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CT or Waterbury? Frequency for Muscle Growth

I might be throwing down some sort of a gauntlet on this one so we’ll see how it goes.

first of in Chad Waterbury’s Perfect 10 training article he says…

“If you seek hypertrophy (size gains) at the fastest possible rate, the more often you can train a muscle group the better.”

Taken directly from: http://www.T-Nation.com/readArticle.do?id=725763

secondly, CT says in his Beast Building Part 3…

“As I mentioned in the previous parts of this program, when you’re training mostly for muscle growth, you hit each muscle group less frequently, but with a higher training volume and more oomph. Conversely, when you’re training for neural improvements, it’s best to increase the frequency of training each muscle group while lowering the daily volume.”

taken directly from
http://www.T-Nation.com/article/most_recent/beast_building_part_3

so before someone goes crazy on me and telling me about how everything is relative and the more volume this, less intensity that shpeel…I know. What Im merely looking for is a discussion. I do agree that it depends on a volume+freqency thing but what these two are stating is that what each said respectively is the “better” (I wont say best) way to train for total hypertrophy. Dont look ath their actual program in the linked article look more so at their statement.

Also, regardless of the frequency training or volume training a trainee is still able to focus on sarcoplasmic (higher reps) and myofibrillar (lower reps) hypertrophy depending on rep ranges so thats not really an issue. Besides that its an open forum Im looking foreward to hear people out. Maybe we’ll even get a TC CW duel lol.

Are we talking about total body traing vs splits? It simpler IMHO to talk about it like that than volume, frequency, etc.

I know each person is probably a big proponent of each. Fact is both are great methods for muscle building, but a big part of both training methods is the amount of base muscle you have. Total body is great for new comers and beginners. Splits are better for seasoned lifters with a solid base to build on.

Both methods work, and for some individuals, one would work better than the other.

Both of them are right in equal measure.

We are actually not in disagreement. Chad focuses on the CNS even when training for hypertrophy, guys like Poliquin (when designing hypertrophy programs) and the HIT guys focus mostly on the muscular fatigue aspect and I prefer a mix of CNS and muscular stimulation.

All three approaches work for different reasons.

I have an upcoming article detailing my current principles which will make this quite clear in the points where I discuss training to failure and training frequency.

This is a short section of that (unedited) article:

Principle 5. Ideal training frequency

Training frequency per body part is the ‘‘single-set vs. multiple sets’’ of the 2K years! In the late 70s and early 80s the raging debate was between proponents of single-set training (low-volume) versus those who preferred the high volume approach. It was Arthur Jones vs. the Weiders; Mentzer against Arnold. The debate was never truly settled because in some regard both camps were right. But at the same time none of them actually possessed the universal and indisputable truth.

The fact is that both low and high volume training have their own pros and cons and can thus be used effectively given the right circumstances.

The same could be said about training frequency. Just like with the volume debate did, the frequency one rages on and I can guarantee you that we will never settle it and find one camp to be the victor and the other the loser, for the simple reason that both absolutist sides are right… and wrong!

There is no such thing as a perfect training frequency per muscle group. Only optimal training frequency based on the other training variables (volume, intensity, density, type of exercises, etc.), your lifestyle (60 hours a week job vs. unemployed, manual labor job vs. desk job, lack of sleep vs. proper sleep, great dietary habit vs. bad ones, etc.) and your recovery capacity. There are, however, some broad guidelines that can be used to select the optimal training frequency that you need to use (yes… it is about finding what is optimal for you, not what an author or coach believes is universally perfect for everybody).

Some of these guidelines are:

The harder you work a muscle group during a session, the longer it will need to recover. So if you typically perform super draining workouts (either via high volume or intensive methods) your training frequency per muscle group will need to be lower than if you do not kill the muscle every time you hit the gym.

The more muscle damage you create in a session, the more recovery time will be needed before the trained muscle(s) can be hit hard again. Muscle damage is mostly a function of mechanical work and eccentric loading. The rep range where the most damage occurs is 8-12 reps/set (or sets lasting 30-60 seconds with a heavy load) and when the eccentric portion of the movement is emphasized (either via slower eccentrics, accentuated eccentric methods or eccentric-only training) the damage is also greater. This is why olympic lifters can train on the competition lifts 6 days a week: in training, olympic lifters rarely perform more than 5 reps per set (most sets are for 1-3 reps) and the eccentric portion is all but eliminated because the bar is dropped to the floor at the end of every lift. Low mechanical work plus no eccentric equals the capacity to train the lifts extremely often.

