What’s The Best Training Frequency For Muscle Growth & Hypertrophy

If you wonder how often you should train to maximize muscle growth, you’ll want to read this article.

In it, you’ll discover the evidence-based truth about the best workout frequency so you can train according to a set up that’s ideal for your situation and goals.

HINT: Most traditional info on training frequency and following it will cause you to miss out on gains!

What is Training Frequency and Why Does it Matter?

Training frequency refers to how often you work out a particular muscle in a given time-frame, generally a week.

Bodybuilders often believe that training each muscle just once a week but with much volume during that session triggers the most growth.

In fact, a survey of 127 competitive male bodybuilders found that more than two-thirds of them trained each muscle group only once per week.(1)

Here’s an example of a “split routine” with which you train each muscle group once a week:

  • Monday: Chest and Triceps
  • Tuesday: Back and Biceps
  • Wednesday: off
  • Thursday: Shoulders and Abs
  • Friday: Legs
  • Saturday: off
  • Sunday: off

The survey mentioned above also found that the remaining one-third of the participating bodybuilders trained each muscle group twice a week.

Here’s an example of a split routine with which you train each muscle group twice a week:

  • Monday: Upper body
  • Tuesday: Lower body
  • Wednesday: off
  • Thursday: Upper body
  • Friday: Lower body
  • Saturday: off
  • Sunday: off

Interestingly, the survey found that none of the 127 bodybuilders trained a muscle group three or more times a week.

Still, here’s an example of a workout routine with which you train each muscle group three times a week:

  • Monday: Full body
  • Tuesday: off
  • Wednesday: Full body
  • Thursday: off
  • Friday: Full body
  • Saturday: off
  • Sunday: off

Now, these workout routines above are just three examples. There are many more ways that you can schedule your weekly workout volume, which stirs the question:

What’s the Best Training Frequency for Building Muscle?

If we were to believe traditional bodybuilding wisdom, it’s best to train each muscle group just once a week. If we look at the scientific research, however, we’ll come to a different conclusion.

Consider the following:

  • A study on twenty well-trained men looked at the difference in muscle growth between those who trained each muscle group once a week as opposed to those hitting it three times per week.

As a result, those who did three full-body workouts a week experienced superior gains.(2) That was even though both groups did the same amount of total training volume (sets x reps).

  • Another study compared muscle growth between completing all weekly training volume in one extensive full-body workout compared to spreading it out over three smaller full-body sessions.

The result? Lean body mass increased by a meager 1% in the one-day-a-week group but by 8% among those who trained each muscle three times a week.(3)

  • A four-week volume-matched study on 24 male rugby players compared three full body workouts a week to training each muscle only once a week with a “bro split.”

The finding was that the full-body group increased fat-free mass by 0.8% while the bro split men gained 0.4%.(4) That’s double the results for those who trained their muscles more often.

  • A study on 18 strength-trained men compared training each muscle five times a week with full-body workouts to once a week with a bodybuilding split.

As a result, the five-day a week group gained more mass on their biceps (11.2% vs 5.8%), triceps (11.2% vs 5.8%) and quads (9.7% vs 5.4%)(5)

In other words, you’ll build more muscle if you train each muscle three or more times per week compared to if you hit them only once… even if you would do the same amount of sets and reps on both routines.

But that’s not all.

Some data suggests that you’ll get even better results if you train each muscle more than three times a week.

For instance, one study had sixteen Norwegian powerlifters do an identical 15-week workout program. So, they did the same exercises, training volume, training intensity, and so forth.

The only difference, however, was that one group did all their training volume in six weekly sessions while the other group did three.

The result?

Those who trained three times per week gained, on average, 3.6 kg of fat-free mass. But those trained six times per week gained, on average, 5.6 kg of fat-free mass. (6)

In other words, even though all training factors were the same except for training frequency, those who trained more often gained more muscle.

Also, please note that the participants of the study were high-level lifters. The men and women squatted between 125 kg and 205 kg, bench pressed between 85 kg and 165 kg, and deadlifted between 155 kg and 245 kg.

So, even if you already sport a decent amount of strength and muscle, the study findings are still relevant to you.

Why Does Training More Often Trigger More Muscle Growth?

As we’ve seen, you’ll tend to get superior results if you train a muscle more often. But why is that the case? After all, contradicts traditional bodybuilding wisdom.

