High Frequency Training

by Chris on July 24, 2012

When in doubt, I like higher frequency of training over basically any other variable. Strength is a skill, after all, and the more you practice a skill the better you get. So if you want to get stronger it’s pretty reasonable to believe that you should lift more often.

One of the easiest ways to increase training frequency is to use full body workouts. You might not be doing the same movements every workout (or maybe you are) but you are still exposing the body, and the nervous system, to frequent stimuli. Since there is such a big neurological component to maximum strength and power you can see how this can be beneficial. So instead of training “legs” one day per week, doing some kind of squat or deadlift pattern 3x a week can make a huge difference in getting stronger.

Aside from an increased neurological adaptation, high frequency training exposes the mechanical factors of the muscle (i.e. the muscle fibers themselves) to a stimulus more often, which can lead to more muscle growth. Rather than decimating a single muscle group in one day and then not exposing it to a growth stimulus again for a week, you are breaking down the muscle without annihilating it so it is ready to work again in a day or so. What do you think has the potential to yield better results: 52 workouts a year or 156?

Still need convincing? Look at the physique of Olympic style weightlifters who predominantly use full body training with up to 12 training sessions per week.

Building the workouts

A really basic template for high frequency, full body training is to pick 3-4 movements that hit everything and do that 3 times per week. I like to start out with some kind of explosive movement like an Olympic weightlift variant and then move on to a lower body dominant exercise. After than I’ll usually use an upper body push paired with a pull. From there you can either call it a day or do some midsection/core work. Some example movements you can use:

Explosive

Clean variations (Hang, power)

Snatch variations (Hang, power)

Clean & Snatch pulls/high pulls

Jumps/Bounds/Hops

Speed deadlifts

Speed bench press

Lower Body Dominant

Front & Back Squats

Anderson Squats

Deadlifts

Good Mornings

Single leg squat variations

Upper Body Push

Bench Press

Close Grip Bench Press

Overhead Press

Push Press

Behind the Neck Press

Incline Bench Press

Dumbbell pressing

Upper Body Pull

Pull-up variations

Rowing variations

Face pulls

Upper back work

The variations you choose should be appropriate for your goals. So if you are looking to up your bench obviously you should be choosing movements that have a good transfer to the bench press but not necessarily benching every day. Remember that you want to find a good balance between specificity and transfer of training. Doing the same movement everyday will burn you out and just generally suck.

Adding Workouts

Once you’ve gotten used to full body lifting three days a week you can play with the concept of adding extra workouts on your off days. In my experience the best way to do this is to do conditioning work and speed work on those days. I’ve found that if I do speed deadlifts and benching on off days it helps me recover and actually aids my lifting the next time I train. The speed work actually primes your nervous system for strength training and the added technique practice doesn’t hurt either.

Don’t start going crazy with extra workouts. The reason I use those days for speed work is because it isn’t very systemically taxing. I get in, get the job done and get out, ready to hit it the next day.

Training to failure

High frequency training doesn’t work particularly well when couple with crazy intensity multipliers like drop sets and forced reps. The goal is to expose the muscle to a growth stimulus but leave them fresh enough that they’re ready to go again a few days later. If you’re used to bodybuilding style training (you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog) this is a big departure for you. I’m a firm believer than training to failure is training for failure. Since one of the big benefits of high frequency training is increased neurological efficacy you wouldn’t want to destroy all that by pushing to failure and beyond. Hit your reps until the point of technical failure and then call it quits. You’re better off keeping a rep in the tank and being able to hit another set anyway.

If you’re used to lower frequency body part split style training, trying your hand at full body high frequency training will be a hard sell. It might be worth trying out, though. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

steve July 24, 2012 at 6:00 pm

was doing 3 days a week tbt for a couple of years and gains kind of tapered off so I’m trying to increase it to 4 days a week.not sure if I’m allowing for enough recovery.
I see you talk about 3-4 movements I usually do 4-5 but only 1 is in the low rep range and I am done in an hour or less(if Eddie Ryan isn’t there)

ps just a little surprised about the behind the neck press
and not sure how you do snatch lifts in there(cyberzone)

Chris July 25, 2012 at 11:39 am

Steve I have become a big fan of the BTNP since I started throwing it in my rotation. Provided you have the shoulder mobility to perform it well and use an appropriate load for it it’s a great shoulder exercise.

Snatches are a little tricky with no bumper plates or platform, but I get them done. Just have to keep them under some form of control on the way down instead of just bailing out.

George P. July 29, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Another very informative article! Indeed training to just 90% of my max, subsequently, leaving a rep in the tank is crucial towards a power lifter goals. Thanks yet again exemplifying this point.

Sorush June 3, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Dear Chris,
Nice lines. I’m a former champion in Gymnastics in Iran and I believe in HFT due to my 23 years experience in Gymnastics. we used to exercise two times a day and really heavy exercises that you know . believe me the strength an hypertrophy was amazing and so nice. the right diet full of protein and lowering cartisol was important and we used Tribulus Terrestris supplement to improve Testosterone and lowering recovery time to 24 hrs. shocking ha? yesss 24hrs specially when you combine Panax Ginseng with Tribulus Terrestris 30 minutes before the workout.
thanks

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