Training frequency is also dependent on the level of nervous system fatigue that is induced during each training session. If you do not tire out the nervous system, you can obviously train more often. However at some point the CNS must be challenged if it is to become more resilient.

The more often you can stimulate a muscle without exceeding your capacity to recover, the more you’ll progress. Two things are important in that sentence: you must actually stimulate the muscles to grow. Sure, you can perform a few sets of easy exercises, never actually challenging yourself, everyday (even several times a day), however if none of these ‘‘sessions’’ represent a challenge that the body is forced to adapt to, it doesn’t represent a stimulation. Then there is the aspect of exceeding your capacity to recover: you can be 100% convinced that super-high frequency of training is the Holy Grail of muscle growth, but if you are not allowing your body to recover, you will simply not progress! In other words you must strike the perfect balance between stimulation and recovery to progress optimally.

So what frequency do I recommend? Again, it is an individual thing. And it depends on training style and what is going on outside of the gym (i.e. This thing called ‘‘life’’). But assuming that you are training according to my new principles then:

‘‘The optimal training frequency per muscle group is 2 sessions every 5 to 7 days’’

Those with a good recovery capacity and/or an un-stressful life can aim for 2 sessions per muscle group every 5 to 7 days while those with an average recovery capacity or a more demanding life should shoot for 2 sessions every 8-10 days.

Understand that not every single muscle group absolutely has to be hit directly with this frequency. Indirect work (e.g. Triceps getting some work when the chest is being trained) can also be factored in.

If you are to hit each bodypart twice every 5 days; or in other words using a 3 days cycle with 1 day off, a good split could look like this:

Day 1. Chest/Back
Day 2. Lower body
Day 3. Arms/Shoulders
Day 4. OFF
Day 5. Repeat

If you are more inclined toward a ‘‘body part’’ split, or…

Day 1. Lower body
Day 2. Upper body
Day 3. Trunk (abs, lower back)
Day 4. OFF
Day 5. Repeat

If you are more of an upper/lower kind of guy.

These two options are for those with a great recovery capacity and not much life stress (got to have both things going for you).

If you do have either a good recovery capacity or little life stress then a 6 days cycle will be a better option for you. You can go with either one of these three options:

Day 1. Chest/Back
Day 2. Lower body
Day 3. OFF
Day 4. Arms/Shoulders
Day 5. OFF
Day 6. Repeat

Day 1. Lower body
Day 2. OFF
Day 3. Upper body
Day 4. Trunk (abs, lower back)
Day 5. OFF
Day 6. Repeat

Day 1. Whole body
Day 2. Off
Day 3. Lower body
Day 4. Upper body
Day 5. OFF
Day 6. Repeat

If you are average or below in your capacity to recover and/or have some life stress you should bump it up to a 7 days cycle. You then have these options:

Day 1. Chest/Back
Day 2: OFF
Day 3. Lower body
Day 4. OFF
Day 5. Arms/Shoulders
Day 6. OFF
Day 7. Repeat

Day 1. Lower body
Day 2. OFF
Day 3. Upper body
Day 4. OFF
Day 5. Trunk (abs, lower back)
Day 6. OFF
Day 7. Repeat

Day 1. Whole body
Day 2. Off
Day 3. Lower body
Day 4. OFF
Day 5. Upper body
Day 6. OFF
Day 7. Repeat

Day 1. Whole body
Day 2. OFF
Day 3. Whole body
Day 4. OFF
Day 5. Whole body
Day 6. OFF
Day 7. Repeat

Day 1. Pushing muscles (chest/shoulders/triceps)
Day 2. OFF
Day 3. Lower body
Day 4. OFF
Day 5. Pulling muscles (back/biceps/forearms)
Day 6. OFF
Day 7. Repeat

1 Like

To be honest, I don’t think they’re all that contradictory. Notice CW says “the more often you can train a muscle group the better.”

I’d agree with this statement, and I doubt CT would disagree with it either. The more frequently you can train a muscle while still allowing it enough time to recover, the faster your rate of progress.

The thing is, like twoscoops mentioned above, that rate of frequency will change as you progress.

