a couple of questions which you might be able to help with 🙂 Much appreciated,

        I have weak calves so do you think the above will help and not over train?

        My shoulder needs to catch up however I have been training 2 times a week.

        Which brings me to the third question – do you think I should change frequency to the above plan? (My goal is to transform i.e, lose 8-10 pounds of fat and gain 10 -12 pounds of muscle in the next 6 months)

        • Yeah you can train calves hard and they recovery well.

          No I like the layout. Let’s see how you do with it…

  • LifeForMuscle

    hi mike!

    i started to follow your scheme of 4-6 reps my strength has gone up tremendously!

    but i want to show you my plan just to make sure i dont overtrain and that everything is ok! but before i show you it i would like to ask a question

    can i train for more than an hour for example there is a day where i train my arms (bicep and tricep) and abs (3-6 circuits just as you said) and then my grip and all of that takes more than an hour is it fine?

    here is my workout plan :

    saturday : chest – abs (about 45 min)
    sunday : back – grip – calfs (about an hour)
    monday : rest day (cardio HIIT)
    tuesday : arms (biceps and triceps) – abs – grip
    Wednesday : shoulders – calfss
    thursday : rest (no cardio just rest)
    friday : legs – calfs – grip – abs

    is there anything wrong with that?

    as always thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great!

      This looks totally fine. You could add 3 sets of incline pressing to your shoulders day (turn it into a push day) if you want a little more chest.

  • This article was recently posted on the bodyrecomposition facebook group by someone (link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/810890695609053/916986381666150/ ). Pretty interesting thread there :))
    I really like how Eric Helms put it: ”I
    personally think that it’s more accurate to think of frequency as the
    way you organize your volume rather than a distinct separate programming
    variable or stimulus for adaptation in and of itself.”

    I personally agree with you Mike as I’ve seen people reach their genetic potential with very different training frequencies. From my observations most advanced lifters tend to have a lower training frequency.

    • That’s a closed group so I can’t see but Helms is incredibly knowledgeable and his statement summarizes the issue.

      Yup I’ve seen the same thing.

      Thanks for sharing this.

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:

    http://www.muscleforlife.com/signup/

    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Ian

    Hey Mike.
    I’m an old guy. I started lifting in ’81. There wasn’t a lot of info back then except for the enhanced buiders in MF. I could never figure out, no matter how hard I worked out, how to get the sizes that these guys got. When I figured out the secret, I chose to stay natural. I worked out and looked awsome after 15 years of hit and miss.
    Anyway, life happened, and I put b.building away. I still stayed active. 18 years went by, I started jogging 5 years ago, but it didn’t do what weights did for me. So with my wife’s support, I decided to load up with a bench, weights, a squat rack, chin up bar, ect. It’s been a year and a half now. I’m 52 yrs old, but still in great shape from my active youth. When I left off, I was 195 lbs and about 12% to 14% body fat. With fifteen years of guess work, I looked pretty good at 35 yrs old.
    I have been on a steady routine of full body, to splits, lighter, to heavy, and all over the place with experimenting in the last year and a half. I have made gains of about 1 lbs per month. It’s slowed down over the last 3 or 4 months. My best gains have been heavy compound movements; each body part worked every four days. 7 to 9 sets for large parts, 4 to 5 for smaller.
    I had a bit of residual muscle preserved from my younger years, and I’ve packed on enough muscle (muscle memory) to bring me back to where I was. I’m holding a bit of excess fat now, but am just starting to cut down with intermittent fasting. I thought my age would make it hard, but with proper eating and watching for signs of overtraining. I’m doing it. I’m hoping I can go beyond the shape I had in my youth, but age might put a damper on it.
    I enjoy your Youtube banter. very informative.

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  • Ian

    Hi again Mike
    My wife ordered your “Bigger Leaner Stronger” book for me. It’s probably going to take a week to get here.
    Is there any advice pertaining to a person like myself in their fifties? more rest? less sets? I have an amazing body for my age. I have no joint problems, or connective tissue problems at all. I owe it to being very active and eating properly throughout my life. I also have never been a substance abuser (including alcohol) which I believe is a major cause of early body failures.
    I believe that my testosterone levels are still ok, as I have a healthy sex drive, a lot of energy, and a great outlook on life. I have a very physically demanding job that keeps me fit also.
    Like I said, “I lifted for 15 years as a young man”, and I have gained it all back in the last 1 1/2 years of getting back into it. I just took a one week break, as I do every two months. I haven’t noticed any loss of pump that you say is familiar with sarcoplasmic workouts. But I have been going heavy also.
    I will try your heavier routines with longer recovery; I’ll see where that takes me. I am looking forward to getting that book in the mail. I had to order it from Canada’s “Amazon” site (not an option on your site) It’s hard for me to get into a good 5 day routine, as I work 12 hour shifts (four on, and four off). I’ll have to adapt it a bit. My sleap pattern gets a bit chaotic too, as they are split from days to nights on those four days (two days, and two nights)
    I’ll follow your posts and listen to all the ones I haven’t had a chance to as well. I’ll let you know, as an older guy, how it worksfor me.

