If you’ve been looking for a training routine online, you’ve most probably come across the typical “bro-split” meaning a workout program that makes you train one specific muscle one time per week giving it a full week rest. Is there a scientific reason behind that training protocol? Is this optimal for muscle growth? Let’s find out.
Training frequency is a hotly debated topic within the fitness industry. Most lifters and fitness magazines advocate a training frequency of 1x/week. However, what most people don’t realize is most athletes in fitness magazines are on performance enhancing drugs. If you are a natural lifter you want to train differently in order to optimize muscle growth.
Why do I need to increase training frequency? Don’t I need to rest?
At first, we need to understand how muscles grow. And the answer is protein synthesis. When you train at the gym, by lifting heavy weights you are initiating a process where proteins will be damaged and new stronger ones will be built. Your muscle tissue gets rebuilt thanks to protein synthesis making your muscles bigger in the process.
From research we know how protein synthesis works. Synthesis is elevated for 36 to 48 hours after your training then returns back to its baseline. This means that after this time frame your trained muscle is repaired and ready to train. So why would you wait a week before training that muscle again? How hard you’ve trained a specific muscle won’t extend protein synthesis, only muscle soreness. Therefore, you can take advantage of protein synthesis and hit your muscle gain.
So how often should I train?
The most important factor in resistance training is the total volume per week. So optimal training is done by increasing your training frequency while reducing your volume per workout. By training a muscle multiple times per week you are able to take advantage of protein synthesis and greater muscle growth. Compared to a body part split routine, natural lifters can see better results with routines such as a full body, upper/lower body split or push pull leg routines which produces greater frequency and lower volume. If you are interested in a customized workout plan, leave me a message and I can design a routine that is tailored to your needs and to your lifestyle.
Why are bodypart splits so popular? What does science say?
Researcher Brad Schoenfeld published a 2016 study testing the effects of different training frequencies on two groups of subjects. One group trained each muscle group once per week while the other trained 2 or 3 times per week. The group with a higher frequency experienced a 3.1% higher muscle growth.
In contrast with this study, a 2018 research concluded the opposite where one time per week frequency yielded higher muscle growth. However, this study was poorly designed and seems to be showing the benefits of switching routines for advanced lifters.
Therefore, for natural lifters, it is recommended to stick to a high frequency low volume routine.
How can I focus efficiently on every muscle with a full body routine?
The answer is total volume per workout. You won’t be doing as many exercises and sets per muscle on one workout. Instead, the total volume of training one muscle will be spread throughout the week. Let me give you an example:
Let’s take the Pecs for example:
With a Full Body routine done 3 times a week:
Workout Day 1
Barbell Bench press: 3 sets of 5 reps
Incline Bench press 3×5
Workout Day 2
Incline DB Press 3x 8-12
Close Grip Bench Press 2x 6-8
Workout Day 3
Barbell Bench Press 3×8-12
Decline Machine Press 3×10
Total number of sets: 18
Body Part split: Pecs once a week
Bench press 4 sets of 5 reps
Incline DB Press 4×8
Decline bench press 3×10-12
Cable Flyes 3×10-15
Total number of sets: 18
In conclusion, the total volume will be the same. However, you will take full advantage of protein synthesis by increasing your frequency. You will also be able to progress better since doing more than 4 exercises solely for the chest on one workout (as done in the body part split) will make it difficult to lift heavier weights.
The objective of a full body routine is not to do as many exercises as possible per day. This will be detrimental to your gains. Stick to the same overall volume on each muscle and you’ll be fine.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and let me know your thoughts on the full body routine and the “bro-split” in the comment section below. Talk soon J