How often to workout a muscle a week?

August 19th, 2007 by Paul Johnson

How often we should target a muscle group per week is one of the oldest training routine arguments amongst bodybuilders.

Comparison between workout programs:

To get an understanding of the differences here are some popular bodybuilding routines.

1) HST advocates hitting the muscle 3 times a week. Routines are low volume.

2) HIT advocates usually hitting the muscle twice a week.

3) Volume routines advocate once or twice a week.

4) The most common 3 day split used by many bodybuilders, targets the muscle just once a week.

5) Extreme hardgainer routines, such as the one from Stuan McRobert, author of beyond brawn targets one muscle group per week.

6) Doggcrapp training, a high intensity low volume routine, advocates hitting the muscle 2 times a week.

Which workout is right about muscle frequency?

Unfortunately, it seems to be all over the map. Some workout routines deemed fit for "hardgainers" do more muscle frequency then some of the volume routines. What this means is, like most things in bodybuilding, most don't have a clue of who is really right.

Studies:

The only workout listed earlier, designed off of scientific studies is HST. According to their sponsored research, hitting the muscle 3 times a week at low volume, is best for maximum muscle gains.

I looked for studies to see if I could help find an answer.

A study published in J Strength Cond Res. 2007 Feb;21(1):204-7
was done on 29 untrained volunteers. The first group did 3 sets
of 10 reps for 9 excercises twice a week. The other group trained 3 times a week but did 2 sets of 10 reps for 9 excercises, so both groups had equal volume. Both increased lean mass, and one rep max strength in excercises, but there was no difference between the two groups. Researchers concluded that volume, not muscle frequency is the main component of muscle growth and strength.

Another study published in J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2007 Mar;47(1):13-7 done on 21 untrained females, divided into 2 groups. One group performed one set of leg press once a week, the other group twice a week, both for 8 weeks. Results showed strength gains in both groups, but no differences between the groups.

One interesting study from Res Q Exerc Sport. 2002 Dec;73(4):416-24 showed that children had significant better strength gains on twice a week workouts than once a week. The twice a week workout group essentially doubled their volume, from one workout to two workouts a week, of 12 sets of medium reps(10 to 15). Why the contradiction from the previous studies? I believe that since these kids are growing, they have faster recovery than adults. Therefore the higher frequency or volume significantly benefited them.

From these studies you can see that muscle frequency, seems to not be a major factor. I believe these studies, help support the argument, that total volume(sets per week) is probably the major underlining factor, not how often you workout the muscle a week.

  1. Damien Bell on October 3rd, 2010

    The most important thing is recovery recovery and recovery. Once a week is optimal for muscle mass. I achieved my incredible reults doing this, and sometimes, (like when doing negatives and drop sets with extreme weihts, I wouldnt train the bodypart for two weeks. With all my experimenting I am 100% convinced that twice a week is just to much. Intensity before volume. I tried twice a week with many variables of intensity and volume, but never achieved the same results as once a week training. Calves are an exception however.