Here’s a question that arrived at Muscle Evo HQ this morning:
“You’ve explained on your website that training muscle groups more than once per week is more optimal for growth and this explains the popularity of workout templates such as upper lower splits.
“What then confuses me is why do most bodybuilders, whose aim is to be as muscular as possible, train each body part once per week? Wouldn’t they naturally incline towards a more result producing routine to boost their results?”
It’s a good question.
After all, bodybuilders are some of the most muscular people on the planet.
While there’s no universal training template followed by all bodybuilders all of the time, most of their training programs do have a few things in common.
And working a muscle group once a week certainly appears to be one of those things.
One study I looked at, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, surveyed a group of 127 competitive bodybuilders.
It shows that 7 out of 10 trained each muscle group once a week. The rest did it twice a week.
So why are these guys (whose main aim is to be as muscular as possible) hitting a muscle group once a week, and I’m telling you to do it more often?
What’s going on?
First off, we have the drug factor to consider.
In the survey I just mentioned, almost 8 out of 10 of the respondents who competed in amateur bodybuilding reported using anabolic steroids.
And they were just the ones who admitted it.
If I was on the sauce, and knew that getting caught would land me in trouble, I certainly wouldn’t be telling anyone about it in an online survey.
If you look at the way bodybuilders trained before drugs arrived on the scene, hitting a muscle group more frequently was a lot more popular than it is now.
Even back in the day when Arnold was winning Mr. Olympia contests (when drug use was widespread) he was still training a body part more often than once a week.
There’s also the “that’s how it’s always been done and it seems to work just fine” line of thinking.
Some guys will always do what they’ve always done, or at least what is commonly accepted practice in bodybuilding circles.
Nothing to say they wouldn’t get better results with more frequent training.
Next up is genetics.
If someone has great “muscle building” genetics, they can often get away with training (and nutrition) methods that are less than optimal.
There may also be a small set of people who thrive on training less frequently, and these people simply haven’t been picked up in the research that’s been done to date (the majority of which shows faster muscle growth training a muscle more often than once a week).
None of which matters anyway, because the only thing that counts is what works for you.
I will always recommend an approach to training and diet that I think will work for most people, most of the time.
But “most people, most of the time” doesn’t mean all people, all of the time.
There will always be exceptions and outliers.
If you’re seeing results training a muscle group once a week, then stick with it.
I’ve known plenty of people build muscle with that type of approach.
There is no universally correct training frequency that works equally well for everyone.
Nor are there rigid guidelines that determine exactly what your training routine should look like.
But if you’ve been used to hitting a muscle group once a week or less, it’s worth experimenting with an increased training frequency for the next few months to see if it works any better.
SEE ALSO: THE MUSCLE BUILDING CHEAT SHEET
If you're fed up spending hours in the gym with nothing to show for it, then check out The Muscle Building Cheat Sheet.
It's a "cut the waffle and just tell me what to do” PDF that tells you exactly how to go about building muscle. To download a copy, please click or tap here.
ABOUT CHRISTIAN FINNChristian Finn holds a master's degree with distinction in exercise science, is a former personal trainer and has been featured on BBC TV and radio, as well as in Men's Health, Men's Fitness, Fit Pro, Zest, and Perfect Body magazine.