Training each muscle group once per week is considered the most common form of low frequency training.
On the other end of that spectrum, we have the concept of training each muscle group 3 times per week. This is what is typically considered to be the most common form of high frequency training.
The question is… is this the workout frequency that will work best for you? Let’s find out.
To start, let’s take a look at the most common example of this weight training frequency…
- Monday: Full Body
- Tuesday: off
- Wednesday: Full Body
- Thursday: off
- Friday: Full Body
- Saturday: off
- Sunday: off
Above is an example of the classic 3 day full body split, which is the split most commonly used with this frequency. As you can see, each muscle group and body part is trained 3 times per week.
This means that each muscle group gets trained once every 2nd or 3rd day, which makes this a pretty high frequency form of weight training.
This is especially true when compared to the previously mentioned once per week frequency where each muscle group gets trained only once every 7th day.
How To Make A 3-Times-Per-Week Training Frequency Work
The key to making a 3-times-per-week training frequency work is pretty much the opposite of what it takes to make a once-per-week frequency work.
Instead of ensuring that you provide enough of a training stimulus to warrant that full week of rest between training sessions of the same muscle group, your goal here is to provide just enough of the right training stimulus during each workout WITHOUT exceeding that ideal amount.
If the training stimulus is too high, you won’t be able to recover in time for the next workout (which is just 2 or 3 days later with a higher frequency like this).
So, while you must still do enough to provide an effective training stimulus that will cause positive results, you must keep it low enough to avoid impacting your body’s ability to recover in time for these more frequent workouts.
Here’s How People Screw It Up
And that brings us to one of the common pitfalls of training each muscle group 3 times per week (or really using any frequency greater than once-per-week).
Due to the higher frequency, that’s not only NOT going to work… that’s just plain stupid.
The trick here is to take that total weekly amount of volume and divide it up somewhat evenly over three workouts; not do the same amount of total weekly volume three times per week like an idiot.
The human body (muscles, nervous system, etc.) just can’t recover fast enough to make that work.
But, as long as the volume done per workout is low enough to allow for quick recovery yet still high enough to be effective, a weight training frequency like this can (and does) work for many people. (More about that here: The Optimal Workout Volume)
So, Is A 3-Times-Per-Week Training Frequency Optimal?
For certain people… hell yes. For others, not so much. Specifically…
If you are a beginner with any goal, a 3-times-per-week training frequency is the MOST EFFECTIVE way to train.
And by beginner, I mean anyone who has been weight training for LESS than 6 months consistently and intelligently. (My full definition of what I consider a “beginner” to be is here: Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced.)
And as usual, this is not just my opinion. It’s the opinion of every single qualified expert, trainer and strength coach with half a brain.
In fact, it’s actually a fact backed by science and real world results.
Literally all research and scientific studies looking at the effects of different weight training frequencies in beginners came to the same conclusion: training each muscle three times per week is the most effective way for a beginner to train, regardless of their specific goal.
So, if you’re a beginner with any goal (build muscle, lose fat, increase strength, or improve your body in any way), a 3-times-per-week workout frequency is indeed optimal for you.
As for everyone else, let’s break it down…
Who Is A 3-Times-Per-Week Frequency BEST Suited For?
Training each muscle group 3 times per week tends to work best for the following people:
- Beginners with any goal.
- Anyone with the primary goal of increasing strength.
It’s not a coincidence that every single intelligently designed beginner’s program tends to be some version of the classic 3 day full body split that I showed earlier. This is what has been proven to work best for beginners.
The higher frequency allows them to improve motor learning at a much quicker rate. It’s kind of like a baby learning something for the first time. How would they learn faster… doing something once a week, or doing it three times a week?
And, for all intents and purposes, a beginner is basically a weight training “baby.” It’s all brand new to their body, and that means they will be able to soak it all up and progress at a faster rate than non-beginners.
It just so happens that a 3-times-per-week training frequency is the most conducive to allowing this to occur.
In fact, this reason is also a big part of why this frequency is extremely effective for non-beginners whose primary goal is strength related.
Meaning, if you’re past the beginner’s stage and your main goal is getting stronger, a 3-times-per-week frequency is a very proven option for you, too.
This is why many of the most popular strength oriented programs around use this same frequency (along with that same 3 day full body split from before).
Being able to train each important movement as frequently as 3 times per week is a very good environment for consistent strength gains to be made. So if that’s your goal, this frequency can definitely be effective.
I highly recommend it in both of these cases.
Who Is A 3-Times-Per-Week Frequency LEAST Suited For?
Honestly, probably everyone not mentioned above.
Now, don’t misunderstand me here. Training each muscle group 3 times per week CAN in fact work for pretty much everyone with any goal and at every experience level.
No doubt about it.
However, what we’re talking about now is what works best and what doesn’t. For the people I mentioned above (beginners with any goal and anyone mostly interested in strength), this frequency fits the “what works best” description.
For the rest of the population at other experience levels and/or with other goals, it fits the “what doesn’t” description.
Yes, it can (and does) work, it’s just usually not what works best in these cases.
Well Then, What Workout Frequency Is Best In Those Cases?
Damn good question. Let’s get straight to the answer…
(This article is part of a completely free and awesome guide to creating the absolute best workout routine possible for your exact goal. Check it out: The Ultimate Weight Training Workout Routine)