Weight Training Frequency for Optimal Results

The best weight training frequency for optimal results depends on the intensity of each individual workout. If a high volume of exercises and sets is performed for each muscle group, a longer recovery time is needed. This means that less frequent weight training workouts are necessary to build muscle.  If a low volume of exercises and sets are performed, less recovery time is needed. In this case, more frequent weight training workouts will be necessary to produce results.

The larger muscle groups, like chest, back and legs, generally need at least 12 total sets to stimulate muscle growth. This can be accomplished by performing these 12 sets one time per week, or performing 6 sets twice a week, or performing 4 sets three times per week. Smaller muscle groups, like shoulders and arms require less total sets due to their involvement in assisting the larger muscle groups.

If you are new to weight training, most research and expert recommendations point towards a frequency of 3 times per week as being ideal for you.

If you are past the beginner stage (working out seriously for more than a few months), all research and expert recommendations pretty much agree that a weight training frequency of about twice per week for each muscle group is ideal.

If you train each muscle group just once a week, you will need to get the entire weekly workout volume for each muscle group, each workout.  If you are only going to train each muscle group once per week, you need to ensure that you provide enough of a weight training stimulus during that single weekly workout to warrant not training each muscle group again for an entire week. If you fail to do this correctly, the muscles will recover long before it is time to train them again. In the period of time between when the muscles are recovered and the next time you train them, the muscles can actually begin to regress as though virtually no progress was made during that previous workout. What is essentially happening is that you are undertraining.

This one muscle group a week weight training frequency appears to be the least effective for most people. It is still popular, as it tends to work really well for people using any sort of “assistance” (like steroids or other muscle enhancing drugs), people who have amazing genetics, and bodybuilders who have pretty much already reached most of their muscle building potential. As these are the people that most of us try to look like, we often try to do what they do. For most average, normal people, working out like this can be a less than optimal way to train.

It is advisable to consult with a Certified Fitness Professional who can assist you in getting the most benefit from your weight training program.

Natalie Gibbins is a San Diego Personal Trainer, who’s passion for weight training and fitness began in 1989, while living in England. She was providing Personal Training in Point Loma in a Liberty Station gym for 10 years, before opening The Private Gym in Ocean Beach, where she helps people of all ages lead healthier lives.


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