How Often Should I Train Each Muscle Group?

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question-icon-newMy overall goal is to build the most amount of muscle and get huge! I would like to know which workout is better for packing on mass?

  • (A) Chest and back, arms and shoulders, legs. I will train each muscle group 2 times a week. Each muscle group will be worked with 2 exercises and 4 sets per exercise (8 total sets per workout).
  • (B) Chest, back, arms, shoulders, legs. I will train each muscle group once a week. Each muscle group will be worked with 4 exercises and 4 sets per exercise (16 total sets per workout).

answer-icon-newThere are three main aspects of muscle building. Exercise, nutrition and rest. Proper rest is just as important for muscle building as is exercise and nutrition. However, many people do not give their muscles adequate rest before training them again. As a result, they do not see the expected gains they desire. So, learning about the proper amount of recovery time is critical when training each muscle group in order to see continuous gains in muscle mass.

Larger Muscle Groups
Larger muscle groups such as the chest, back, quadriceps and hamstrings are the key muscle groups in the body to target when training for overall muscular size. When trained heavily, these muscles need more time than smaller muscles to recover simply because they are larger. Hence, it is ideal to give these muscle groups enough rest so that they can grow optimally.

For Beginners: Beginners do not train as heavily or lift as much weights as intermediate or advanced bodybuilders and hence, do not cause the amount of damage to their muscles. They are able to recover from their workout much faster than intermediate or advanced bodybuilders. For them, giving these larger muscles a rest period of 72 hours between workout sessions is recommended and training them twice a week is good rule of thumb to follow.

For Intermediate and Advanced Bodybuilders: Intermediate and advanced bodybuilders use heavy weights and train for much higher volumes than beginners and cause much more damage to their muscles. Hence, they are most often seen using single body part splits where they work only 1 muscle per day. This gives every muscle one full week of recovery time to fully repair before training it again.

Smaller Muscles Groups
Small muscles groups include the biceps, triceps and shoulders. These muscles are much smaller than the larger ones and recover quicker. Because of this, they can be trained a little more often but not too much. It’s important to remember that these smaller muscle groups are also used while training the larger muscles. For example, when you train your chest, you are using your triceps and shoulders as secondary muscle groups. Same is the case with biceps which are used when training your back.

For Beginners: As beginners place much less stress on the muscles, the damage is limited and is repaired quicker when compared to advanced individuals who train at much higher volumes. Beginners can train smaller muscle groups within 48 hours (2 days of rest between workouts). However, as mentioned above, these muscles are also trained to an extent with larger muscles. Therefore, training smaller muscle groups twice a week is ideal for beginners.

For Intermediate and Advanced Bodybuilders: Intermediate and advanced bodybuilders generally train these muscles once per week as they use very high volumes on these muscle groups and need the extra days of rest to completely recover from intense workouts.

Can Any Muscle Be Trained Every Day?
It is not recommended to train any muscle group every single day since there needs to be some time period of recovery for the muscle group to recuperate. Repeated workouts every day will most likely lead to overtraining issues due to the continuous overload on the muscles.

Smaller active muscle groups like the abdominals and calves can be trained every other day. As you use these muscles for everyday tasks, they are repaired quickly by the body. The ideal training frequency for them should be three times a week to allow the muscles to grow to some extent on alternative rest days.

Note: The lower back should only be trained once per week as it takes much longer to recover than most other muscle groups. You definitely don’t want to overtrain this delicate area since it may lead to injury which will result in taking time off to recover. A lower back injury can wreak havoc on your workout program, so be careful when training this area of your body.

Along with the rest periods, the total number of sets per muscle group is very important. You noted in workout B that will be doing 16 total sets per muscle group. This is far too many especially for smaller muscle groups like the arms. Stick with 12-15 sets for larger muscle groups (legs, back, chest) and 6-8 total sets for smaller muscle groups (biceps, triceps, shoulders). Remember to train super hard in the gym and then get out of there to let your body rest, recover and grow.

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