    • Thanks Ian! Let me know how you like the book.

      I’ve emailed with hundreds of guys in their 50s and 60s and many were surprised at how well they could do the program as laid out in the book. We did make a few tweaks, however:

      1. No heavy deadlifting or squatting unless the person was an experienced weightlifter. If you have any lower back issues, don’t deadlift at all unless instructed to do so by a PT. If you have any knee issues, no squatting unless instructed to do so by a PT. If you have no such issues, start your deadlifting and squatting in the 8 – 10 rep range and stay there until the exercises feel very comfortable. You can then move into 6 – 8 rep range and work with that until it feels completely stable and comfortable. You can then move into the 4 – 6 rep range, but it’s not mandatory. You have to see how your body feels.

      2. No heavy bench pressing or military pressing if you have shoulder issues. If you don’t have any, start these exercises in the 6 – 8 rep range and work there until they feel very comfortable and stable. You can then move into the 4 – 6 rep range.

      That’s it. Some guys had very particular circumstances that required further tweaks, but that was it for most.

      Nothing needs to be changed on the diet. The metabolism doesn’t slow down due to age nearly as much as most people think. My metabolism is, at best, only a few hundred calories per day more efficient than yours. (Ultimately your progress will dictate if anything needs changing, and I can help you tweak things if necessary.)

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  • Cipri

    Hi Mike! I’ve read of your articles, they’re the best I’ve found online and I’m doing best progress ever in the 4-6 rep range! But I have 2 problems: 1. I like to train 5 times a week but I also like to train my triceps in my chest day and my bicep in my back day, how should I split? 2. My deadlifts are very intense on me should I make them in the shoulders day, as this day is a little more non-intense day? Thanks

    • Thank you! Really glad to hear you’re doing well!

      You could add 3 sets of bis, 8-10 reps, to the end of back day and 3 sets of tris, same reps, to the end of chest days. This plus an arms day should be fine.

      No keep your deads on your back/pull day.

  • Mark Milham

    Hi Mike, really great site! I am what you call a hardgainer but I think I am training too much as I haven’t seen any gains in over 2 mths. I have been training for about 6 mths now and have lost 11 pounds of tummy fat which is great but not much muscle mass. I train Monday’s (Biceps: 4 exercises x 3 sets x 6 reps = 72 reps. Triceps: 3 exercises x 3 sets x 6 reps = 54 reps) Total Reps = 129, Wednesday’s (Legs: 4 exercises x 3 sets x 6 reps = 72 reps, Shoulders: 4 exercises x 3 sets x 6 reps = 72, Traps: 2 exercises x 3 sets x 6 reps = 36 reps) Total Reps = 180. Friday’s (Chest: 4 exercises x 3 sets x 6 reps = 72 reps, Back: 3 exercises x 3 sets x 6 reps = 54 reps) Total Reps = 126. I also include Abs on Monday and Friday at 2 exercises x 3 sets x 6 reps = 36 reps. I am 132 pounds and consume 1880 calories per day (283g carbs, 142g protein & 20g fat). I lift heavy and with low reps. Do I need to eat more or train less per day? Should I do the 5 day split and limit my rep range to max 72 reps per day? I’m getting a bit disheartened not seeing gains even though I train hard. Really appreciate some advice! Thanks, Mark.

  • Gabriel Cortez

    For weak point training day do you do the exact same warm up as you would normally do on regular days? That would make half the workout warming up.

  • Fabio Armando

    Hi Mike,

    Just read BLS! Just loved! Now I’m reading First Year Challenge and saw on The 3-Day-Training splitted in two, Split A and B. Should I just pick one and follow on or to rotate? For example, on week 1 do the A and on week 2 do the B and then the A on following week and so forth?

  • manny

    Hello Michael,
    I bumped into your site a few days ago and I have been hooked to reading a lot of your articles, and also the hundreds of comments. You are awesome and I value your opinion immensely. So far from what I have gathered is that the training frequency philosophy that you are preaching is awesome. I have a question though regarding a training split that I have put together for myself using your many articles.

