The Perfect Work Out Frequency For Natural Lifters
Alright, I have seen enough. Given I do not care whether or not someone is on drugs (anabolics), the increase in fake Youtube naturals, novice lifters taking drugs, and popularized bodybuilding routines by IFBB pros has messed up people's perception of work outs. We have people thinking that the best way to grow muscle is to train it once a week to where they can't even move that bodypart for days. They can be seen in the gym 5-7 days a week for 3 hours at a time....looking the same year after year. No wonder the rate of gym rats either quitting or resorting to drug use has increased drastically lately. Even through my own eyes I have seen the number increase in such a short time. Countless times I have heard "maybe this is my genetic limit" from guys who can't even lift 315, let alone 225. If you have no condition holding back your body's ability to function properly, hitting a 225 (even 315) lift can be done by ALMOST ANYONE with a decent routine. Call it an opinion, but I believe any male can and should hit a 315 lift within their first year or two of training. It's just not that hard. My brother and I have had clients believe they couldn't hit those weights and ended up hitting them in only MONTHS! Now when you get to 405 and beyond, that's where other factors can come into play. With that being said, it is that lack of efficient training that makes individual's believe that they need to resort to "genetic potential expanding supplements" or quitting due to not progressing. In this article I will cover the PERFECT work out frequency for NATURAL lifters.
What Does The Science Say?
I am going to save you the time of reading through my opinions and dive right into what the studies have concluded. When aiming to build muscle, your goal is to stimulate MPS (muscle protein synthesis). During the time of elevated MPS is the duration of time which your muscles are recovering and growing. When looking for the ideal work out frequency, your goal is to allow MPS to be elevated and stay above baseline (normal sedentary levels) before stimulating MPS again. Allowing your muscles to fully recover, then stimulating them right after is crucial for avoiding detraining (muscles are past the point of recovery and start to atrophy due to lack of stimulus) and optimizing your progress over time. With all of that being said, the question then becomes "when should I stimulate my muscles again in order to optimize muscle growth?" Below I will discuss and link some studies that have the answer!
Study One: IN THIS STUDY the men in the study were all experienced lifters and were separated in two groups. One group followed a full-body routine (hitting each muscle three days a week) and the other group followed a "bro-split" (hitting each muscle one day a week). Volume and intensity was equated for (both groups did the same amount of work, just split up or all in one day) and intensity being the same (percentage of one rep maximum were the same for all participants). The results showed that the full-body group developed significantly greater muscle thickness, as compared to the bro-split group.
Study Two: IN THIS STUDY six healthy young men performed 12 sets of 6-12 repetitions with elbow flexion exercises with their other arm serving as the control (compared MPS in arms). Averaging around 36 hours, the MPS in the exercised arm was within 14% of the control arm's value (which is non-significant). This study concluded that MPS increased more than double at 24 hours post-exercise, but then rapidly decreases to baseline by 36 hours post-exercise.
Study Three: IN THIS STUDY there were eight untrained individuals (4 male and 4 female) who participated. The participants performed 8 sets of 8 concentric or eccentric repetitions with 80% of their one repetition maximum. The study measured their mixed muscle protein fractional synthesis rate (FSR). When measuring FSR post-exercise, measurement increases resulted as: 3 hours post exercise= 112%, 24 hours post-exercise=65%, and 48 hours post-exercise=34%. Muscle breakdown also increase by exercise within 48 hours, but by 48 hours had returned to resting levels. The study concluded that there was an increase in the net protein balance for up to 48 hours post-exercise and was unrelated to the type of contraction.
What Does All This Mean?
Information gathered from these study conclude that in order to optimize your muscle growth you must stimulate the muscle to elevate muscle protein synthesis, then wait until the muscle breakdown has halted before providing more stimulus. Instead of wreaking havoc on your muscles one day a week, it is better to "stimulate, not annihilate" your muscle more frequently in order to elicit more spikes in muscle protein synthesis.
What Work Out Split Options Do I Have?
Through my own experience and through the conclusions of these studies, work out split options for optimizing your muscle protein synthesis are: full-body routines, push/pull routines, upper/lower routines, and many others incorporating muscle stimulus 2-3 times a week per muscle group. I have used each one of these routines with great success and each can be used by any natural athlete. The question then becomes, which routine do you have more time for and prefer? Full-body routines may have you in the gym longer, but for only 3 days out of the week, Push/pull routines may be a little shorter, but have you in the gym 4 days a week, and so on. It comes down to which routine that allows you to stay focused, keep muscle protein synthesis elevated, avoid under-recovering, and most importantly ENJOY THE PROCESS.
Natural lifters need to take more into consideration than they think when going about their fitness journey. By optimizing work out frequency, you can allow yourself to keep elevating muscle protein synthesis while also fully recovering from session to session. Optimizing stimulus plus optimized recovery means optimized RESULTS!!! Avoid the hype in magazines, talk from professional athletes (majority are on some form of PED), or chatter from a gym rat who looks the same year after year. Look at the scientific literature, weigh out your options, and work smarter not harder.