3 Reasons High-Frequency Training Is Objectively Better

WRITTEN BY Martijn Koevoets

High-Frequency Training is objectively better for 3 reasons. I can prove it. Read this blog if you want to know more.

The concept of training muscle groups multiple times per week is not new.

In fact, I found this piece of 2009 on Muscular Development talking about high-frequency training for mass.

It’s not a particularly good piece and what is called high-frequency training in that article is actually training a muscle group no more than twice a week.

It’s actually more a piece on hypertrophy specific training if anything else. And not a very good  one at that in my humble, yet accurate opinion.

There are better articles on high-frequency training out there. Quite a few written by yours truly. Here on Strengtheory for Greg Nuckols and here for Shredded By Science for instance.

The article from Muscular Development does however show that we need to have a clear definition of high-frequency training before we talk more on the topic.

High-Frequency Training Defined

Frequency of training means the number of sessions performed per unit of time. Most often, it is referred to as the number of training session per week.

Forget that definition.

I define frequency of training as the number of times each muscle group gets trained during a week.

For powerlifting, I consider training frequency to be high when most muscle groups are trained more than 3 times per week. Yet for some bodybuilders, training each muscle group twice a week is treated like voodoo magic!

Very much like the example from above.

3 Reasons High Frequency Training Is Objectively Better - Science - Powerlifting Blog

Yet elite Olympic weightlifters commonly train a lift up to 6 times a week. For example, squat variations are usually done every single training session, because their important role in the proper execution of the clean and snatch. Sometimes these lifts are even trained multiple times a day.

But does that automatically mean that high-frequency training for powerlifting is also a good thing?

That’s what you’re gonna find out amigo.

High-Frequency Training for Strength

Did you ever see Kill Bill Vol. 2? If you haven’t then let me tell you a little about it.

The main character is called Beatrix and must wreak vengeance on the team of assassins who betrayed her – a team she was once part of.

I will spare you the details, but at one point in the movie Beatrix is trained by a master in the ancient art of Kungfu. One of the techniques Beatrix must learn, is punching through solid wood. But not by taking a big swing. That would be too easy. No, she must place her finger tips on the wood and ball her fist to punch the wood.

3 Inch Punch - Powerlifting Blog

As you might imagine this takes some practice. And she practices until her knuckles bleed and until tears are streaming down her face.

I forget is she manages to punch through the wood in the movie, but she does use to escape from a coffin when she is buried alive.

“Cool story bro, but what has this to do with high-frequency training for strength?”

I don’t think any of the characters in that movie know about neuromuscular activation, but mastering the 3-inch punch is a skill very much so like any other.

The more you practice, the better you become at it. One of the reasons is that of improved or increased neuromuscular activation.

Strength Is A Skill

Strength is a skill like any other. The more you practice, the better you will get.

This is also what Hartman et al. found in 2007. They performed a 3 week study to compare the effects of once-daily and twice-daily training sessions.

The subjects were 10 nationally competitive male weightlifters. And the researchers measured isometric knee extension strength, vertical jump peak power and weightlifting performance.

3 Reasons High Frequency Training Is Objectively Better - Olympic Squat - Powerlifting Blog

The volume for both groups was the same. So that means both groups did the exact same amount of work.

At the end the researchers did not observe any significant differences in weightlifting performance between the two groups.

But there was a clear trend. The twice-daily group improved their isometric strength by 5% and their muscular activation improved by 20%.

In the once-daily group there was a 3% increase in strength and a 9% increase in neuromuscular activation.

The twice-daily group were able to activate their muscles better AND get stronger at a higher frequency!

Improvements in advanced athletes are often small and limited because these individuals are already both highly-skilled and near their genetic limits.

But even small improvements in performance, might give you a reason to consider a high-frequency training program.

High-frequency training seems to be a tiny bit better to increase strength. And stronger muscles have the potential to grow into bigger muscles.

But there’s another reason training more often can cause high-frequency training leangains…

High-Frequency Training for Hypertrophy

Protein Timing - Powerlifting Blog

I know, I know… The anabolic window does not exist and protein timing doesn’t matter because Schoenfeld and Aragon said so. Except it does exist and it does matter… Just not for untrained lifters.

Let me explain.

Atherton et al wrote a paper called “Muscle protein synthesis in response to nutrition and exercise”. In this paper, they show that weight training increases and prolongs muscle protein synthesis, but only in the muscles which were trained.