    My main goal is to have lower BF (im currently at 12%BF 166lbs 5’9) but also increase muscle mass. I am on a tug of war between fat loss and muscle gain.

    As far as nutrition goes I am going to follow the 20% deficit rule 40pro/40carb/20fat macros. BMR 1700ish plus TDEE 2400ish so minus the 20% is 1900ish calories for deficit nutrition. Is this too low?

    My Split:

    Mon- Back/Biceps (using your Ultimate Back and Arm (biceps side) workouts.

    Tues- Legs/Abs (using your Ultimate Leg workout and my own Ab circuit)

    Wed- Chest/Triceps (using your Ultimate Chest and Arm (triceps side)

    Thurs- Shoulders/Abs (using your Ultimate Shoulder workout/my Ab circuit)

    Fri- Sprints(Hiit) 15sec Sprint (about 100m distance) 2min rest x 10 this sprint workout is about just over 20 minutes total.

    I want to make sure I have my legs recovered for Sprinting on Friday that is why I have Back (Deadlifts) and Legs workouts the first two training days.

    What are your thoughts on this split? Is this enough cardio (sprints) for fat loss with a possibility of muscle gain or muscle preservation?

    Thank you

    • Thanks so much!

      Cool on your stats and goal. This may help you:

      https://legionathletics.com/body-recomposition/

      That sounds about right. This is relevant:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/rapid-weight-loss/

      Legs after back day is gonna be really hard. Your hams are going to be slightly sore from deadlifting and you won’t be able to squat all that well. The sprints are going to kill you too, haha. Just something to keep in mind.

      Personally I would do back/bis on Sat and then legs on Tues. Possible?

      • manny

        Thanks Michael i tried that split i mentioned this week and i havnt felt that bad. But then again i have room for strength gain since i reached 6 reps on all of my lifts. Im sure as i get to the top end of my stregnth on the lifts i will probably need to switch it up since recovery wont be as fast. Im looking to getting some stuff from your supplement line and i will probably ask you a few question on that in one of your other articles if you dont mind. I appreciate your friendly help.

  • Tim

    Hi Mike. I am currently happy with my size/BF so currently just want to get
    stronger on BP/Shoulder Press/Squat/Deadlifts whilst maintaining physique.
    Would once per week still be the best frequency for the main lifts or would
    twice, in different rep ranges, produce better results. Currently thinking of 2
    pressing workouts, with one being chest focused and the other shoulders focused.
    I would do 2 sets Shoulder press for 1-3 reps on shoulders day and 3
    sets 4-6 reps on chest day as a kind of weak point training and vice versa
    for bench press. I would also squat twice a week with the same mix of rep
    ranges although only deadlift once.

  • John Doe

    Mike – are you sure you understood the University of Goteburg review correctly?

    “Overall, moderate volumes (~30 to 60 repetitions per session for
    [Dynamic External Resistance] training) appear to yield the largest
    responses.”

    Later in the paper, if you look at “Table l. Recommendations for dynamic external resistance training (e.9. weight-based resistance) for hypertrophy” – they suggest 2-3 SESSIONS per muscle group per week, effectively suggesting 60 – 180 reps per muscle per week (60 is the absolute minimum per week, and 180 the max). 30 would be far below that range.

    • Thanks for the comment. I made a note to review it again.

      Remember that intensity affects volume greatly. More intensity necessitates less volume. If you were training in higher rep ranges you could probably get away with 100+ reps per 5 to 7 days but if you’re doing heavy (85%+ 1RM) lifting, no way.

      I’m going to be updating this article soon with additional research/comments as well.

  • inferno0666

    #1 You CAN emphasize heavy, compound lifting without dying.

    Experience programmers do not cram heavy lifting on every single day. There are heavy days, moderate days, and lighter days. And it varies per exercise.

    For examplek, deadlifts are typically done 1x per week, not 3x per week like squats. And not every day is a heavy squat day. So deadlifts can be done on a light squat day (fewer sets and ligher weightse compared to the other days). As a bonus, those squats are a nice warmup for the deadlifts.

    Heavy squats before bench presses takes getting used to, but after a while you get into the groove. It will be hard in the beginning and you will feel beat up, but that is because you are UNDERtrained.

    #2 You CAN Program Workout Volume and Frequency Optimally.

    When the frequency goes up, you have to adjust the volume accordingly. That is common sense. Training muscles is about Jason Blaha explains it nicely in this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6LsA5V4hus

    Whoever advocates high frequency AND high volume is an idiot who does not have a clue.

