How often should you train each muscle group? Surya Iacono explains


Do you worry you’re not training each muscle group in the best way? How often should you train each group anyway? 

Most exercisers and gym-goers worry about their training routine at some point, and in particular, how much they should exercise each muscle group. And while it can seem it’s imperative to follow exact rules, experts generally agree that it doesn’t actually matter that much how often you target each muscle group. 

Reps and sets are the most important factors

New research shows that the single most important factor for boosting muscle size and gaining strength is not linked to how often you train a muscle group. Rather, it’s all about the number of reps and sets that you complete every week. This is what gets you gains. 

The research was carried out by scientists, who compared the effects of training a muscle group twice a week with training a muscle group once a week. To do this, they split the subjects up into two groups: 

  • Group 1 trained each muscle group once a week. They completed 16 sets every workout. 
  • Group 2 trained each muscle group twice a week and completed eight sets each workout. 

The eight week long research trial shows: 

  • There is no “significant difference” in either group in terms of muscle thickness in quads or biceps. 
  • There is also no difference in endurance levels for bench pressing and squats. 

Training once a week versus twice a week 

Both of the test groups ended up gaining similar increases in strength, power and muscle mass. The researchers conclude that there could be a marginal benefit to training a specific muscle group twice every week. This is because muscles usually recover within about three or four days, meaning you’ll be ready to hit the weights again. However, as long as you are doing enough reps and sets it won’t make much difference. 

The number of reps and sets is key to muscle gains, rather than how often you train. Within bodybuilding circles, training once a week on each group is very common, with training plans following roughly these lines: 

  • Monday: Legs
  • Tuesday: Chest 
  • Wednesday: Back: 
  • Thursday: Abs and shoulders
  • Friday: Triceps and biceps
  • Saturday: Cardio 
  • Sunday: Rest. 

Bodybuilders who choose to train each group twice a week will usually split sessions between upper and lower body, with rest days in between. The most important thing is to train in the best way for you. In other words, don’t feel you have to copy the training schedule of your favourite athlete, if it doesn’t seem to work for you. While training as often as you can is a good plan, always remember it’s about sets and reps. 

About Surya Gabriel Iacono

Surya G. Iacono is a fitness and wellness expert and blogger based in London, UK. Surya’s fitness blogs are aimed at keen gym-goers and exercise fans already well into their journey and looking for tips, tricks and ideas to take it to the next level.