Have you ever been to the gym, whether you’re lifting, performing cardio, crossfit, circuit training, or anything else for that matter, and you happen to glance over at the flat bench station? Who do you see using this bench? The same guy you saw yesterday, and the day before, and a few days before that, performing exactly the same exercise…again! He’ll then get up, head over to the next chest machine, and perform another few chest exercises before working his chest again and performing the same routine he has already done several times this week. Obviously he likes training his chest, or maybe he’s trying to make it grow, whatever his reasoning, that type of volume for that one muscle group is just simply far too much. Not only will he not make any gains, he may even lose muscle by overworking it, causing it to atrophy. There is some debate about exactly how many times per week you should train each muscle group, so here we’ll do our best to answer this question definitively once and for all.
There are certain factors to consider beforehand
Before trying to clear things up, there are first a number of factors we should consider which could depend on how much volume and how much frequency is required for training each muscle group. The type of training program they are following for example, could help determine how much frequency is required. If a person is following a full-body split, a push/pull split, or even an upper/lower split, obviously they won’t be focusing solely on just one or two muscle groups each session. With a full-body split for example, they may begin by performing one chest exercise, then moving onto one shoulder exercise, one leg exercise, one back exercise, and so on…That means that each muscle group will only get worked once during each workout. In this instance, training those same muscle groups three or four times a week is perfectly fine.
How about more typical splits?
Most people these days however, tend to follow more conventional bodybuilding routines, and may either pair up two muscle groups each session – chest and triceps, back and biceps, shoulders and back etc, or even go with a 5 day split – Chest on Mon, Back on Tues, Legs on Weds and so on… In these instances, the idea is to overload each muscle group and work it to absolute fatigue and failure. Chest days will incorporate around 4 – 8 different chest exercises each session, which will really push the muscles to failure. In this instance, once per week is perfectly fine, and is recommended because then that muscle group has a full week to recover, yet other muscle groups are still being worked, so the body is constantly in an anabolic state. Generally speaking, if you train one body part each day, once per week is recommended. If you pair up two muscle groups, you can get away with training them twice each week, just go with one heavy day and then one lighter day towards the end of the week.