    “Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate.”
    — Lee Haney, 8 times Mr Olympia

    When the volume is adjusted accordingly within a higher frequency program, the same muscle group can be trained within 48 hours. And this is exactly how more advanced full body programs like Texas Method and MadCow are set up. And these programs have a proven track record.

  • inferno0666

    Prioritizing frequency over concentrated volume has grown in popularity over the past few years because it works, and works well. The logic at play is that exposing the body to a stimulus more often will result in faster adaptation, leading to you getting bigger and stronger.

    Not convinced? Think about it. Which do you think is more likely to make you stronger: 52 sessions on the bench a year, or 104 sessions?

    Strength is, after all, a skill, and practice makes perfect. High frequency training is especially beneficial for raw lifters who need to hone and perfect their technique on the actual lift.

    • Great comment and I completely agree that for maximizing strength, more frequency beats less.

      I’m actually going to be updating this article soon to dive into that point as well as a few others.

      • Darren

        Well, I don’t agree at all. Maximum strength comes from a well thought out progressive overload programme – intensity(loading) is the driving force behind gains, period.

        Volume is extremely overrated, as is frequency, and recovery is very much underrated.

        Muscle fibre recruitment is also driven by intensity(loading). Not by frequently practising movement patterns.

        The only argument that could be made for frequency is motor learning of the movement patterns. But even myoneural patterning changes with intensity, as a muscles synergistic contribution can and does change throughout the ROM according to intensity and recruitment sequencing.

        The other argument against high frequency and high volume is that they it can be fatiguing, with the obvious exception of needing longer to recover, fatigue of any kind induces faulty movement patterns and muscle recruitment sequencing. This basically means that synergist muscles may be forced to make more of a contribution to a prime mover during a particular exercise, inturn placing it under greater stress than it would otherwise be able to handle, causing potential muscle imbalance and possible injury.

        In my experience, two full body session per week is more than enough to get the job done. Providing you follow the rule of progressive overload with regards to intensity(loading) and balance anterior and posterior chains.

        Again, in my experience, low volume, compound exercises with ramped sets and adequate recovery get the job done.

        Of course, I follow certain training methodologies such as supercompensation theory and also include dynamic variations of exercises with similar movement patterns to train velocity specific ranges that aren’t developed as well at the higher ends of the force/velocity curve. And if I feel the need to rest, I rest, regardless of where I am in my training cycle.

        • The point of frequency is simple: the more frequently you do a movement patter the better you get at it.

          That said, I’m NOT a fan of loading up on frequency and volume for the reasons you give.

          2 x full body per week is fine for building strength but you’re not going to build an impressive physique doing that. Depends what you’re going for.

          You might like this article of mine:

          https://legionathletics.com/strength-training/

  • Aleksandr Prilepa

    Hey! What do you make of this? http://kinobody.com/workouts-and-exercises/the-magic-of-lifting-three-days-per-week/

    Been lifting with a 5 day split + 1,2x hiit but thinking of changing it a 3 day split + 1,2x hiit. What are your results with clients when it comes to this? Thanks:)

    • You can make progress training 3 x per week but 3 sessions per 7 days isn’t optimal if you’re trying to maximize results.

      Better 3-day programs work in 5-day cycles, like push, pull, rest, legs, rest, repeat, for example.

      • Aleksandr Prilepa

        thanks I’ll stick to the 5 day plan then.

        • YW. Sounds good!

          • Aleksandr Prilepa

            Some of the sources out there claim that muscle recovery is only half of the equation and that CNS takes 48h to completely recharge. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20625191

            So the theory is that if your CNS is fully recharged, you will be able to recruit more muscle fibers thus making your strength gains go up. What’s your take on this, have you seen bigger strength gains with your clients on 3 day splits (eg. upper/lower body) or 5 day (each body part) splits?

            My only problem with upper/lower body splits is that I wouldn’t have as much in the tank for that 2nd muscle group lift on any given day. Although I guess that can be addressed by switching exercises up (eg. heavy row and a lighter vertical pull in Upper Workout A, and a lighter row and heavier vertical pull in Upper Workout B).

            Anyway, long story short – do you find that more rest days within a week (as you would have in a 3 day split) equals to more strength gains? Thanks:)

          • CNS can take longer than that. 4 to 7 days even, depending on your age and conditioning and such.

