When it comes to training frequency, on the site we often talk about something called effective frequency. It’s an important subject that can make all the difference when it comes to making gains.
Training frequency is quite simply how often you actually train. While this will depend on many factors such as individual genetics, whether you’re natty or not – in general, there are some rules that hold true across the board.
Because of these various techniques, programs and schools of thought have arisen.
Some people will train 3 days on 1 day off, some will train multiple times per day, some will train only a few times per week.
Effective Frequency, on the other hand, is all about how often you SHOULD train. This isn’t based on individual genetics but rather based on current ability. Both performance and recovery factor into this.
For example, if you are currently only lifting 120lbs on the bench press, your strength is low and therefore your ability to recover is relatively high.
Your performance levels are going to come down to two factors.
Strength: When it comes to strength you can give it your 100% best effort and still be weaker than someone who is at a more advanced level in regards to their development. There’s no shame in your game, especially when you’re working your butt off. But this is something we should all understand as being inherently true.
Volume: How much work you can actually do. How many reps overall, and the number of sets. How many exercises. Time Under Tension. All of that. The amount of volume you can handle will vary based on your fitness levels, rest periods and how much weight you’re lifting. And of course let’s not forget nutrition and adequate sleep/recovery.
So here’s the bottom-line. You or I aren’t going to be as strong as a pro. These guys will usually hit the gym for certain body parts once per week, do a shit load of volume and a shit load of weight. They f*$k shit up. Then they leave adequate time for recovery.
This isn’t because what they do is best. It’s what they do is best for them, right now. That’s their effective frequency.
Everybody recovers differently, and obviously there are various things you can do to improve your recovery. But a lot of this will come back to performance.
If you’re lifting huge numbers, you betcha ass it’s gonna take longer to recover. Even with perfect nutrition and everything else.
Effective frequency takes into account your own recovery ability. And in general a beginner for example is going to be able to hit their muscles multiple times per week. Simple as that.
If you don’t take into account your own relative ability to recover you’re leaving gains on the table. That’s the truth.
What Is Your Effective Frequency?
This is all going to depend on you understanding what I mean below… This below guide is an average guide. You’re not a pro if you can squat sick figures but you can only bench 200 for 5. Let’s be realistic and understand that this is talking about averages. #NoEgosHere
Beginner: Using Weights Under 180lbs
Intermediate: Using Weights Under 240lbs
Advanced: Using Weights Under 320lbs
Pro: Using Weights Under 550lbs
Giant: Whatever, asshole.
Beginners: You want to be focusing on upper/lower and push/pull/leg programs. This allows you to hit multiple muscles, multiple times per week. Most beginner programs recommend mostly focusing on the compound lifts since you want to focus on exercises that hit multiple muscles at once.
Intermediate: You can start focusing on either moving into some kind of a training split, or increasing volume e.g. instead of Day 1: Upper, Day 2: Lower you could even do AM: Upper, PM: Lower. This doubles your workload per day. You might be utilizing a few isolation exercises at this stage.
Advanced: At this point I’d expect you to be training on some kind of split and utilizing a lot of isolation exercises if your goal was bodybuilding. Compounds at this stage will require much more recovery for supplementing your training with isolation exercises is necessary.
Pro & Giant: Once per week or less per muscle group or training specific movements at certain times if the goal is strength training.
The Final Rep
Effective Frequency doesn’t have to be difficult. I’ve given you a rough framework to work with that will serve you well.