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The Right Training Frequency for Muscle Growth

Q: Should I train each muscle twice a week or once a week for the best hypertrophy?

A: Rather than thinking that only one frequency mode will suit you, realize that using a variety of modes will stimulate greater growth. To paraphrase German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, What does not kill you makes you stronger. For example, here’s a six-week plan for exercises that work the chest:

Weeks 1-2: Twice a day, twice a week

Weeks 3-4: Once a day, twice a week

Weeks 5-6: Once a day, once a week

Using this type of planned overtraining (also known as selective overloading), followed by more conventional training has become popular with many elite Canadian athletes. Here’s a more detailed example. Note that 3/0/X/1 designates the rep tempo—lower in three seconds, zero pause, explode to lift and a one-second pause at the top.

Weeks 1-2

Monday and Thursday a.m.

A1) Wide-grip bench presses to neck, 3/0/2/1, 8 x 4, rest 240 seconds

A2) Flat-bench crossovers, 3/0/2/0, 10 x 3, rest 180 seconds

Monday and Thursday p.m.

A. Cambered-bar bench presses, 3/0/2/0, 10 x 4, rest 90 seconds

Weeks 3-4

Monday and Thursday a.m.

A1) Incline-bench presses, 3/0/2/1, 5 x 5, rest 240 seconds

A2) Dips, 3/0/2/1, 6 x 3, rest 180 seconds

Weeks 5-6

Thursday p.m.

A1) Bench presses, 3/0/2/1, 3 x 6, rest 5 minutes

A2) Close-grip bench presses, 3/0/X/1, 4 x 5, rest 3 minutes

If you are not improving, change your training frequency. Most bodybuilders train too much, so try experimenting with reduced frequency first. One reason that a few bodybuilders make progress for several weeks on heavy-duty programs is that they were so overtrained, it masked their true fitness level—and only when they reduced their training volume could hypertrophy occur.

Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Games. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit Also, see his ad in this issue.   IM

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