Training Frequency 2 – How Often Should I Work Out For Fat Loss And Muscle Gain?

Welcome to the second and the last post of the series about training frequency. In the first part we’ve covered some basic theory behind frequency and why is frequency important. In this post, I will try to find an answer to the question: “How often should I work out for losing fat and building muscle?” I will do it by looking at some of the most popular muscle group training frequencies and examine their pros and cons.

Training All Muscle Groups Once A Week

This type of training is also called body part split. As the name suggest you would train every muscle group only once a week and you would be weight training three, four or five times a week. Some examples of how to implement this type of training:

3 times per week 3 times per week 4 times per week 5 times per week
monday chest, shoulders, triceps chest, biceps chest, triceps chest
tuesday back, biceps back
wednesday legs, abs back, triceps shoulders
thursday legs biceps, triceps
friday back, biceps shoulders, legs shoulders, abs legs
saturday
sunday

 

If you want to use this training approach, you need to make sure that you provide enough training stimulus in this one training session, because you won’t train the same body part for the rest of the week. But also don’t overshoot it, because there is a threshold, where more training won’t lead to more muscle growth. It will just increase your fatigue and waste your time.

Let’s say that 4 sets of 10 reps is the amount of training that will elicit the maximum muscle growth. If you do 5 sets of 10 your muscles won’t grow more, you would just increase your fatigue.

The big downside of this type of training is its time inefficiency. As I mentioned before, if you are a beginner, enough training volume from one session can cause muscle growth for up to 72 hours after training. And this muscle growth window decreases the more advanced you are, up to only 16 hours! If you do the math, you would train every muscle group only once every 168 hours! So you would waste a lot of muscle building potential.

From a fat loss perspective, this training isn’t the best either. If you want to lose fat, your training has to be really energy demanding and create a lot of muscle damage in your body, so it’s forced to use all the energy you get from food and also from your fat storage to repair and build new muscle tissue. But training only one or two body parts in a session is nowhere near energy demanding as a whole body workout. Of course, this depends on a body part you are training. Training session where you’re training legs or back will be much more energy demanding than training biceps.

This style of training can work very well for those with really good genetics, use the S vitamins or just want to maintain their current condition. You can definitely build some muscles using this frequency but you would see results faster using one of the following training frequencies.

Man flexing using front double biceps pose

Training All Muscle Groups Twice A Week

This is probably the most recommended training frequency. You can implement it using 2 to 6 weight training sessions per week, which could look like this:

2 times per week 3 times per week 4 times per week 6 times per week
monday full body full body upper body push
tuesday lower body pull
wednesday upper body legs
thursday full body upper body push
friday lower body lower body pull
saturday legs
sunday

 

Or you can use a variation where you train your body parts almost twice a week. Implementation could look like this:

week 1 week 2
monday lower body upper body
tuesday
wednesday upper body lower body
thursday
friday lower body upper body
saturday
sunday

 

Using this type of muscle group training frequency, you would train each muscle group every 72 – 96 hours. Compare that to the previous frequency, where you would train each muscle group only once every 168 hours! That’s a huge improvement and a lot more muscle gains:)
Training all body parts two times a week is also better for fat loss goals since every workout involves more muscles than the once in a week frequency. And as you train all your muscles more often, your body is forced to repair and build new muscle tissue more often which means it will use more energy in the same timeframe.

It’s a great workout frequency for the majority of the population regardless of the goal and it can be easily implemented to most people schedules. As you can see in the tables above, you can have just two longer workouts per week or you can have 6 shorter workouts so most people should be able to pick a routine suitable for their free time.

I would say that this is the happy medium where you have sufficient training stimulus and more than sufficient time for recovery between heavy workouts.

Woman with barbell on her back

Training All Muscle Groups Three Times A Week

Now we’ve entered the high-frequency territory. Implementation could look like this:

3 times per week 6 times per week
monday full body upper body
tuesday lower body
wednesday full body upper body
thursday lower body
friday full body upper body
saturday lower body
sunday

 

Three times a week muscle group training frequency (full body workouts) is really good for beginners because as a beginner you need to practice the lifts to become proficient in them. And this will allow you to increase the weight on the bar at the fastest rate which will result in good muscle and strength gains.

The same is true if your main goal is to gain strength. As I mentioned before, strength is a skill so practicing a lift 3 times per week is better than once or twice. If you are a more experienced lifter, you won’t be able to train heavy all the time because of recovery, but you can still practice the lifts with lighter weight.

This style of training is really effective for fat loss but you have to make sure your training volume is not crazy high. You are in an energy deficit so your recovery is seriously impaired. My recommendation would be to go with 3 times per week weight lifting frequency and use compound exercises because they are the most energy demanding.

As previously mentioned, muscle growth window shortens with training experience so it makes sense that this training frequency is great also for more advanced lifters interested in hypertrophy. But you should be really careful how you program the training because you could easily overtrain. You have to find the perfect balance between sufficient muscle growth stimulus and recovery to achieve the best results.

Summary

So which training frequency will give you the best results? The answer is very unpopular – it depends:) It depends on many variables like your training level and goal, your schedule outside of the gym, your ability to recover etc.

But if I had to pick one frequency that is suitable for most of the population I would pick the second one – train muscle groups two times per week, or almost two times per week. The second option would result in three training sessions where you alternate upper and lower body training.

If you are a beginner, I would start training each muscle group three times a week and then gradually switch to two times a week, when you would no longer recover from these frequent workouts.

That’s all about exercise frequency. Next, I would like to look at the other two variables – volume and intensity.

 


I hope you’ve found my mini-series about training frequency helpful. And as always, if you have any questions or suggestions, you’re more than welcome to leave a comment:) Thank you.

6 Comments

  1. ArtByHeart

    I really like the ideas you are introducing in this article. I am wondering though, how will this actually work for a female, who is trying to build muscle mass without losing fat? I do yoga workout every day, but in fact try to build muscle mass to help out with upper body strength.

    Reply
    1. Marek (Post author)

      Hello ArtByHeart.
      If you don’t want to lose fat, eat at or slightly above maintenance and do resistance training. As written in the article – as a beginner start training every muscle group three times a week.
      Yoga is great, I personally use it as stretching after training and on off days to speed up recovery, but I don’t think you’ll be able to build a lot of muscles using it.
      Hope this helps:)
      Marek

      Reply
  2. Brandon

    I like your way of thinking, Marek. I like how you have the table to show us exactly how it’s suppose to be done. This helps me understand what I’m reading. And I also highly agree with you that over training is just going to fatigue you, rather than helping you build muscle or lose weight faster. It’s a common misconception. REST is just as important as the WORK you put in while at the gym. I like how you’re such an expert at this, so I know I can trust what you have to say 🙂 keep up the good work!

    -Brandon

    Reply
    1. Marek (Post author)

      Thank you very much, Brandon:)

      Reply
  3. Whitney Helper

    This is such useful training information! My oldest teen is hoping to apply to the Air Force Academy and is training hard to meet the physical requirements. I’ll pass this page along for sure!

    Reply
    1. Marek (Post author)

      Thank you, I wish him all the best:)
      Marek

      Reply

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