In the beginning you’re fine training a muscle group 3 times per week (though, it’s also true that most of the strength gains during the beginning stages of resistance training are neurological, so CT is also right).

As you progress however, and are capable of placing more stress on the recovery systems, the frequency with which you can hit a muscle group decreases.

Now, I know that CW is a big fan of “dual factor theory” for building muscle (planned overtraining), so when he said as often as possible, he really meant as often as possible. I’m really not all that sold on dual factory theory when it comes to bodybuilding, although it has proven effective for other athletic contexts.

CT’s statement though that it’s a good idea to increase frequency while decreasing volume if neurological improvements are your goal, is pretty much universally true. The more frequently you practice a skill, while avoiding fatigue, the faster you’ll get better at it. That’s just basic motor learning.

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:
To be honest, I don’t think they’re all that contradictory. Notice CW says “the more often you can train a muscle group the better.”

I’d agree with this statement, and I doubt CT would disagree with it either. The more frequently you can train a muscle while still allowing it enough time to recover, the faster your rate of progress.

The thing is, like twoscoops mentioned above, that rate of frequency will change as you progress.

In the beginning you’re fine training a muscle group 3 times per week (though, it’s also true that most of the strength gains during the beginning stages of resistance training are neurological, so CT is also right).

As you progress however, and are capable of placing more stress on the recovery systems, the frequency with which you can hit a muscle group decreases.

Now, I know that CW is a big fan of “dual factor theory” for building muscle (planned overtraining), so when he said as often as possible, he really meant as often as possible. I’m really not all that sold on dual factory theory when it comes to bodybuilding, although it has proven effective for other athletic contexts.

CT’s statement though that it’s a good idea to increase frequency while decreasing volume if neurological improvements are your goal, is pretty much universally true. The more frequently you practice a skill, while avoiding fatigue, the faster you’ll get better at it. That’s just basic motor learning.[/quote]

THAT is, in a few paragraphs, the whole story!

[quote]bmar22 wrote:
Maybe we’ll even get a CT CW duel lol.[/quote]

Not likely… Chad and I are actually in agreement on 90% of ‘‘everything training’’. We only differ in our application of the knowledge and on the elements we chose to emphasize over others.

Bmar…

What you can do is try CT’s then try CW’s programs…
They both work, i lived on CW’s in the beginning for 8 months now i have moved to CT’s both have their pro’s and con’s…

All i can say in closing is DO NOT get bogged down by the fanatics from either side, just sit nicely in the middle take the best from all worlds and keep progressing.

I think this thread could not have been answered more clearly if anyone else tried.

Kudos to Sento and CT

First off, thanks to both CT and Sento for their informative posts.

Second, I’m coming at this from the premise set forth by the OP, that we are talking about the sole goal of pure size and hypertrophy.

Now, while I appreciate the “love fest” and believe that there are many more similarities than differences in successful programs, I am left wondering why bodybuilders seem to train with splits (be it a 3-day split, each bodypart 2x per week like many past bb-ers) or a 4-6 day split with each bp being trained once per week. When all of the science and theory is swept aside, empirical, real world application by bodybuilders of all ranks and sizes seems to suggest that for pure muscle hypertrophy and size purposes, a split (volume focus)>>>>any sort of full body (frequency focus) program, even if over a given period of time the aggregate volume + frequency “evens out” and, say, adds up to be the same amount of “work” or muscle stimulus on paper…just with one getting there via more frequency and one getting to the same place with more volume.

Now, I know there were a couple of old school bb-ers who trained full body (Reg Park, Steve Reeves…even Draper used a FB program at certain times I believe), but it seems that most natural bodybuilders prefer the 1 BP per week split.

I guess my question is- if it really were “6 of one and a half dozen of another” (i.e. no “real” difference, several ways to skin the hypertrophy cat) then why wouldn’t there appear to be a more even distribution of training preferences among those who train for pure size?

I would like to emphasize that I’m truly curious as to the answers of those more informed than me and have respect for both CW and CT and appreciate their time spent on these boards educating the unwashed masses.

[quote]trextacy wrote:
First off, thanks to both CT and Sento for their informative posts.

Second, I’m coming at this from the premise set forth by the OP, that we are talking about the sole goal of pure size and hypertrophy.

