"How many times in a week should I train?" "How many times per week should I train a muscle?" are 2 very important question that are not asked frequently in a gym because most people know the wrong answers to these. But believe me, second to nutrition, these are THE most important factors that makes the difference between growth and maximum growth.
First of all, let us look at the most prevalent workout routine in gyms, we do one muscle per day with abs done daily and a bit of cardio daily. A typical routine would be back on Mondays, followed by biceps, chest shoulder, triceps and legs on Tuesday, wed, Thursday, Friday and Saturday respectively with abs daily and cardio daily. And take the Sundays off. You may be doing in any other sequence but this is the broad plan. You will be doing 5-6 different exercises of a muscle with 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps each. The second most prevalent workout routine is 2 muscles daily, e.g. chest back on Mondays, biceps on Tuesdays and shoulders and legs on Wednesdays with abs and cardio every day and the cycle repeated on the rest of the week.
This routine is done by pros and serious builders the world over, because it is appropriate for them. This routine has 5-6 different exercises which is great for definition, because it ensures that individual parts get exercised. But it is better for definition only. I am saying better because this too will get you growth, but at a slower pace. If you already have the target muscle mass it would be better for definition. But for growth, this is not optimum. Here's why, because every muscle gets 7 days of rest before being worked again, which is just too much rest. The constant stimulus required for growth gets a week long interruption, so it does not get added up. For max growth you need slight overlap of stimulus i.e. your muscles should be worked again before they get totally rested.
The logic behind the routine I am advocating is that the muscle should be worked again when it is still a little sore, and the intervening period should be a rest for the whole body, so that the body can work towards growth, secondly in this routine alternate day rest or alternate cardio can be done which gives absolutely fabulous results.
The routine for MAXIMUM results is thus doing whole body workout on alternate days with intervening days rest or cardio.
How to do it? The following points are to be kept in mind
1. Do whole body training on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with complete rest or cardio on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and rest on Sundays. That means back, chest, shoulder, biceps, triceps, abs, gluts, front and back thigh and calves every alternate day. Or alternatively, upper body one day alternating with lower body one day. This way 2 sets each of every muscle can be done. but remember, abs is also a muscle, do it with upper or lower body but not with both.
2. 1 set of 1 exercise per muscle daily, e.g. for biceps, do one set of barbell curl of 7-8 reps in a day and after a rest of not more than 30 seconds go to the next exercise of another muscle
3. Train to complete failure; your weights should be such that the last rep should be impossible to do. That's why training with a partner or a trainer is a must.
4. Do not train for more than 45 minutes per session. After 45 minutes cortisol levels rise, a catabolic hormone which counters growth by negating testosterone, growth hormone and insulin.
5. Complete rest or cardio on intervening days, though cardio is definitely good for overall health, for growth, it has a slight slowing effect.
6. The importance of PROPER FORM, SLEEP, NUTRITION, HYDRATION, STRETCHING and MENTAL WELL BEING on body building cannot be overstated, but these I will take up in another article.