            I think you’ll like this article of mine:

            https://legionathletics.com/strength-training/

          • Aleksandr Prilepa

            Hm, most of these strength training programs are 3 day splits, so one could argue that for greater strength gains 5 day splits don’t give enough recovery?

            I think I’ll go ahead and do a test to see which approach gives bigger strength gains being in a caloric surplus.
            1) 5 day split with heavy compound lifts and some assistance work + 2 full rest days/walking/stretching (eg. on Wednesday and Sunday)

            2) some sort of 3 day split with heavy compound lifts + 3,4 full rest days/walking/stretching

            Thanks:)

          • There are plenty of 5- and even 7-day programs but they’re for advanced lifters and require a fair amount of knowledge to program correctly.

            1. This is basically my program BLS, by the way.

            2. Texas Method might suit your needs if you go this route.

  • LifeForMuscle

    muscle imbalances article???

  • Jhone Doe

    i just came back from some health issuses and lost alot of mass and strength
    started doing a push pull rest legs rest repeat programe it allows me to do adequate volume and gives my muscles 4 days rest which i find works great for me based on my volume but im worried about my arms they need allitel more volume so i was wondering about doing back ,rear delts on day 1 day 2 cheast, and shoulders day3 arms day 4 legs days 5 rest then repeat
    what you think about that

  • Thomas Aaltvedt

    Hi. I really enjoy your poadcasts and expertice! It takes some time to figure out which advices, and from who, to be taken seariousley and real. Much depending on beeing a natural or not. There is one thing I dont understand though; why is it that you recomend twice a week training for weakpoints, and every 5-7 days for the rest. Isn’t that like saying that lower volume and higher frequency is the best approach for building muscles?

  • Ben

    Mike,

    on this page, you say that BLS has 45 reps minimum, and that the recommendation is 30 to 60 reps a week, but on your legion athletics page (https://legionathletics.com/full-body-workout/), you say that its better to have 60-80 reps a week.

    Could you clarify this?

    • Hey Ben!

      Yup I’ll be updating this article based on more reading/research I’ve done, which culminated in the Legion article, haha.

      60 to 80 reps per week per major muscle group is a better target than 30 to 60. That’s all.

      • Ben

        So how would someone go about hitting 60 to 80 reps with the BLS program? Maybe keep everything the same, but perhaps increase the reps to 5 to 7 or 6 to 8?

        • Nope if you follow it as is you’ll be up around 60. You don’t need more, really.

  • KAB

    How often can you do abs? My core is really weak and I want to make sure I am doing my best to remedy that. I am doing the TLS twice a week abs thing (as well as the rest of the program), but wondered if that would be enough on the abs? I cannot do certain exercises because of a past back surgery, so I am going a little slower than your program suggests.

  • Aleksandr Prilepa

    Hey, whats your take on the Norwegian study Frekvensprosjektet? http://www.strengtheory.com/high-frequency-training-for-a-bigger-total-research-on-highly-trained-norwegian-powerlifters
    Interesting read.

    • I haven’t seen this. I will have to check it out.

      That said, keep in mind that higher frequency is most definitely better for strength training. The more you do something (squat, for example), the better you get at it.

  • Jordan Stein

    Hey Michael,

    No way I can do 5 days with 3 kids under 8, work, etc… Would love to. Maybe in short spurts during the summer. I don’t need to look like a body builder. Just want to look and feel better. I’m pretty skinny and have never bulked up, but following your advice to lift heavier and take protein and creatine and eat better.

    Is there a 3 day plan? 4 day?

  • Mike

    Hi Mike,
    I’m curious to know your opinion of Gary Taubes’ book: Good Calories, Bad Calories. If you like science, and an overall history of nutrition standards going back about 150 years, this is an exhaustive source for both. Thanks!

    • I haven’t read it but I’m not a fan of Taubes’ work in general. He sold out IMO.

  • Dave

    What about the nervous system. I have heard that it takes 48 hours for your nervous system to fully recover so you can hit the weights as hard as possible…wouldn’t training 5 days take away from your true strength potential and a 3 day split be more optimal?

    • That really depends on what you’re doing in the gym. Particularly strenuous workouts require more than 48 hours for full recovery.

      No, you can definitely make 5 x per week work if you program the split properly.

  • Markus

    Mike, what about “one set to failure” (Mike Mentzer, Arthur Jones, HIT etc.)? It’s basically 6-8 very slow reps (4s-2s-4s) per exercise (usually to failure or one rep before) and then you’d move on. It’s very popular at the Gym chain I’m stuck with for now (Kieser, Germany) and usually they do full body workouts as well although I’m starting a upper/lower split next week so I can target the same muscles with different machines and get pseudo-compound and more sets this way. 😉

    • It doesn’t work well for natties beyond something you just randomly do every now and then. If you made that the focus of your training, you’d plateau fairly quickly.