Now, while I appreciate the “love fest” and believe that there are many more similarities than differences in successful programs, I am left wondering why bodybuilders seem to train with splits (be it a 3-day split, each bodypart 2x per week like many past bb-ers) or a 4-6 day split with each bp being trained once per week. When all of the science and theory is swept aside, empirical, real world application by bodybuilders of all ranks and sizes seems to suggest that for pure muscle hypertrophy and size purposes, a split (volume focus)>>>>any sort of full body (frequency focus) program, even if over a given period of time the aggregate volume + frequency “evens out” and, say, adds up to be the same amount of “work” or muscle stimulus on paper…just with one getting there via more frequency and one getting to the same place with more volume.

Now, I know there were a couple of old school bb-ers who trained full body (Reg Park, Steve Reeves…even Draper used a FB program at certain times I believe), but it seems that most natural bodybuilders prefer the 1 BP per week split.

I guess my question is- if it really were “6 of one and a half dozen of another” (i.e. no “real” difference, several ways to skin the hypertrophy cat) then why wouldn’t there appear to be a more even distribution of training preferences among those who train for pure size?

I would like to emphasize that I’m truly curious as to the answers of those more informed than me and have respect for both CW and CT and appreciate their time spent on these boards educating the unwashed masses. [/quote]

It probably has something to do with the fact that most bodybuilding magazines (which are, for a lot of guys, the only source of training information that they have) promote mainly splits since that is what the Weider pulications push mainly and they lead the market.

[quote]Stronghold wrote:

It probably has something to do with the fact that most bodybuilding magazines (which are, for a lot of guys, the only source of training information that they have) promote mainly splits since that is what the Weider pulications push mainly and they lead the market.[/quote]

I wouldn’t say that exactly. Bodybuilders were finding what worked long before science pulled out the first test tube on the subject. It was the most intense act of observation and application in one setting since the last time you watched porn with your girlfriend. They wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t work.

[quote]Professor X wrote:

I wouldn’t say that exactly. Bodybuilders were finding what worked long before science pulled out the first test tube on the subject. It was the most intense act of observation and application in one setting since the last time you watched porn with your girlfriend. They wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t work.[/quote]

Maybe its better to say that since a great number of guys get their training information from magazines when they are just getting started, and the magazines mainly promote split training, then the majority of bodybuilders use split training. Not to say one or the other is more or less effective because that can of worms doesnt need to be opened again.

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

So what frequency do I recommend? Again, it is an individual thing. And it depends on training style and what is going on outside of the gym (i.e. This thing called ‘‘life’’). But assuming that you are training according to my new principles then:

‘‘The optimal training frequency per muscle group is 2 sessions every 5 to 7 days’’

Those with a good recovery capacity and/or an un-stressful life can aim for 2 sessions per muscle group every 5 to 7 days while those with an average recovery capacity or a more demanding life should shoot for 2 sessions every 8-10 days.

Understand that not every single muscle group absolutely has to be hit directly with this frequency. Indirect work (e.g. Triceps getting some work when the chest is being trained) can also be factored in.

If you are to hit each bodypart twice every 5 days; or in other words using a 3 days cycle with 1 day off, a good split could look like this:

Day 1. Chest/Back
Day 2. Lower body
Day 3. Arms/Shoulders
Day 4. OFF
Day 5. Repeat

[/quote]

This is freakin’ beautiful. I use almost this EXACT split, which I developed after years of trial and error as to what I found worked best. It’s always nice to hear that an expert can confirm what I already “knew” from empirical evidence. My thought process was always exactly what CT is saying: both volume and frequency work; the trick is being able to recover after finding a balance between the two.

Not to try and add anything to CT’s split, but I actually have one tweak, again developed after using this split for a while. It could be helpful to anyone who might want to try this. I usually do roughly 10 sets per major bodypart, which is basically for the first 2 days, and 8 for shoulders and arms.

Maybe it’s the volume, the intensity, or my inherent recovery ability, but I’ve found that allowing only 48 hours between arms/shoulders and re-starting the cycle would negatively impact my chest/back workouts after a few weeks (bi and tris not recovered). So, I added a second day of rest and the results were even better.

