Can you make a muscle grow by training it 5 times a week?

Create: 2019-10-12
Update: 2019-10-12
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Here’s a question that rolled in the other day:

“I like routine. I don’t want to burn a lot of brain cells figuring out which ‘day’ it is. I don't like to split anything. I like to go to the gym and work out every body part five (or so) days a week. 5 (or so) minutes of this. Five minutes of that. For about an hour. I figure ... by the end of the week it should all add up. I reason to myself ... I'm sure all the fitness gurus will tell me I am doing it wrong ... But at least I'm doing it ... Which is more than I can say when I try doing ‘arms’ day or ‘legs’ day. I invariably fall off the wagon when I split up days.

“Any thoughts on this? Will I gradually gain over time doing this? Or am I just exercising to no apparent end?”

Here’s my answer:

In days gone by, you would almost certainly have been told that you were "doing it wrong.”

Training a muscle group five days a week is just going to leave you overtrained and burned out.

However, there have been several recent trials to show that the "five minutes of this and five minutes of that" approach can work surprisingly well.

Probably the most relevant study involved a comparison between training a muscle once a week versus a full-body workout performed five times a week, Monday through Friday.

The once-a-week group did two exercises per workout for 5-10 sets per exercise, while the full-body group did 11 exercises for 1-2 sets per exercise. Both workouts lasted a little over 30 minutes.

On average, the men had been training for 6.5 years, could bench press a maximum 130% of their own bodyweight and squat with around 165% of their own bodyweight. So we’re not talking about advanced strength athletes here. But they were a long way from “untrained beginner” status.

After eight weeks, there were no significant differences in terms of strength or size gains between the two groups – 10-15 sets distributed over the course of five days increased muscle mass and strength similarly to the same number of sets performed once a week.

In fact, the full-body group did register a slightly greater increase in lean body mass than the once-a-week group. With a longer study (remember, the training program only lasted eight weeks), the difference in gains between the two groups may have been larger.

But, it’s also possible that hitting a muscle group five days a week would, over time, have become too much to recover from, leading to slower gains in strength and size.

In short, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the “five minutes of this and five minutes of that” approach to training.

Do I think it’s the best approach for everyone? No.

My own training program doesn’t involve hitting a muscle five times a week, nor is it an approach I recommend in Muscle Evo [https://muscleevo.com].

However, there’s no universally “correct” training frequency that will apply to all people all the time, and you’ll need to experiment to find out what works best for you and your body.

Talk soon,

Christian

Christian Finn, M.Sc.
Founder of Muscle Evo

Office 22814
PO Box 6945
London England W1A 6US
UNITED KINGDOM

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