In my last post I talked about how training with a sibling can help push you further than many other conditions can. And one thing my brother started doing with his training lead to great increases in size and strength.
When my brother and I trained together it was very competitive. So much so, that eventually my brother started doing part of his training at school during the day between classes. You see typically we would train together in the evening. But my brother would start doing part of the program at school when I wasn’t around.
And soon he started making great gains. Part of this was probably due to the fact that he didn’t have his older brother trying to psych him out and beat him on every set. But a bigger part of the reason was that he was being exposed to more frequent training episodes.
More recently I have started to notice this trend in other areas of training. And so it seemed appropriate to summarize the various ways we can enhance our training with more frequent exposures.
#1 – More Training Exposures
It may have John Broz who said something along the lines of ‘Your family has been kidnapped. You have one month to increase your squat 100 lbs to get them back. Will you train once or twice a week? Or would you consider training everyday?’
Even without knowing much more than that we know that we would train more than once per week. And as it turns out we may be able to train upto 5 days per week. When you consider that you could use a different stance, grip, tempo, intensity as well as change up many other variables we can start to see how more frequent training sessions might be beneficial.
Another way of looking at this might be in terms of stretching. Many of us need to spend more time stretching. Do you think it would be more beneficial to do a particular stretch for 30 seconds five throughout the day or hold the same stretch once for two and half minutes?
Or when considering rehabilitating the low back Dr. Stu McGill argues that many low back conditions are made worse by poor muscular endurance of the deep core musculature. As these muscles fatigue we compensate and this leads to strain and potential injury. To remedy this Dr. McGill would recommend performing a core exercise for only as long as ideal form can be maintained. And possibly for less time. So if your low back begins to sag and arch at twelve seconds you would be better off doing 6 sets of 10 second planks throughout the day then two thirty second planks.
#2 – More Nutritional Exposures
If we know the body needs about one glass of water per 15 lbs of bodyweight it’s not reasonable for a 150 lbs person to drink 10 glasses all at once. Obviously it would be more beneficial to drink two glasses at five times throughout the day.
I’ll give credit to Dan Bernadot, RD with Gatorade, for the following example. If you were to drive across the country would you:
A. buy all your gas before you leave and tow it behind you
B. coast as much as you can can and buy all the fuel you would have needed when you arrive
C. buy fuel at regular intervals during the trip
When it comes to machines we know what to do. However there are still some who take all their daily RDA of a nutrient in one sitting. Or they consume the bulk of their protein at once. Intuitively it makes more sense to spread our nutrition throughout the day, or at least spread out over eight hours.
#3. More Learning Exposures
If you had to learn a new language what do you think would work better? To take ten hours over a weekend in one sitting and study a course? Or to take one hour per night for ten nights?
Or you could look at the opposite way. When there are diminished exposures what happens to learning? Think of the student that struggles with math coming back to school in September. They have just gone a couple of months without any type of math and now are being exposed to the next grade level of material. I wouldn’t want to be a math teacher at this time.
The same is true when we start something new with respect to our training. More frequent exposures early on lends to better results down the road. We see this constantly with our clients. The new ones who start up and attend more frequently learn the movements sooner, become better at the movements, achieve better results and suffer fewer injuries.
So what does the research say about all this? I mean, is there proof to support this suggestion of more frequent exposures?
Study #1 – 6 days versus 3 days training
A Norwegian study had 16 experienced powerlifters follow one of two programs. One group lifted 3 times per week and the other 6 times. Volume and intensity were matched in the study. The 6 day group increased squat and bench 10%, versus 5%, with the 3 day group. As well the 6 day group increased muscular size more than the 3 day. There was no significant difference in gains made in the deadlift.
Study #2 – 1 day versus 3 days
This study had 25 lifters divided into 2 groups. Group one did one day per week of training with three sets to failure. Group two did three days per week of training with one set to failure. Rep ranges were 3-10 and volume was constant for both groups. Group 2 increased lean body mass and one rep max more.
Study #3 – 1 day versus 2 days versus 3 days
In this twelve week study 58 participants followed a one, two or three days per week training program. Although there was no huge difference between the 2 and 3 day groups both of these outperformed the 1 day group.
Going forward it is important to recognize the value of high frequency training for some training goals. As with any training program there are pros and cons. In this case it is important to keep volume low during training sessions. For example this is not the time to test out the German Volume Training method of 10 sets of 10 reps. And then do this every day for 5-6 days per week. Instead look to keep the intensity up but really dial down on the volume. You should always feel like you left just a little bit left in the tank.
1. Raastad T, Kirketeig, A, Wolf, D, Paulsen G. Powerlifters improved strength and muscular adaptations to a greater extent when equal total training volume was divided into 6 compared to 3 training sessions per week (abstract). Book of abstracts, 17th annual conference of the ECSS, Brugge 4-7 July, 2012.
2. McLester, J., Bishop, E., & Guilliams, M. (2000). Comparison of 1 day and 3 days per week of equal-volume resistance training in experienced subjects. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 14(3). Retrieved from http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/2000/08000/Comparison_of_1_Day_and_3_Days_Per_Week_of.6.aspx
3. DeMichele, P. L., Pollock, M. L., Graves, J. E., Foster, D. N., Carpenter, D., Garzarella, L., Brechue, W., & Fulton, M. (1997). Isometric torso rotation strength: effect of training frequency on its development. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 78(1), 64-69. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9014960