  • robbyh1

    After fanny-footing around for so long working multiple bodyparts per workout with low volume and sets, today I decided to change to a 1 body part per day system with 30 sets or more; really blitzing that ONE muscle a day and letting it rest for a week – or more. Thinking about it, even working a muscle PROPERLY just once a week means that you are tearing tissue down 52 times a year!…..Think about it this way…..that’s STILL a LOT of breaking down and re-healing that the muscle has to do. And there are people who say you should train with THREE times that frequency in order to make gains. Honestly, if this is the case, then you are expecting yourself to tear tissue AND recover (heal) over 150 times a year………That’s far too much, surely! Bottom line…….tear tissue PROPERLY…then let it heal PROPERLY….that’s why once a week makes so much sense! That’s what I’m hoping, anyway!! Sounds good on paper, I must say. And lets not forget that with free weights, you never can really truly isolate one muscle only…….for example, triceps will ALSO be getting some indirect…..but GOOD stimulation on chest day AND on shoulders day, as will biceps on back day…so really, one muscle per day training can never really happen anyway!

    • Thanks for the comment! I completely agree. 🙂

      • robbyh1

        Mike, this post I made today on another forum might be of interest to you. http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=119492051&p=1425898451&viewfull=1#post1425898451 . It touched on a very important point missed by a lot of folk regarding the benefit that high volume/moderate intensity training protocols have on androgen receptors and also explains in more detail why I feel the natural BB should be training a muscle no more than once a week, provided of course he/she stimulates the muscle properly when they train it. Thanks for your prompt reply to my last post, btw!

  • Kal-El

    Mike,
    What about biceps and triceps?
    According to BLS, each one is trained with 2 excercises. That’s 24-36 reps for each per week. Is that sufficient? Or can I train arms twice or add more excercises?

    • Yep, that’s plenty for direct arm training. I wouldn’t add a second day in the week for heavy arm training.

      It’s important to keep in mind that the biceps are used in heavy back training and the triceps are used in heavy chest training. So, you’re getting some arm training with those as well.

  • John

    Mike! Bought and read BLS. Have always trained higher frequency lower rep, mostly for strength. Now want to Recomposition and move towards aesthetic focus. I will try your 1-day per week per body part split in BLS. Was finding joints like elbows and knees to be more creaky than ever (I’m 34, and have been weight training for over 10 years with the compound lifts)…usually squat 3 x week for example. A lot of what you have written about is in regards to adequate recovery . Would you anticipate better Joint health/recovery as well? I know I am only 34 but I want to start moving towards a long term health and mobility focus. Thoughts on your program for where I am in my training career? (I do need some muscle mass for aesthetics. Have trained doubles and triples for a long time now (5 reps was my cardio haha). I am 5’7″, 190, about 24% big as measured by calipers…
    Thanks!

  • Aman

    My training split is something like this:

    Monday: Legs&Shoulders
    Tuesday: Chest&Triceps
    Wednesday: Back&Biceps
    Thursday:Same as Monday
    Friday:Same as Tuesday
    Saturday: Same as Wednesday
    Sunday: Rest

    Is this too much? I get in some decent amount of cardio too.

    • It all depends on how many sets and reps you do each workout. What really matters is your weekly volume. I talk more about this here:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/muscle-building-workout/

      Let’s make sure you’re not overdoing the cardio either:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/cardio-and-muscle-growth-friends-or-foes/

      LMK what you think! Talk soon.

      • Aman

        For now, I stick to the traditional 3 sets. For eg, if I am training biceps; I usually do 3 sets of dumbbell curls, 3 sets of preacher curls, 3 sets of reverse curls, and 3 sets of hammer curls. Only for incline or decline bench press, I increase it to 4 sets. Great articles btw. I’ve read them before, haha. I do a pyramid scheme for each exercise, i.e. starting from 12 reps in the first to 6 in the final set, except compound moves like squat, deadlift(where I stick to 5-7 reps each set). I do HIIT for 10 mins everyday, except Sunday. So what do you think? Do you think my workout plan is too much?

        Thanks for taking your time to reply.

        • If you’re doing that example workout you just gave above twice a week, that’s too much volume.

          Personally, I’d recommend you do the 5-day split I list in this article:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/muscle-building-workout/

          If you wanna do a 3-day split twice a week, you should keep those workouts to 6-9 sets max.

