– High-Frequency Training produces a greater increase in anabolic hormones and increases protein synthesis to help you build muscle.
– High-Frequency Training increases the speed of motor learning, helping you learn new skills, lifts, and exercises faster.
– High-Frequency Training can rapidly improve strength and accelerate muscle building in beginners and advanced lifters.
– High-Frequency Training does require a plan. You must reduce training volume to make it work.
With the vast number of training programs out there it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. After all, every new article seems to contradict the last and make building muscle way too complicated.
In reality, not much has changed over the years when it comes to human physiology. Building muscle still comes down to creating a response (training), fueling the body (sleep and food), and recovering from the stress response to training.
When it comes to muscle-building workouts you’re really limited to two options: training more often or doing more work within each workout or using a higher training volume.
Should you train one muscle group per workout and pound it into oblivion like a bodybuilder or would you be better training your muscles more frequently, but not to the point of utter destruction during each workout?
My experience says the later: more frequent but shorter workouts reign king for building muscle fast, especially for the average, non-steroid using lifter. Still, you’ll need to manage fatigue and train with shorter workouts to maximize your gains.
So, what does this mean for you, the busy guy who wants to add size to your chest, shoulders, and back and wonders, “what is the best way to gain muscle fast?”
Well, listen up my friend. High-frequency training is the answer.
Problems with Body-Part Splits
Body part splits, those often performed by high-level bodybuilders often aren’t the best option for busy (and non-juiced) guys who’re looking to build muscle.
First, most lifters aren’t advanced enough to really benefit from a ton of isolation exercises like curls because they don’t have the prerequisite strength to create the tension needed to grow.
Having an expertly designed plan with plenty of compound exercises (like squats or rows) can change this. Unfortunately, well-designed body-part splits are uncommon due to poor exercise selection, rep schemes, and total volume.
Second, most magazine generated body part splits take a long time. Let’s face it, you don’t have 90 minutes to train.
Third, the average busy guy misses training sessions, most commonly legs or back but never chest or arms, and thus, his training is unbalanced. This stunts growth and can open the door for injuries.
As a quick refresher, here’s what these typically look like:
- Monday: Chest
- Tuesday: Back
- Wednesday: Legs
- Thursday: Shoulders
- Friday: Arms
Yes, you probably feel more soreness after these workouts and it makes you feel like you’re doing everything you need to grow. But excess soreness isn’t a great indicator you’ll build more muscle. It simply means you’ve done more than your body is accustomed.
High-Frequency Training For Natural Lifters
Protein synthesis is a key driver of muscle growth. But if you’re a regular, steroid free lifter there is only so much protein you can trigger in one workout.
Further, protein synthesis stays elevated for roughly 24-36 hours after training. In this case, more volume per workout is not better when it comes to building muscle, hitting your muscles more often is.
As a drug-free busy guy, your focus needs to be on getting stronger in the gym, triggering protein synthesis, and getting on with your life: not destroying every fiber of your biceps like a pro bodybuilder.
Further, when it comes to training like a bodybuilder consider the following: bodybuilders often focus their entire lifestyle on improving their physique. This means seven to ten hours of sleep, little alcohol, disciplined dieting, and maintaining this consistently for years.
This is more than the average dude with a 9-5, a social life, and a family can muster. You must work within the confines of your lifestyle and time commitments to maximize the results of your training, and this is precisely what I’m going to show you.
High-Frequency Training Builds More Muscle
The more often you stimulate a physiological response to training, the more often you boost protein synthesis and anabolic hormone levels to build muscle.
Here Are The Key Reasons High-Frequency Training Is Better for Helping You Build More Muscle:
Each time you train and eclipse your bodies’ minimum essential strain (MES), you trigger an anabolic response in the body. This results in an uptick in protein synthesis as well as triggering anabolic hormones like testosterone, IGF-1, and human growth hormone(Craig, 1989 et al).
In a 2010 study titled Anabolic processes in human skeletal muscle: Restoring the identities of growth hormone and testosterone, it was found that repeated phases of net protein balance, which are a response to repeated bouts of resistance exercise and protein ingestion, underpins muscle hypertrophy.
Further, a 2017 meta-analysis of 15 different studies published in theJournal of Sport Science said:“Results showed an incremental dose-response relationship whereby progressively higher weekly training volumes resulted in greater muscle hypertrophy.” This indicates training body parts more often is ideal for building muscle because of this in part, means a higher training volume overall. When you spread your training volume out throughout the week your muscles will have more time to recover and grow between workout sessions.
When programmed correctly, high-frequency training triggers more frequent protein synthesis, allows ample recovery time, and triggers more frequent secretion of muscle building hormones to help you build muscle faster.
High Frequency Improves Strength Gains
Placing an emphasis on getting stronger will directly build muscle if done by beginners while advanced trainees will progressively build muscle as a byproduct of greater work capacity.
With that in mind, getting strong must be an emphasis if you’re looking to build muscle as it helps you lift more weight for more reps, increasing training volume for greater stress to your muscles.
A 1997 study titled Isometric Torso Rotation Strength: effect of training frequency on its development 33 men and 25 women were tested for rotational strength before and after 12 weeks of training.
Groups split into training groups that exercise one, two, or three times per week. Although there were no major differences between groups training 2-3x per week, strength was significantly increased compared to the one time per week training group (DeMichele, 1997).
