I recently received a question from a reader about training frequency. He had such great success building muscle on my High Frequency Training (HFT) program that it changed his views regarding the dogma between training frequency and recovery. While most traditional training programs have you train a muscle group or movement 2-3 times per week, HFT doubles or triples that amount.
How’s it possible to train so frequently without overwhelming your capacity to recover? Because the intensity of each workout changes over the weeks and months. Not every exercise of every workout is taken to maximum intensity and exhaustion. Since I released HFT last fall I’ve received a handful of emails from people who wondered why I didn’t go into greater detail about progression plans for the 12-week full-body program.
The reason? Because the periodization and progressions are built into the program. Some workouts are intentionally more demanding than others. And some exercises for, say, the upper back might be difficult on Monday but less intense on Tuesday. That’s how it should be. It’s this frequent shift in intensity and volume that allows your physiology to adapt to the high-frequency recovery demands over the course of 12 weeks.
To derive the best muscle-building results from my HFT program, all you have to do is follow the set/rep guidelines of each workout. The progression and periodization aspects automatically fall into place because they’re built into the program.
Now, back to my reader’s question regarding training frequency. He wanted to know how many times per week he could perform the rings dip. Before I answer that question, I should state here that my HFT program shouldn’t be changed. Don’t add extra work because the program already pushes the limits of frequency and recovery.
With that in mind, there’s not much limit to how frequently you can perform a movement if the loading and intensity are minimal. However, the frequency limitations become paramount when you train with heavy loads.
Powerlifters usually train with near-maximal loads for the squat, bench press and deadlift, and this requires days of recovery between workouts. That’s why maximal load training and HFT don’t mix. The combination would degrade your joints and overwhelm the CNS. Olympic lifters in the eastern bloc European countries have been known to work up to 10 heavy sessions per week, but it’s safe to postulate that their joints eventually suffer because of it.
Here are my guidelines for increasing the frequency of an exercise:
1. Don’t increase everything at once: it’s easy for a skinny guy to think that tripling the frequency of all his exercises will make him grow fast. Actually, it’ll just leading to overtraining and joint dysfunction. Focus on the body part or movement that needs the most help. You can’t squat heavy every day, but you can do the goblet squat with submaximal loads each day.
2. Limit the volume/intensity of the extra workouts: if you want to build upper back and arm mass with more frequent pull-up workouts, start with a volume/intensity that’s easy to manage. Initially, do less than you think you need for the extra workouts.
3. Choose exercises that allow unrestricted movement patterns: gymnastics rings allow for fully unrestricted movement, and that’s why they’re ideal for HFT upper body exercises. Just because convicts perform daily pull-ups from a fixed bar doesn’t mean it’s the ideal approach. They work with what they’re given and they probably have the joint dysfunctions to prove it. The best rings I’ve found for the money can be found from CFF at this link.
Here’s a simple exercise pairing to add more full-body mass:
Frequency: every other day for the first week.
Progression: add an extra day each week until you reach 7 days.
Loading/intensity: use a moderate load and stop 2 reps short of failure with each set.
1A Goblet squat for 5 reps
Rest 15-30 seconds
1B Pull-up from rings or hammer grip for 5 reps
Rest 15-30 seconds, repeat 1A-1B for six rounds (30 total reps of each)
For more detailed guidelines on how to use HFT to build muscle and movements, click the banner below…