Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., is a member of the Men's Health Advisory Board.
One of the coolest aspects of working as a muscle scientist challenges old assumptions about muscle growth.
Every muscle workout "damages" the muscles when lifting weights. Your body then repairs these muscles as you recover between workouts. During this process, your body actually builds new muscle.
Building on Conventional Muscle Wisdom
The conventional wisdom of this process is that after a strength training session your body needs less time to regenerate and build muscle.
Supposedly, newer lifters build and repair muscles for up to 48 hours or more after their workout. If you're an advanced lifter, this repair time is 24 to 36 hours shorter. Because of this, you often see bodybuilders exercising several times a week. If you want to maximize muscle growth, you often need your muscles, right?
Not necessarily. At the end of the day, it's important to find a training frequency that's right for you and your lifestyle. Whether it's six days or three days a week, you can find ways to build muscle.
A recent experiment with researchers from Croatia, Australia, Washington and New York shows that . We recruited 27 young men who had raised at least twice a week in the last six months and divided them into two study groups: one group raised three days a week on non-consecutive days (RT3), while another group trained six days per week (RT6).
Muscle Growth Training for All
Although the RT6 group was raised twice as often as the RT3, we ensured that both groups accumulated the same amount of volume at the end of each week. All did seven exercises for six to twelve repetitions per workout, except the RT3 group did four sets per workout, while the RT6 group did two.
If you think the traditional line of thought is thinking about needing more workouts to keep them in the face of progress, you can expect the RT6 group to perform better than the RT3 group , But both groups generally saw similar increases in muscle and strength at the end of the six-week training period.
Let me break things down a bit: Both groups increased their upper and lower body strength we measured via a one-time max test for barbell bench press and barbell squats. To measure muscle growth, we used an ultrasound to measure the thickness of several muscles, including their quads and forearm muscles. Again, both groups saw relatively similar muscle growth.
Equally crazy, nobody seemed to do too much. The men who trained six days a week showed no signs of overtraining, which challenges the idea that muscles need 24 to 48 hours between sessions.
So do not think about your training frequency. Personally, it's less practical for me to work out every day, so every week I do a few longer sessions. But for you a daily 30-minute training during the lunch break makes perfect sense. Do what you need to do to stay consistent.
It's the consistency of your training over time that brings you results.