Then, I realized something else: running this split with 2 days’ rest resulted in hitting every bodypart twice every 6 days - not so different from a basic upper/lower split twice a week (there are other advantages, but I digress). If frequency was a key, then I figured I must incorporate a way to get more frequent while maintaing the back-to-back rest days, which I found very effective. The answer? Voila, what I call a “Frequency Day” every 2 training cycles. Basically, this day still incorporates shoulders/arms, but I will add in 1) a extra day of rest to prepare (it’s a killer), and 2) lower volume chest, back and legs work as well. IOW, on “Frequency Day” I will cut back about 2 sets each for shoulders and arms, and add in 1-2 exercises of 3-5 sets for chest, back, quads, and ham/lower back. So, my version:

Day 1. Chest/Back
Day 2. Lower body
Day 3. Arms/Shoulders
Day 4. OFF
Day 5. OFF
Day 6. Chest/Back
Day 7. Lower body
Day 8. OFF
Day 9. Arms/Shoulders + Frequency day
Day 10. OFF
Day 11. OFF
Day 12. Repeat

So now, with that tweak, I hit every bodypart 3 times every 11 days WITH good volume. Contrast that with once-a-week bodypart splits, or twice weekly upper/lower splits. For comparison’s sake, over 4 weeks, an upper/lower will hit a bodypart 8 times with good volume. This split will hit it 10 times with good volume, and day 28 will actually already begin the next cycle.

Not sure why I typed all this out, other than I’m excited to see some official validity to what I discovered, b/c, quite frankly, I’ve NEVER run into anyone that trained with a 3-1 or 3-2 split before, much less the tweaked version I use. I also hope this can help some others who might be interested in the split.

Sorry for the long post and semi-hijack.

Two observations:

Usually most people use bodybuilders as example of how low frequency splits is “the stuff that works”, but often forget that increasing is what many bodybuilders do when they want to bring up a bodypart. Maybe they are just too strong (they use very heavy loads in training) and not conditioned enogh to train the whole body in high frequency, but they can do this kind of training for a specific body part.

Maybe the psychological aspect in as much or even more important. Many people dont feel they had a good workout if they dont have a great pump, on the other hand i like the feeling of have all the body hit and even some cardio effect from a workout. You get better results doing what you believe that works and enjoy doing.

The question that I’d like to see a yes or no answer to (because I think it CAN be answered that easily) is this;

Is it merely a coincidence that the biggest and strongest bodybuilders and strength athletes use variations of split routines and not TBT?

Like I said, yes or no? (please)

[quote]derek wrote:
The question that I’d like to see a yes or no answer to (because I think it CAN be answered that easily) is this;

Is it merely a coincidence that the biggest and strongest bodybuilders and strength athletes use variations of split routines and not TBT?

Like I said, yes or no? (please) [/quote]

Agree about bodybuilders. But strength athletes? All olympic lifters and a lot of strongman use tbt, i dont know if gymnasts are considered strength athletes, but these guys also get very strong on tbt.
Anyway, the guy asked about training frequency… why all the threads have to turn into another “what is universally better? tbt or split?” debate?

[quote]Sagat wrote:
derek wrote:
The question that I’d like to see a yes or no answer to (because I think it CAN be answered that easily) is this;

Is it merely a coincidence that the biggest and strongest bodybuilders and strength athletes use variations of split routines and not TBT?

Like I said, yes or no? (please)

Agree about bodybuilders. But strength athletes? Anyway, the guy asked about training frequency… why all the threads have to turn into another “what is universally better? tbt or split?” debate?

[/quote]

I was thinking powerlifters when I wrote strength athletes so I have to still stand by my comments.

And the split vs TBT debate comes directly from the differences between CT and CW’s philosophies. One is low frequency split and the other high frequency TBT, hence the comparison.

[quote]derek wrote:
Sagat wrote:
derek wrote:
The question that I’d like to see a yes or no answer to (because I think it CAN be answered that easily) is this;

Is it merely a coincidence that the biggest and strongest bodybuilders and strength athletes use variations of split routines and not TBT?

Like I said, yes or no? (please)

Agree about bodybuilders. But strength athletes? Anyway, the guy asked about training frequency… why all the threads have to turn into another “what is universally better? tbt or split?” debate?

I was thinking powerlifters when I wrote strength athletes so I have to still stand by my comments.

And the split vs TBT debate comes directly from the differences between CT and CW’s philosophies. One is low frequency split and the other high frequency TBT, hence the comparison.

[/quote]

Add to that the fact that the OP wasn’t querying about which is “universally” better, but which is better for pure hypertrophy.