But unfortunately this increase in muscle protein synthesis doesn’t last forever.

It probably lasts for 48 to 72hrs for untrained individuals, and less than that for more advanced athletes.

Advanced athletes need to work extremely hard to grow any additional muscle. According to Alan Aragon, advanced athletes can only gain 0.25% to 0.5% of total body weight as muscle per month. So these athletes should definitely stimulate muscle growth in all muscles more often than rank newbies.

3 Reasons High Frequency Training Is Objectively Better - Dan Green - Powerlifting Blog

Something similar is also suggested by research by the Japanese researcher Mori in his paper from 2014. And even more recently by Felipe Damas and Stuart Phillips in their paper from 2015.

But truth be told, you would need to be a very, very advanced powerlifter to be worrying about this.

You know as well as I do that there are probably thousands of guys that are ultra jacked and tan that never train a certain muscle group more than twice a week.

So I wouldn’t worry too much about it, unless you have been training seriously for tens of years and are reaching your “genetic limit”.

But even if you aren’t near your genetic limit, and were to divide your protein evenly across the day like most people… It is still possible to double your strength and size with high frequency training.

High-Frequency Training for Fatigue Management

As you know, advanced athletes need to do a lot of work to become bigger and stronger.

That’s one of the reasons why high-frequency training for hypertrophy is the smart thing to do for advanced athletes. I just explained it above.

But there’s another reason.

When you need to do so much work that you are spending 3 hours in the gym, it’s probably better to divide that work into a high-frequency training routine with smaller sessions.

There is a study known as The Frekvensprosjektet (Norwegian for Frequency Project), it is not published in scientific journals. And I don’t think it will ever be…

3 Reasons High Frequency Training Is Objectively Better - Erle Engmark - Powerlifting Blog

In this project, 16 Norwegian powerlifters were assigned to one of two groups.

And when I say powerlifters, I mean athletes that trained for competitive powerlifting for at least 1 year. In addition to that, they had all competed in national Norwegian IPF-affiliated powerlifting competitions within the previous 6 months before the start of the experiment.

Both groups followed exactly the same training program, with one key difference.

The first group trained three times per week.

The second group did the same amount of work, but divided across 6 days of the week.

So both groups did the same amount of work during the week. To achieve this, the group training 3 times a week needed to do twice as many sets per session as the 6/week group.

After 15 weeks, it was the 6x/week group who literally got twice the results in strength and size when compared to the 3x/week group.

See for yourself.

  • The increase in the squat was 11±6% in the 6/week group vs. 5±3% in the 3/week group
  • Bench press increased 11±4% in the 6/week group vs. 6±3% in the 3/week group
  • In the deadlift, there was no significant difference when compared in both groups (9±6% vs. 4±6%)

Talk about impressive high-frequency training results.

From a fatigue management perspective, it isn’t hard to imagine that the 6x/week group was much less fatigued after each session.

They could start their next session in a much fresher state than the 3x/week group, even though the 3x/week group had an extra day for recovery between sessions.

High-Frequency Strength Training

High-frequency strength training FTW… Right?

No so fast amigo!

Yes. High-frequency training is objectively better. But this doesn’t mean that you need to start training 6 or 7 times a week.

The reality is that you have a life next to picking heavy shit up and putting it down. You have a job, a wife, kids… Friends. All that and more.

Like I said before… there’s a lot of top level powerlifters, jacked guys and gals that DO NOT train each and every day in their lives.

Remember, this is a hobby. Not your life.

If you DO have the time to train more, then it is something I recommend. If not, then don’t sweat it. As long as you are putting more weight on the bar, you’re doing just fine by me.

And that’s a wrap.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post about “3 Reasons High-Frequency Training Is Objectively Better”.

Feel free to tweet, like, tag and share with your friends if you enjoyed this. I will appreciate it mucho much amigo.

 

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Author: Martijn Koevoets
Martijn is head honcho of Powerlifting University, a powerlifter, author, blogger, online coach & extreme metal aficionado. He also loves a good whiskey. He has been featured on websites like EliteFTS, JTSStrength, JMAX Fitness and more.

Get your hands on my cheat sheet for setting up training programs that took a 132lbs. skinny weakling from not being able to bench the bar to deadlifting 3x his own body weight and winning silver at the nationals.

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