While there are a lot of things you can do to maximize these big 3 factors of your success, we are going to take a look at training frequency, training volume, and training periodization. (Part 2 will look at more aspects of protein synthesis).
Why Should I Care?
I know, I can get scientific in times that don’t really call for it. This time, it really does matter. If you want the best results possible, then you will need to optimize your training.
You might be a women who is looking to “tone” or “add more definition”. So, you are saying, “I don’t want bigger muscles anyways, so why should I care about this article?” Well, uninformed person – maximizing protein synthesis, hypertrophy, and strength will lead to more of the “toned” look you so desire. Toning is just a lame word for building more muscle and losing more fat, while the scale isn’t moving. It’s the least scientific way to portray body recomposition.
So, adding more muscle mass will add that more toned look. More muscle mass means more burned calories throughout the day, no matter what you are doing. This can add to your fat loss efforts, granting that more defined look. Boosting your strength in general will help contribute to more muscle mass, along with the efforts to maximize MPS and hypertrophy with your training.
If you aren’t this person, then you probably want to do the things we are talking about in this article without any further explanation. So, lets jump into it!
Training Frequency & Protein Synthesis
Look at the most popular bodybuilding routines and you will see some 5-6 day body part split where every muscle is only training once a week. Yes, these routine work. They are optimal for the “enhanced” community who use unnatural drugs to boost their results. So, unless you are in that community, there are much better ways to maximize your results more efficiently!
Since MPS is maximized for about 36 hours after you have completed your training session, your best bet would be to train each muscle every 36-48 hours. This will work great for beginners, which is why a 3 day a week, full body routine will work wonders for the average person beginning their journey in fitness. As we advance, we need more volume to continue to make optimal gains.
With this in mind, I recommend an upper/lower split with each muscle getting hit twice per week, unless you are a complete beginner of course. This will allow more recovery between workouts for your joints and CNS, which need recovery just as much, if not more, than your muscles.
Training Volume & Protein Synthesis
We’ve nailed down our frequency: training each muscle twice a week. Now, lets take a look at how we are going to adjust training volume.
A lot of bodybuilding splits are going to throw 15-20 sets at each muscle group, but in only one workout a week. While this make you feel sore for the entire week, soreness does not correlate with muscle protein synthesis and hypertrophy.
A study looking at training volume and hypertrophy concluded that 9 working sets to failure produced almost identical hypertrophy to a different group doing 21 working sets to failure. What we can take away is that this low level of sets is very effective when taken to failure, meaning you can’t squeeze out any more reps. Hitting each muscle twice a week means that you only need 4/5 sets per muscle group in each session to maximize hypertrophy, using this study only.
While this study isn’t the end-all answer, it definitely helps to show that we can work smarter, not harder. What is more efficient in your mind: 9 sets per week or 21 sets per week leading to the same results?
Most people will agree that strength work is basically required for maximal hypertrophy gains. However, research has shown that higher reps with lower weight can produce almost equal hypertrophy results. What can we take from this: do both and get optimized!
This sounds like a lot of work, but that is exactly what periodization is for! We aren’t going for block, or linear periodization though. We are going to implement concurrent periodization to maximize your results.
The idea is simple: train all aspects of fitness at the same time and enhance them all. This is the best periodization for athletes who need all of these skills at the same time for their sport. Same goes for athletes that do Crossfit. Hell, even powerlfiters use this with programs like Westside.
If you are interested in simple concurrent periodization, check this article out. It lays out a program template very similar to our optimal training example on our blog. However, if you are little more advanced, I recommend conjugate/daily undulating periodization where certain aspects are the focus of one training session and all aspects are eventually worked in a microcycle, usually a week.
You can check out other periodization methods at Elite FTS. They have an extensive list of pros and cons for each type. However, for our purposes, we are not professional powerlifters. We might dabble here and there and even do events, but we aren’t aiming at the world title. Using Concurrent/DUP is great to hit all aspects of your fitness and maximize hypertrophy without the hassle of block periodization where aspects of fitness suffer when not emphasized. We are talking about being as balanced as possible!
My personal program implements this entire article in depth. I train each muscle two times a week with about 10 sets to failure each week. I train strength on all four days, rotating movements using a modified Westside template to build absolute and explosive strength. Besides the strength work, one of the days for each muscle group focuses more on strength endurance and the other focuses more on muscular endurance. I also add in my HRR Conditioning Intervals after every workout to boost fat loss and the afterburn! Remember, rep range doesn’t affect hypertrophy as much as you have been lead to believe. So, we’ve maximized hypertrophy with each type of training and developed each skill at the same time! Does this sound like a program you can do?