          Cool on the 10 minutes of HIIT you do daily.

          I don’t recommend pyramid training. If anything, if you want to get some higher rep sets in, I’d recommend reverse pyramid training. Check this out:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/reverse-pyramid-training-workout/

          Glad you’re sticking to the lower rep range for the main compound lifts.

          My pleasure!

  • Lloyd

    Hey Mike
    Your 5 day program pretty much hits each body part twice per week which is usually recommended as optimal for natural lifters.
    The body part that doesn’t really get hit twice is your back. Do you think replacing the first bicep exercise on arm day (Friday) with either chin ups, close grip chin ups or close, parallel grip chins up would be a good idea to hit the back twice per week but also hit the biceps hard too?
    Just a suggestion, interested to know your thoughts 🙂

    • Good question and yes, you can do that.

      • Lloyd

        Thanks for the reply, I really appreciate your help and good work.
        Would it be best to replace the bicep movement or simply add the back movement to the workout before the arm exercises?

        • My pleasure! Eh. I’d replace one of the bicep exercises with it.

  • RootsFrom TheCold

    Thanks Matt.

    I have been reading a lot of your posts and it is helping me to fix some of the issues i am doing at the gym.

    Tho there are 2 muscles that i would like to know when to train : Traps and Triceps. Should i include traps with back or shoulders program ? And do you include triceps in your arm day ?

    (also, if you have a great post for a good abs program that would be awesome)

    thanks for your help and keep up doing the good work you are doing ! This is helping A LOT of people !

  • amos

    Hi Mike. Sorry for the long post and I hope you’ll be patient with me since you’re a busy guy, but really, thanks for having the time to comment to all of the posts. Really appreciate it! 🙂

    Will beginners benefit from body part split in terms of strength and muscle growth compared to fulI body workouts? I consider myself a semi bigginer and currently want to gain more strength and explosive power while adding on more muscle mass for aesthetic and sport. Many people say bigginers should make use the newbie phase to gain as much strength by doing more compound lifts with higher frequency such as total body workouts (eg starting strength) and avoid body part splits as they are still not strong enough to lift heavy. Even though beginners are weak, if they still lift weights that are heavy for them (4-6 reps close to failure), does that still count?

    I recently got your bls book and did the first week. Did everything in the 4-6 rep range, rested 3m. After I complete each workout, I still felt fresh eventhough I did each set close to failure (couldn’t have the strength to get in one more rep) and still wanted to do more but resisted the urge. Is this how strength training should feel like? (Really used to doing crazy cardio workouts and high rep burnouts). How would you normally feel like after a heavy weight training session?

    • No worries Amos.

      Like “ideal” rep ranges, optimal training frequency is a hotly debated subject. The bottom line is it boils down to workout intensity and volume. The lighter the weights and fewer the sets, the more often you can train the muscle group.

      In the case of BLS, you hit your muscles hard, with about 50-60 reps per workout, with all reps recruiting maximum muscle fibers (due to the load). The reality is unless you have superhuman recovery, you just won’t be able to do these workouts more than once per 5 days. Once per 7 days is probably a LITTLE more rest than some people need, but I think it’s better to err on that side than the side of overtraining.

      The bottom line is INTENSITY and VOLUME are more important than frequency when we look at 5 to 7-day training cycles, and EVERYONE that follows the program makes rapid strength and size gains. Even long-time lifters.

      If you want to learn more about this, check this article out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/guide-to-muscle-hypertrophy-muscle-growth/

  • Aidan Vosooghi

    Hi Mike! I’m cutting on BLS right now and was wondering if weak point training is worth it while on a cut. Thanks!

  • denvercoder10

    Hey Mike, thanks for the great article, as usual!
    What’s your take on even lower volume approaches, such as the Kinobody 2 or 3 day splits? I’ve been doing BLS for about 14 months now and have seen amazing progress + fat loss but I’ve totally plateaued on most major lifts and am nowhere near the beyond BLS strength standards, even when bulking @ a 10% calorie surplus.
    Thanks for all the amazing information you’ve put out there, I’ve recommended the BLS/TLS program to countless people!

  • Amed

    mike for someone who’s past the beginner stage, you mentioned the weekly volume should be (as in BBLS) around 60-75 reps per week per major muscle group, does this (60-75) count both shoulders and chest together since they are both pushing muscles or it’s (60-75) for chest, and (60-75) for shoulders … etc not counting overlaps ?

