T Nation

Frequency of Muscle Degeneration

Ellington, what is your take about the value/belief about training a muscle 2-3x weekly, re: “a muscle recovers in 72 hours”?

I’m not sure what you are asking. Can you restate your question, please?

It’s been long promoted that muscles recover within 72 hours, so they need to be trained 2-3 x weekly. Many HIT enthusiasts promote once weekly or less (McGuff, Sisco, Little, Mentzer, etc).I’d like to hear your views on that. Thanks.

I believe the 72-hour recovery concept depends on your level of inroad, as well as your age. If you are training in a normal manner and are under 50 years of age, then 72 hours applies. On the other hand, if you make a deeper than normal inroad by applying various negative-accentuated techniques, then you may require more than 72 hours to recover. The same thing could be said from being over 50 years old.

I apply once a week training with many of my clients.


Once a week! That’s very interesting coach! I guess you train full body once a week then with high intensity techniques.
What if they trained different body parts, like upper/lower or push/pull? Would those trainees still need that much of recovery between workouts?

Other opinions say, 36-48 hours for a muscle to recover (protein synthesis?). I think it depends on the training method. Taking sets to the max and beyond would require longer rest periods. But, that may not be for the muscles, they may have recuperated. It may be for other reasons. i.e. CNS, joints , ligaments, tendons, etc.

3 – Muscles must have 48 hours of rest.

Some believe that if you don’t give a muscle group 48 hours of recovery you’ll “overtrain” the muscle.

How long a muscle needs to recover depends on the volume and intensity of your training, and how well you eat and rest.

While it’s true that it may take 48 hours or even longer for a muscle to recover after working it to its limit, it’s probably also inadvisable to train in this manner consistently. One way to progress in workouts aside from increasing intensity or volume in individual workouts is to simply increase frequency.

Think of it as squeezing more training volume in over the course of weeks or months, instead of just focusing on how much you can do in your current workout. At a certain point, it’ll become very difficult to progress in intensity by increasing weight or reps.

When you reach this point, increasing frequency (and thus volume over time) is an easier way to progressively overload and see progress. Plus, you’re probably already training certain muscles unconsciously on back-to-back days.

Your core and abdominal muscles are used on virtually all big lifts. If you do a push/pull/legs split, you’re inevitably going to hit your upper back when you bench or overhead press. If you squat or deadlift on leg day, you’ll likely be using a good amount of forearms and upper back.

Tons of exercises use more than just the main muscles they target, and it can be hard to draw the line when deciding which exercises should be done on what days.

@NickV, you joined two days ago. Read this forum and others. Your questions have been asked/answered more than once.

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Thanks Ellington! Taking age and experience into the equation, it makes sense to HIT bodyparts once weekly. Much appreciated.

Speaking just for myself, whenever I train once a week, I have more post workout soreness. I tend to use full body workouts anyway, but when I train twice a week, I just spread the exercises out across the two workouts, and that seems to work better in terms of soreness. To be specific…

1x per week: squat, deadlift, bench, row, overhead press, pullup.

2x per week: A: squat, overhead press, pullup; B: deadlift, bench, row.

Even though I’m only doing each compound exercise once a week, the latter approach seems to reduce soreness. I’m guessing that’s because there is a lot of overlap in those compound exercises, and the repeat bout effect comes into play. Plus two shorter workouts is more manageable than one long one.

== Scott==
So how often do your muscles get sore if you’re doing the same routine?

Not quite sure what you are asking, or if I can really answer that, because I haven’t systematically done the same workout over and over again with different rest intervals to determine what frequency is optimal for that scenario.

My philosophy is to try to hit 6 major movements once per week: leg push, hip hinge, vertical push, vertical pull, horizontal push, horizontal pull. I find that spreading that out over two workouts works better than trying to do everything in a long once-per-week session. I typically will have some mild soreness after every workout in the muscle groups that I have worked. But spreading the workload over two days seems to make the post workout soreness less noticeable. Very subjective, but that seems to be the pattern. I suspect (but can’t say for sure) that the more frequent exposure to stress has something to do with it. Note that deadlifts and squats both work the legs to some extent; overhead presses and bench presses both work the arms and chest to some extent; pullups and rows both work the lats and biceps to some extent. So I’m giving some work to all those muscle groups twice a week, just not in the same way.

I have observed that when I have an extended layoff (7+ days) due to travel, I will feel particularly fresh when I hit that first workout, but then will feel noticeably more sore the next day.

So my conclusion from all that uncontrolled anecdotal information is that when I push recovery time out to 7 days or beyond, I can expect to be more sore after a workout. Not in a debilitating way, but I do prefer the option of more frequency and less volume per workout.

I’m that case I apologize. What I was really asking had to do more with accumulative nervous system fatigue than muscle recovery itself.

== Scott==
Don’t discount your anecdotal information , that is exactly the kind of answer I was looking for.

Since the summer, I have been experimenting again with training a muscle once, twice, or three times a week via a full body workout, upper/lower split, or three-way split (push/pull/legs). From a recovery standpoint, I find a three way split feels best because focusing on just one large muscle group along with a couple of smaller muscles is less demanding than trying to hit everything or two large muscles in the same session. I feel as if I can increase the demands on a muscle better this way too without over-reaching.

For years I tried to make sure I trained each bodypart every 7 days. I used to balk at the frequency recommendations of Mike Mentzer, John Heart , Chad Shaw. In recent months I’ve been making good gains training each bodypart every 12-16 days. Just today I trained legs. It was 18 days since my last leg session. My strength was up considerably on everything. Whenever I’ve tried to go back to training everything once a week, I regress. Being 45 and natural and not a good sleeper recovery takes time. I do a few more sets than most HIT trainers recommend, usually around 3-5 working sets per muscle after a few warm ups. Its certainly not conventional, but I cannot deny the results. I follow a 3 way split and train every 3-5 days.


Do you notice size increases also or just strength with that low of a frequency?

I’ve always seen increases in size whenever my strength increases. Not that it’s been a linear weekly thing, but over the years most certainly. My size has increased in recent months even at 45 to my surprise.


OK cool, thanks for the reply!

I had great strength gains in the past training a muscle every 10-14 days, but it seemed subpar for size. However, I was only doing one set per muscle. I’ve actually thought about training a muscle less frequently than 7 days (maybe go every 10 days), but using something like 4 sets per muscle like I am doing now - that would be something I never tried before.

I find this most interesting ! So do you figure it is taking you 17 days to recover ? I’d like to see a few weeks workout schedule to see how you break up your split ? I can’t imagine waiting weeks to train a muscle again !

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