Then, in 2000 a study titled “Comparison of 1 Day and 3 Days Per Week of Equal-Volume Resistance Training in Experienced Subjects” took 25 experienced participants and randomly separated them into training groups.
Group one performed one day per week of strength training with three sets to failure, with rep ranges moving from three to ten reps per set.
Group two performed workouts three days per week with one set to failure per day while working in the same rep ranges.
Volume was the exact same, yet group two (high-frequency training group) had greater increases in both lean body mass and improved one-rep max strength.
With total volume held constant, spreading the training to three doses per week produced superior results in both strength and muscular hypertrophy.
Considerations for High-Frequency Training
High-frequency training is a relative term, so for all intensive purposes, high-frequency training is more often than you currently train.
There are three caveats to all of this.
First, no training plan is worth a lick if you can’t do it consistently. Your ability to complete full training cycles (and not program hop to the next “hot” workout) is arguably the most important factor for transforming your body.
Second, training frequency and training volume are inversely related. You can’t train most days of the week and train with a ton of volume (or weight) and expect to see results. It’s best to train 5-6 days per week with shorter workouts that hit major muscle groups in every workout.
Keep a moderate intra-workout volume to promote recovery and maximize growth. You’ll end up with a higher weekly volume without crippling soreness for better recovery and better muscle growth. More on this later.
Third, if you want to build muscle you need a slight caloric surplus. Too many lifters tend to forget this and blame hard gainer genetics when in reality, they need to eat and train consistently for longer than two months. The muscle building process is a slow, long-term game, as shown here by Lyle McDonald’s muscle growth model.
Train With Sufficient Volume
Training volume, the total number of reps and/or time under tension is an important variable for building muscle. Thus, you must look at training volume on a weekly basis rather than a per workout basis. Research has indicated between 30-60 reps per muscle group per workout to be ideal for building muscle.
Unfortunately, this is where most body-part splits miss the boat, drastically overshooting training volume. This becomes a little more practical with higher frequency, lower volume training plans, like the HFT program here.
Let’s say your chest was trained three times per week. You could hit your volume by doing the following:
Workout One: 55 reps
Barbell Bench Press 5×5 (25 total reps)
Cable Chest Fly 2×15 (30 total reps)
Workout Two: 40 reps
Weighted Dips 4×10
Workout Three: 50 reps
Dumbbell Incline Bench Press 5×10
Important: Please note this isn’t the only training you’d be doing on those days.
As you can see, this provides a much more practical way to spread your training out across the week.
I routinely recommend five-minute micro-routines to accelerate muscle growth. These also do wonders for the “I’m too busy crowd” who only has a few minutes to spare most days of the week.
In the case of high-frequency training, mini-workouts to stimulate muscles will induce bouts of protein synthesis and increases in anabolic hormones to get you jacked.
Use this brief circuit, all you need is a doorframe chin-up bar or a mini-band. Hit this workout 2-3x/ week on non-training days or 8-12 hours apart from a typical training session.
1a. Chin Up 3×5 or band pull-aparts 4×15
1b. Push-Up 3-15-20
1c. Bodyweight Squats 3×15
Preserve the Nervous System
You can’t train hard, heavy, and explosive every single day. If you did, you’d end up a tired, weak, cortisol ridden mess. To optimize muscle growth with high-frequency training you must alternate heavy and explosive workouts with lighter, less demanding workouts. Remember, you can only grow from the workouts you can recover from.
In other words, one day is spent working with more explosive exercises and higher overall training loads and another day with submaximal weights and higher training volumes.
Build Muscle Fast with High-Frequency Training
As long as you keep your workouts short and focused you will see incredible results with high-frequency training. You’ll improve technique on your big lifts and build strength faster by practicing them more often.
Since you’re training more frequently, you’ll increase work capacity throughout your entire body, allowing you to train harder and longer in the future.
Plus, you’ll stimulate anabolic hormones and protein synthesis more often to build more muscle than training with less frequent, body part splits.
It’s time to drop the body-part split act and get serious about building muscle. High-frequency training is the answer.
DeMichele, P. L., Pollock, M. L., Graves, J. E., Foster, D. N., Carpenter, D., Garzarella, L., Brechue, W., & Fulton, M. (1997). Isometric torso rotation strength: effect of training frequency on its development. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 78(1), 64-69. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9014960
MacDougall JD, Gibala MJ, Tarnopolsky MA, MacDonald JR, Interisano SA, Yarasheski KE. The time course for elevated muscle protein synthesis following heavy resistance exercise. Can J Appl Physiol. 1995 Dec;20(4):480-6
McLester, J., Bishop, E., & Guilliams, M. (2000). Comparison of 1 day and 3 days per week of equal-volume resistance training in experienced subjects. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 14(3). Retrieved from http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/2000/08000/Comparison_of_1_Day_and_3_Days_Per_Week_of.6.aspx
Phillips SM, Tipton KD, Aarsland A, Wolf SE, Wolfe RR. Mixed muscle protein synthesis and breakdown after resistance exercise in humans. Am J Physiol. 1997 Jul;273(1 Pt 1):E99-107
Phillips, S., & West, D. (2010). Anabolic processes in human skeletal muscle: restoring the identities of growth hormone and testosterone. Physican and Sportsmedicine, 38(3), 97-104. doi: 10.3810/psm.2010.10.1814