    • There is some overlap there which is fine. However, for the arms, there’s a lot of overlap with heavy pressing (tris) and heavy pulling (bis). So, I don’t include a full 60-75 reps for both bis and tris an arm day.

  • Agente 47

    I was doing full body workouts(a program I purchased) this year because I read on the internet that each muscle shoud be train 2-3 times a week, however, I simply did not make progress and actually dread going to the gym, also, ALL of the people(naturals) I Know that have a phisique like the one I want used bro splits, they do not even know that Fullbody workouts exist.

    Therefore, my conclusion is that fullbody,Upper/lower, PPL, Bro splits are just tools that one can use but one must experiment to see what one likes and gets better results with, for some it will be full body for others bro splits etc.

    Thanks for the article.

  • Laura

    Loved the article Mike 🙂

    I still have a question though! I follow a lot of bikini competitors and fitness models that train legs 2 times a week! Sometimes they do one quad focused day and one hams and glutes focused one.. I am looking to achieve a bikini fitness physic, so would you recommend doing 2 leg days?

    Also, would you recommend doing your Thinner leaner stronger program if I want to prep for a bikini comp? (Oh and if I purchase it from amazon, does it come with the one year challenge too? And do you ship to Colombia? 🙂 )

    Thank you, and I am a huge admirer of your work! 🙂

    • Glad you enjoyed the article, Laura. You’d do very well with TLS training and dieting. It does indeed come with the Y1C Bonus Report as well. Amazon will be the one fulfilling the order and shipping to Columbia.

      If your legs need work, in the short term (30 days), you can double up on legs. Check this out:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-get-bigger-legs/

      • Laura

        Thank you for the answer Roger!! I think I will get the program then! So excited!

        I took a look and Amazon does sell the TLS book and the one year challenge separately.. I thought the 1YC came with the TLS book!

  • Dave

    Hi Mike. I just wanted to ask what you think of my current PPL split.
    It goes like this – week 1: Push, pull, off legs off push pull
    Week 2: Off legs off push pull off legs and then back to week 1
    For pull day I do 13-15 work sets on back with a mix between 4-6 rep range and 6-10 and then I finish with 6 sets on biceps. For push, I do 12-14 work sets, mostly heavy, with just a few sets going above 8 reps and then finish off with 6 sets on triceps. For legs I do 13 work sets. Do you think that this is too much? Also do you think it would be a good idea to move some shoulder exercises onto leg day so I can prioritise more on back and chest on pull and push days?

    • With two off days and 12-14 working sets per day, you’re OK. But, I would strongly consider an increased deload frequency of perhaps every 6-7 weeks to prevent overtraining. You’ll have to make the judgement call on that one, since everyone’s ability to recover is different.

      As long as you keep the same number of sets, you can move the shoulders, sure. I recommend keeping them in push day, though. You’re already getting plenty of pressing done as it is.

      • Dave

        Ok thanks! I do make sure I have a deload week every 2-3 months which always helps to keep things in check.

  • G.A.

    Hi Mike,

    I am in a 3-day routine, twice a week (chest/tri, back/biceps, legs/shoulder). I would like to know your opinion on what would be the optimal amount of exercises per muscle group, number of sets and reps for each in this case. Thanks!

  • The Dude

    Hi Mike!!

    I am currently doing ~96 intense reps per major muscle every 6 days. Basically 4 exercises per muscle, each with 3 sets of ~8 reps = 96 reps. I am 22 years old.

    Do you think that reducing my muscle workout frequency to once every 7 days AND cutting down on the total rep volume to 60-75 would give me better results?

    Or is this split OK as long as I don’t get injured? By the way my main aim is to pack on lean muscle like you 🙂

    Thanks so much for the help man!

  • sean_noonan

    hey quick question. Kinobody says training 3 days a week is most optimal for strength gains and im not really sure what to do with my routine right now im currently training 5 days with a simular to bigger leaner stronger workout just different order. Would you say it really matters how many days you train or is it kinda just weekly volume that matters most?

    • Weekly volume is what matters most, and you can still get great results with a 3-day split, but I have found people get better results, faster with the 5-day split.

      But sure, give it a try and see how it goes!

      • sean_noonan

        i might just do the 5 day split just was unsure what worked best

      • sean_noonan

        hey my bench seems to be struggling more now. This happened with my squat to but I dropped weight 20lbs and after 2 weeks I’m back at 315 where I was before. I dropped like 20 pounds on bench today to hit reps. I haven’t really lost size and I don’t look different or lost weight other then 2 lb. Is this normal and does t mean muscle loss?

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