Exercise frequency makes or breaks your muscle building program. Infrequent workouts promote minimal changes; working out too often reduces rest and limits muscle growth. Recommended exercise frequency is based on experience and current fitness level. Therefore, you should understand the influence of workout frequency on increased muscle mass.
Muscle Building Cycle
Muscle is made up of microscopic fibers that work together to perform muscular action. Resistance training causes natural damage to fibers, which are then repaired during rest. The cycle of natural damage and repair results in increased muscle size and strength over time. You must work out often enough to keep the cycle going. On the other hand, exercising too frequently prevents fiber repair and subsequent growth. Muscles without rest maintain fiber damage and experience reduced exercise ability.
The American College of Sports Medicine, or ACSM, says resistance training should be individualized, progressive in nature and provide stimulus to all major muscle groups. Progressive programs adapt to meet growing strength and performance ability. Beginners should perform eight to 10 exercises that condition major muscle groups two to three days a week. Advanced exercisers should perform resistance training three to four days per week to build muscle.
Worked muscles require rest; others do not. A split workout routine refers to working different muscle groups per session to allow tired muscle to rest while using other muscles. An example is working leg muscles on Monday and then chest muscles on Tuesday. Your leg muscles rest while your chest muscles work. As long as tired muscles get a break, they undergo growth and repair. Sore muscles should be rested for at least 24 hours or until soreness subsides.
Beginners require reduced exercise frequency to build experience and strength. Beginners should exercise two to three times per week and focus on proper exercise form, according to the ACSM. Advanced exercise frequency is influenced further by the schedule of muscle groups being worked. For example, if you perform a full-body workout, each session you should work out three days per week for proper rest and growth. If you work different muscle groups per session, you should work out four days per week for increased muscle mass, says the ACSM.
Muscle growth requires resistance training combined with proper rest and recovery. According to the ACSM, a well-designed workout plan promotes the quickest muscle gains possible; frequency mistakes hinder growth. Consult a doctor before starting any new exercise plan.
- "Anatomy and Physiology: The Unity of Form and Function"; Kenneth Saladin; 2004
- American College of Sports Medicine: The Recommended Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory and Muscular Fitness, and Flexibility in Healthy Adults
- American College of Sports Medicine: Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults