At any point in time during your training you have the ability to change three variables:
- Intensity: the level of difficulty of each workout. If you have high intensity workouts, generally you will only be able to work out each muscle group a single time during the week.
- Volume: the amount of sets and repetitions performed during each exercise. If you are working large amounts of volume into your program, you can perform with either intensity, or frequency.
- Frequency: the amount of times you decide to lift a specific movement or work on a certain muscle group. It has an inverse relationship with intensity, for most individuals and especially beginners.
You will need to adjust those variables to determine which style of training you are going to base your programming on. Any natural athlete (someone who isn’t using performance enhancing substances) or individual looking to put on muscle mass and lose fat to do should absolutely subscribe to a high frequency, high volume training psychology with low intensity.
This means that you need to work each main movement (squat, bench, and deadlift) at least twice a week. If you are brand new, I recommend only performing them once a week to focus on learning the movement. That is a three or four week process where you don’t worry about the weight and you don’t worry about lifting more than three times a week. You simply put all of your effort into learning how to go through each movement safely and effectively.
However, once you are past this initial stage, you should be crushing it in the gym multiple times a week. I’m talking to the people who really want to see the massive results. However, don’t go into the gym and absolutely destroy your body. I do not recommend that you ever reach muscle failure. Instead, I recommend something that I call repetition speed failure. This means that once you start slowing down and it becomes more difficult to lift with perfect form, you stop. A good example is found if one reviews the bench press. When you first get under the bar you are crushing your reps and the weight is flying off of your chest. However, once you have done a few reps it starts to get harder and you start slowing down. Once you reach a noticeable deduction in bar speed you simply rack the weight. Clearly, you need to pick a weight that is conducive to allowing you perform enough repetitions. This is just a good way to gauge your level of intensity.
You will be able to attack all of your muscle groups multiple times a week because each day that you workout will focus on a specific lift.
If you take a high frequency, high volume, low intensity approach to training, you are going to complete the same amount of total repetitions and sets per week as you would if you did a bro split that included 25 sets for each body part on a dedicated day (legs, chest, back, shoulders, arms, repeat). However, each repetition that you complete will be much more valuable.
If you only have one “chest day” a week, you probably perform a total of 25 or 30 sets for your chest which includes a variety of bench press angles, cable flies, and dumbbell accessory work. However, how strong are you really after you have done four other exercises? Do you think you are going to get much out of chest flies if you just did flat bench, incline dumbbell press, and around the worlds? Probably not.
However, if you have three upper-body days (notice the difference in sound and meaning between “chest day” and upper-body day?), you will still get the same amount of total sets for the week. However, each set that you perform will be useful and result in thick muscle mass being built. If you flat bench for five sets and then do incline dumbbell press for 4 sets, that is a total of 9 sets that aim to work your pectorals. However, because you chose to leave it at 9 sets, it allows you to train upper body three times a week and bench every time. In the end you are actually getting more volume in, leading to more muscle and fat loss.
However, that isn’t the best part. For every single set and repetition that you perform, you will have much better form and be able to handle a much greater weight because you aren’t already fatigued from doing a bunch of other exercises. On top of that, you will develop strong proficiencies in each movement, allowing you to move even heavier weights, thus allowing you to pack on even more muscle and shed even more fat! It is a wonderful cycle that builds into itself. Finally, you will be able to recover at a much greater rate, which is where the money is going to be made. As you recover faster, you will be able to kill it in the gym harder. This ends up with you obtaining a body that you have always wanted.