How frequently should you workout?

How frequently should I workout? Can I work the same muscles two days in a row? Can I do the same exercises every day or should I mix it up? These are some common questioned I hear on any given day. The answers are: it depends on your fitness goals. This post is an appendage to the overtraining post, giving you more details to help you plan and succeed.

Do you partake in the same workouts week in and week out? Are you making progress towards your goals? Doing the same thing over and over might work for someone looking to maintain a current condition, but if you want to change – your workouts must change! Doing the same group fitness class over and over puts you at significant risk of overuse injuries. You will plateau more frequently – leading to frustration, burnout, and eventually a desire to give up.

If your goal is to build muscle (hypertrophy), training utilizing a typical linear model – or what is commonly referred to as bodybuilding splits – may be best. However, if you want to increase strength, undulating periodized training will help you achieve optimal results. Let me explain the science to you.

The research

Rhea, Ball, Phillips, and Burkett (2002) examined the effectiveness of the undulating periodization model (DUP) as compared with the linear model (LP). The goal of periodized programs is to ‘optimize overload’ by using planned variations, in this case eliciting strength and body mass improvements. Periodization can manipulate the:

  • number of sets, repetitions, or exercises performed;
  • amount of rest;
  • type of contractions performed; or
  • training frequency.

LP programs gradually increase intensity while decreasing training volume over weeks and months.

DUP programs make these same variations on a weekly or daily basis.

The results

The DUP group showed significantly greater strength increases from pre- to mid-testing. There was no significant difference in strength increases from mid- to post-testing. This led the researchers to discuss limitations of overtraining. In the last 3 weeks, LP participants reported extended muscle soreness and fatigue, when the DUP group did not.

There were no significant differences in body composition across groups. This led the researchers to propose that the greater strength increases in the DUP group were not due to body composition or hypertrophic changes; but rather, were related to greater adaptations of the neuromuscular system.

The results support use of DUP for maximizing strength over LP. DUP programs can be used for anyone looking to make strength increases, especially anyone who has been training for an extended period of time. Further, DUP programs may help avoid plateau effects.

The bottomline

What does this mean for you? First, there are no ‘cookie cutter’ workouts that will help you safely, effectively, and efficaciously achieve your fitness goals. Your standard group fitness workouts will only take you so far along your journey before you need something more. The lack of variety and program design with limit fitness and strength improvements significantly. If you are going to put in the time, do you not want to get the results? I will gladly customize a workout program for you and teach you along the way!

The average person certainly does not need to train like a bodybuilder (i.e., LP). Nor does an LP design optimize fat/weight loss. Following a properly designed DUP program will help you avoid overtraining, burnout, and plateaus – which ultimately lead to greater results, improved self-efficacy, and more!

Reference

Rhea, M. R., Ball, S. D., Phillips, W. T., and Burkett, L. N. (2002). A comparison of linear and daily undulating periodized programs with equated volume and intensity for strength. J. Strength Cond. Res. 16(2), 250–255.

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