Maximal Strength Gains? Scientists Stumble Upon Dirty Secret of Working Out More Than 3 Times Per Week (Frequency vs. Volume)

Workout Plans | Written by Jon Chambers | Updated on 30 December 2021

Man performs pushups in a gym while training with high volume instead of high frequency

If you’ve been around the bodybuilding and fitness community for long, you’ve undoubtedly heard the advice that “more frequency is more gains”.

And with most gym-goers adopting a tradition 5-day “bro split” that rotates between the main muscle groups, it would seem like the best approach.

Even taking a look at the strongest athletes in the world, we see that they definitely train more than 3 times per week.

So that means frequency is king, right?

As it turns out, that doesn’t seem to be the case—at all.

A study published less than two weeks ago in the U.S. National Library of Medicine claims to know the real secret behind making the most strength gains possible.

The answer? In one word: volume.

28 healthy and experiences gym-goers were randomly assigned to two groups. One of the groups worked out 6 times per week and the other group worked out only 3 times.

At a glance, it would seem obvious that the group that spent more time in the gym on more days would come out on top in the end.

But as the results would find, the groups actually made the same exact progress.

The catch is both groups performed the same amount of volume (repetitions and sets)—the individuals working out 3 times per week simply had longer workouts to equal the volume of those in the other group.

But What About High Frequency Training for Muscle Mass and Hypertrophy?

In this case, the answer is the same. How many repetitions and sets you work each muscle group will be directly tied to the amount of muscle mass you put on. While this is a clear oversimplification as recovery is also a key part of it (periodization is so, so critical here), you will almost always pack on more muscle from doing more than doing less.

Bottom line: how many times you work out per week doesn’t seem to have any effect on results—but how much volume you lift absolutely does.

With that said, for some individuals it is more convenient and preferable to have a larger number workouts throughout the week that are shorter in length.

Ultimately this proves that dogmatic, uncompromising approaches to fitness are often times bogus. In the end, make adjustments to your training that works for you and let the rest fall into place.

About the Author

Squatting 500 pounds on an ohio rogue bar with a sports hernia

Jon Chambers

Jon Chambers is a powerlifter, strength coach, sports hernia expert, and writer involved in the strength training community for almost a decade on a mission to create the best strength and fitness guides on the web.