Well, one of the primary reasons why training a muscle more often boosts growth has you to with protein synthesis, a process which refers to how much proteins get build up and broken down in tissues.(7)

It works as follows:

  • If more proteins get broken down in a muscle than get built up, you’ll lose muscle;
  • If more proteins get built up in a muscle than get broken down, you’ll build muscle.

Now, after your workout, protein synthesis increases to repair damaged muscle fibers and to add extra fibers to prepare you for similar stimuli in the future. That’s why weight training helps you build muscle.

The thing is, however, is that muscle protein synthesis only remains elevated for around 36 to 48 hours after a workout.(8) After that period, protein synthesis drops, and you won’t build much, if any, more muscle.

This means that if you train a muscle only once a week, you only stimulate growth for about 36 to 48 hours a week. During the other 108 to 120 hours, you’ll miss out on gains.

On the other hand, if you train a muscle every 48 hours, your muscles stay in a more “anabolic” state throughout the entire week. That’s why training each muscle more often allows you to pack on more muscle.

Two More Reasons Why It’s Best to Train Often if You Want to Build Muscle

Besides keeping protein synthesis elevated, there are two more benefits of training each muscle two, three, or even more times a week.

1. Improved training quality:

If you train a muscle more often, you can spread out your training volume for that muscle over more workouts. That benefits muscle growth because you’ll be able to do more high-quality sets.

For instance, after you do four sets of balls-to-the-wall squats, you won’t be able to perform at your best on the next leg exercise. The third leg exercise will suffer even more. And the fourth one will be garbage.

If you spread these exercises out over the week, however, your performance won’t be as much affected by fatigue, which means you can use more weight on each set.

In other words, you can place higher-quality stimuli on your muscle if you divide your training volume over the week.

2. Less muscle soreness

Have you ever noticed that if you train a muscle two, three, or even more times a week for a while, you experience less muscle soreness after each workout compared to if you would train a muscle only once a week?

The reason for this is that training more often reduces delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after each session.(9)

So, regular training means less muscle damage after a workout, which means you recover faster from each session and can do more total training volume.

Sounds good, right? But before you bump up your training volume, it’s important to note that…

Training More Often Isn’t Always Better

As we’ve seen, you’ll get superior results if you spread out your training volume for a muscle over multiple sessions as compared to one.

We also saw that when high-level powerlifters divide their training volume over six weekly workouts instead of three, they gained more muscle.

But before you start to train each muscle daily, hold on for a second. There are two reasons why it’s not always better to work out more often.

1. Increasing training frequency can be impractical

You’ve got things to do, people to meet, and places to visit. That’s why it may already tough for you to go to the gym a few times a week.

Now, if you would bump up your train frequency for each muscle to four, five, six, or even seven times a week, your life will largely revolve around working out.

Sure, it may benefit your gains. But if you want to get excellent results without making the gym your life, you can also do so by training each muscle two or three times a week.

2. When done wrong, a high training frequency can set you up for overtraining

If you would spread out the training volume you would usually do in one session over more session, you won’t increase your risk of overtraining. In fact, you’ll recover better between sessions.(6)

However, that’s not how most people approach it. When they increase training frequency, they also tend to bump up training volume.

So, let’s say they would train each muscle only once a week for 12 sets in total. If they then start to hit each muscle three times a week, they also triple their total training volume. And if that’s the case, your risk of overtraining soars.

Here’s What I Recommend You to Do:

If you want to optimize muscle growth, train each muscle two or three times a week. This provides an excellent balance between practicality and making gains.

An example of such a routine can be doing full-body workouts three times a week. For instance, complete a full-body workout on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

  • Monday: Full body workout 1
  • Tuesday: –
  • Wednesday: Full body workout 2
  • Thursday: –
  • Friday: Full body workout 3
  • Saturday: –
  • Sunday: –

As previously stated, if you bump up your training frequency, you should maintain your current training volume. The only thing that changes about your training volume is that you will spread it out over more sessions.

For example, let’s say you currently do fifteen sets per week for a muscle in one session.

If you then switch to training a muscle three times a week, you may now do five sets for that muscle on Monday, five sets on Wednesday, and five sets on Friday.

Now, besides doing three full-body workouts a week, there are a variety of training setups from which you can choose. Here are some more workout routines that train each muscle group two or three times per week.

