Is training two or four times per week superior for strength and hypertrophy?
Increasing training frequency can allow athletes to boost training volume without negatively affecting workout quality. Therefore, training more frequently could be a tool for increasing muscle mass.
- What They Did
- What They Found
- Practical Takeaways
- Reviewer’s Comments
- About the Reviewer
Hamarsland, H., Moen, H., Skaar, O. J., Jorang, P. W., Rødahl, H. S., & Rønnestad, B. Equal-volume strength training with different training frequencies induces similar muscle hypertrophy and strength improvement in trained participants. Frontiers in Physiology, 2374.
The current consensus around training frequency and strength and hypertrophy gains is that training frequency does not have an impact when total training volume is matched. However, these studies are limited and mostly performed with untrained subjects. Further, no study has investigated whether increased training frequency benefits complex strength exercises (e.g. squat) in trained lifters.
Therefore, this study aimed to compare two and four times per week training frequencies with matched volumes on gains in muscle strength and size.
What They Did
Thirty-four resistance trained men and women (age = 18-35 yr) were randomised into a high frequency (HF) and low frequency (LF) training group. The training intervention lasted nine weeks, with HF completing four weekly sessions and LF completing two weekly sessions. Volume was matched at 32 weekly sets.
Squat and bench press (complex exercises), hack squat and chest press (simple exercises) 1RMs were tested before and after the training intervention. Body composition was measured with DXA and muscle thickness of the vastus lateralis was measured with ultrasonography before and after the training intervention.
What They Found
There was no significant difference in 1RM improvements in any lift between HF and LF. Squat (HF: 16.3 ± 5.2 kg, LF: 14.8 ± 4.2 kg), hack squat (HF: 33.4 ± 13.9 kg, LF: 34.4 ± 9.7 kg), bench press (HF: 7.5 ± 3.5 kg, LF: 7.7 ± 3.0 kg), and chest press (HF: 15.9 ± 13.8 kg, LF: 15.0 ± 5.0 kg). Further, there were no significant differences between HF and LF for any measure of muscle growth (body composition and ultrasonography).
Simple lower body exercise showed greater improvement in 1RM than complex exercise in both groups. Hack squat 1RM (HF: 62.5 ± 48.8%, LF: 50.2 ± 23.6%) vs. squat 1RM (HF: 19.1 ± 10.3%, LF: 18.7 ± 8.6%). Only the HF group saw greater improvements in simple exercise strength whereas the LF group showed no differences (chest press 1RM: 31.2 ± 27.9%; bench press 1RM: 15.8 ± 11.5%).
When volume is matched, training frequency does not seem to play a role in increasing strength and hypertrophy. However, training frequency can be used as a tool to enhance strength and hypertrophy. Here’s how:
James de Lacey’s comments
“While this study focused on training frequency, it potentially highlighted one of Issurin’s principles of training volume which is exercise novelty. As the hack squat and chest press were likely novel exercises (compared to the squat and bench press), it could explain why such drastic gains were seen in those exercises compared to the common squat and bench.
“Regarding strength training frequency, for most sports, I believe 2-3 days is more than enough. Four days can be useful during the pre-season, especially in collision sports where muscle mass plays a vital role in protecting an athlete in contact.”
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