Training Each Muscle Group With A Once Per Week Workout Frequency

One of the three most common weight training frequencies is one in which each muscle group or body part is trained just once per week.

For anyone who has spent any time trying to find a workout split and schedule before, this is probably the frequency you are most familiar with seeing.

Whether or not that means a once-per-week frequency is actually what’s best for you is something we’re going to figure out right now.

First, let’s take a look at a few common examples of this type of frequency…

Example Split #1

  1. Monday: Chest & Triceps
  2. Tuesday: Back & Biceps
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: Shoulders & Abs
  5. Friday: Legs
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Example Split #2

  1. Monday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Legs & Abs
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Back & Biceps
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

As you can see, the example workout splits above (of which there are dozens more) show each muscle group and body part being trained with a frequency of only once per week.

This means that each muscle group gets trained just once every 7th day, which makes this a pretty low frequency form of weight training.

How To Make A Once-Per-Week Training Frequency Work

The key to making a once-per-week training frequency work is ensuring that you provide enough of the right training stimulus during that one weekly workout to actually warrant not training that muscle group again for an entire week.

You see, one of the many pitfalls of training each muscle group just once per week is that you are not training it again for another 7 days. And, it’s very easy for your body to de-train during this time and lose whatever progress you made during that previous workout.

Think about it. What happens if you stop working out for a while?

You regress, results gradually disappear, and you slowly lose whatever muscle, strength or performance related improvements you’ve made.

To a lesser degree, that’s exactly what can (and often does) happen when you wait a full week before training each muscle group again.

You may end up doing enough to stimulate progress and new adaptations during your workout, but then by the time a full week passes, you’ve already lost those new adaptations and you end up getting nowhere.

So, to make this frequency work, volume (exercises, sets, reps) per muscle group would need to be high enough to allow you to maintain the progress made from workout to workout (which in this case is a full week to week) without actually exceeding your capacity to recover. (More about that here: The Optimal Workout Volume)

The Other Problem With This Frequency

The other big issue with training each muscle group just once per week is that, even if you did do everything perfectly (provided enough of the right training stimulus, maintained all of the new adaptations made over that 7 day break, etc.), it’s still a full week of time being wasted.

Think about it. Training each muscle group once per week means you’ll have 52 potential progress stimulating workouts per year, per muscle group.

In comparison, if you trained with a twice-per-week frequency (more about that soon), you’d have 104 potential progress stimulating workouts per year, per muscle.

Now, with all else being equal, which do you think has the potential to produce better/faster results over the same period of time?

Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?

The point I’m getting at here is that even if you do everything right with a once-per-week training frequency, it’s still pretty tough to look at that week off between training sessions for each muscle group as anything but an unnecessary waste of time.

You could have been back in the gym stimulating progress again instead of sitting around waiting for a week to pass.

Not to mention, there’s absolutely nothing special or magical about training each muscle group once every 7th day.

It’s a totally arbitrary amount of time based on nothing but that fact that we happen to have 7 days in a week. Seriously. It’s NOT that it works better or has some kind of benefit, it’s just that that’s how many days we have in a week, and it’s convenient to schedule stuff in this manner.

So, Is A Once-Per-Week Training Frequency Optimal?

Based on everything I just told you, I think you already know the answer. I’ll say it anyway…

Training each muscle group once-per-week is the LEAST EFFECTIVE weight training frequency.

There… I said it. And no, it’s not just my opinion. It’s the opinion of every single qualified expert, trainer and strength coach with half a brain.

Oh, and guess what else? It’s not just an opinion… it’s a fact backed by science and real world results.

Literally all research and scientific studies looking at weight training frequency conclusively show that training each muscle just once per week is the least effective way to train regardless of your goal or experience level.

Can it work? Sure. Does it work? Sure.

Honestly, as long as you do everything else correctly, ANY weight training frequency can work to some degree, including this one.

HOWEVER, this isn’t about what works and what doesn’t work. This is about what works best and what works worst.

And, all research, expert opinions and my own firsthand experience shows that training each muscle group just one time per week is just NOT optimal for the majority of the population.

Who Is A Once-Per-Week Frequency BEST Suited For?

Training each muscle group once per week tends to work best for the following people:

  • People using steroids/drugs.
  • People with above average genetics.
  • People whose primary goal at the time is to just maintain their current level of muscle and strength rather than improve it any further. In that case, training each muscle group once per week should be perfectly sufficient.
  • Advanced trainees looking to specialize certain body parts or muscle groups. They’d train those “specialized” muscle groups with a better, higher frequency, and train everything else once per week for maintenance purposes only.

I’d personally only recommend this workout frequency to the last 2 groups on that list. The first 2 would likely get better results with an improved frequency, just like the rest of us.

Who Is A Once-Per-Week Frequency LEAST Suited For?

Like I said before, a once-per-week training frequency is NOT ideal for the majority of the population.

Chances are that includes you.

For starters, anyone with a strength/performance type goal should almost always avoid this type of training frequency like the plague. It’s typically seen as being borderline useless in that area, especially in comparison to other better training frequencies.

And, while it can work to some degree (assuming everything else is done right) for those of us trying to build muscle, get “toned,” or improve the way our bodies look in any capacity, it’s just clearly NOT what works best.

I don’t recommend it at all.

What About Other Weight Training Frequencies?

Good question. Let’s take a look at a higher workout frequency and see if that’s more ideal for you…

Training Each Muscle Group 3 Times Per Week

(This article is part of a completely free guide to creating the best workout routine possible for your exact goal. It starts here: The Ultimate Weight Training Workout Routine)

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Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.