Full-body twice a week (you’ll train each muscle twice per week):

  • Monday: full-body workout 1
  • Tuesday: off
  • Wednesday: off
  • Thursday: full-body workout 2
  • Friday: off
  • Saturday: rest
  • Sunday: rest

It’s not ideal to train only twice per week if you want to build muscle. That’s especially true once you become more advanced. However, if you can’t train more often, make sure you do full-body workouts for both sessions.

In addition, doing two weekly full-body sessions is also a valid approach to maintain muscle mass when you’re forced to scale back on training time.

Examples are when you have an exam period or must focus on a time-consuming business project.

Standard upper-lower split (you’ll train each muscle twice per week):

  • Monday: upper-body workout 1
  • Tuesday: lower-body workout 1
  • Wednesday: off
  • Thursday: upper-body workout 2
  • Friday: upper body-workout 2
  • Saturday: off
  • Sunday: off

Full-body workouts can be tough. Some people just don’t have the energy to do various compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and chin-ups in one workout.

If that’s the case for you, the solution can be to divide your training volume over upper and lower-body sessions.

Doing so makes each workout easier compared to full body workouts, although it also means you’ll have to hit the gym more often to hit each muscle with the same frequency.

High-volume upper-lower body split (you’ll train each muscle three times per week):

  • Monday: upper-body workout 1
  • Tuesday: lower-body workout 1
  • Wednesday: upper-body workout 2
  • Thursday: lower-body workout 2
  • Friday: upper-body workout 3
  • Saturday: lower-body workout 3
  • Sunday: off

Once you get close to your natural genetic muscle building potential, you must increase training volume to keep making progress.

Since you’ll train two times more a week on this routine than on the previously-outlined upper-lower split, you can do more training volume on this variation.

If you’re a beginner or intermediate lifter, however, don’t use this approach. Instead, do three full-body workouts a week or do two upper and two lower body-workouts.

Modified push-pull-legs routine (you’ll train each muscle twice per week):

  • Monday: push muscles workout 1
  • Tuesday: pull muscles workout 1
  • Wednesday: leg muscles workout 1
  • Thursday: push muscles workout 2
  • Friday: pull muscles workout 2
  • Saturday: leg muscles workout 2
  • Sunday: off

In this case:

  • Push muscles are chest, front delts, side delts, and triceps;
  • Pull muscles are back, rear delts, and biceps;
  • Leg muscles are glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, abs, and calves.

This push-pull-legs split can be a good choice for those who prefer to do shorter workouts. After all, full-body and upper-lower body workouts tend to be longer in duration.

That said, doing a push-pull-legs routine means you’ll have to hit the gym six days a week to only train each muscle twice.

So, from a time efficiency perspective, it’s better to do full-body or upper-lower body workouts.

Morning vs. Evening Workouts − What’s Best for Gaining Muscle?

By now, you know how often you should train each muscle for optimal gains. But at what time of the day should you do these workouts? Or is that irrelevant?

Well, even though most lifters rarely discuss training timing, it can have a significant impact on your gains.

Consider the following:

In a 2016 study, scientists compared the effectiveness of doing a 24-week workout program in the morning between 6:30-10:00 and in the evening between 16:30-20:00.(10)

The result? Both groups gained similar strength and endurance, but those who trained in the evening gained much more muscle.

What’s more, another study compared the progress of 16 bodybuilders who either trained before 10 in the morning or after 6 in the evening. And, once more, those who trained in the evening gained much more muscle.(11)

Training in the evening

Interesting, right? But why does training later during the day produce better results? Researchers believe the following two factors are of influence:

  • Your workout performance is higher in the evening. This means you can place a greater muscle building stimuli on your muscles if you train later.(12)

The reason for this performance increase is that core temperature peaks in the evening, which enhances muscle activation, nervous system efficiency, energy metabolism, and blood flow.(13)(14)(15)

  • Muscle anabolic signaling post-workout is higher in the afternoon than in the morning.(16)(17) That’s because testosterone production is higher at night while cortisol secretion is lower.(18)(19)

The Bottom Line on How Often You Should Train

Just because most bodybuilders use “bro splits” doesn’t mean it’s ideal. As we’ve seen, you’ll build more muscle if you train each muscle more often per week.

So, if you currently train each muscle only once a week, bump up your training frequency.

While the best training frequency depends on your situation, goals, and schedule, a tested and proven way to grow mass is by doing three full-body workouts a week.

As an excellent alternative, you can also do two upper-body and two lower-body workouts per week.

What is your view on training frequency? And what type of workout routine do you use? Let us know by commenting below.