T Nation

Frequency - Still the Same Recommendations or Any New Revelations?

Dr.Darden it is a pleasure to have you on here!!! I followed your other forum and dug through it many times, there is a ton of wisdom over there everyone - you should definitely read!

Do you still believe that 1 whole body workout and 1 workout (not to failure) on average per week is the best starting point for most trainees (looking for general health/strength and some hypertrophy)?

Also do you still believe that 1-3 sets for 1-3 exercises is still the best way to go? I am just talking standard tempo not 30-10-30 (Phenomenal Article and results btw).

Respectfully,
Powerm22

Generally, I’d suggest doing one set to failure of 8 to 10 exercises per week. That’s a good starting place for most trainees looking for overall health and strength.

I wanted to discuss a few more points on frequency. I’ve done a lot of thinking and tinkering with that concept in the last 15 years.

I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s and we trained four or five times a week. Sometimes we did whole-body routines and sometimes split routines. Our workouts were usually 1 hour in duration. The trend in muscle magazines, however, pushed the more-is-better concept. Instinctively, I knew that wasn’t the answer.

But I didn’t know why until I met Arthur Jones in 1970. Jones had a way of jerking your mind and body into an understanding state. Whole-body training three times per week became my standard and I got into my best-ever shape.

As I reached the age of 40 to 50 years, things began to change. Three times per week was simply too much: that is three high-intensity times per week. I added not-to-failure training once a week and that helped.

About 2005, I realized that twice a week training was even better than three times per week.

Next, as I progressed in age into my 70s, I realized that my body could not take heavy HIT sessions like I could in my 40s and 50s. Now, I’ve gradually gone back to doing more split routines and more frequency. My goal is just trying to keep the muscle that I have and I can do that training more often than twice a week.

I continue to explore how to apply the negative phase of the exercise to my advantage with such techniques as 30-30-30, 30-10-30, and 10-10-10. I use those techniques with all my trainees and their ages range from 16 to 65.

More later.

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Dr. Darden,

Pure gold. And can’t wait to hear more. I wish more people thought strategically the way you signified above. It took me years (I was a D1 football player at a top 5 school) to realize I needed to scale back quit a bit. Then from there it has been seeing how I feel and what works for my body and it changes depending on the week I’ve had stress etc. I’m in my 30’s now and just started to think more about what I’m doing instead of more is better and breaking my body down. I’ve been getting stronger and bigger and not feeling like I’m not looking forward to training (most of the time that is). Thanks for the wisdom.

Respectfully,
Powerm22

Ah, yes, wisdom. Don’t we all need more of it?

Arthur Jones once said: “Why do we get so soon old, and so late smart.”

Very interesting, Dr. Darden.

Would you mind giving an example of which exercises and how many sets you would perform for each day?

Standard Whole-Body Training

Here’s an interesting routine:

  1. Leg extension or leg curl machine (your choice)
  2. Squat with barbell
  3. Calf raise in power rack
  4. One dumbbell pullover lying crossway on a bench
  5. Underhand chin-up
  6. Barbell bench press
  7. Barbell curl
  8. Triceps extension with one dumbbell held in both hands
  9. Wrist curl with barbell
  10. Stiff-legged deadlift with barbell
  11. Hanging leg raise
  12. Parallel-bar dip

I’d recommend that you do one set of 8-12 repetitions on each exercise. And try to go to failure on each exercise, with the exception of the barbell squat and stiff-legged deadlift. Stop short of failure on those two.

That’s it. The entire workout, once you get the hang of it, should take approximately 30 minutes.

If you are a beginner, you can probably train three time per week – or six times in two weeks. Soon, you’ll need to drop it to 5 times in two weeks. And eventually to four times in two weeks, or twice a week.

I explain all the concepts in my book: The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results.

Let me know if you have any questions or problems?

Thank you Dr. Darden.

I ordered your book, I’ll get back to you if I have any question.

Again, thank you.

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“Next, as I progressed in age into my 70s, I realized that my body could not take heavy HIT sessions like I could in my 40s and 50s. Now, I’ve gradually gone back to doing more split routines and more frequency. My goal is just trying to keep the muscle that I have and I can do that training more often than twice a week.”

Very interesting!
How many times per week are you training nowadays?
How do you typically structure your split?
Do you still train to failure? How often?

For me, that’s always been interesting to read but not realistic. Perhaps that’s why I do well on 531 programs, where you literally take a single set to failure after training for 8 weeks (6 weeks of leaders, 1 week of what he calls 7th week protocol, then you finally take a single set to failure each workout).

For me, if I take a single set to failure, and then think of doing that 11 more times that workout like above, that is fantasy land. I am pretty strong and fast, can do 25 pull ups and run a sub-6 mile mile at 47 years old, BP 285, DL 400 lbs (nothing impressive to may, but showing I’m not a weak person) and literally taking sets to failure regularly is not an option. Why is that? I train with form and bar speed, and literally leave several reps in the tank with each set, even the heaviest.

Hello Dr. D,
What is the 10-10-10? I do believe I missed that one somehow!
Best,
Scott

10-10-10 is a shortened version of 30-10-30. It’s a 10-second negative, followed by 10 normal reps, and a final 10-second negative.

Obviously, whatever you are doing works well for you. Continue to do that. There’s no need to even consider modifying anything.

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Any details on how many times per week are you training nowadays?
How do you typically structure your split?
Do you still train to failure? How often?
Thanks.

Two days a week I do the following:

Neck extension on 4-Way Neck machine
Squat on Nautilus Multi-Exercise machine, 2 sets
Calf raise on Multi-Exercise machine

Two days a week I do:

Chest press on Nautilus Chest machine
Pullover on Nautilus Pullover machine
Rowing on Nautilus Rowing machine, or Negative-only chins on ME machine
Hammer curl with dumbbells
Overhead press with dumbbells

Generally, I do one set of 8 to 12 reps. I rarely go to failure, as I’m just trying to keep the muscle I have. I’m 5’10" tall and weigh 180 pounds . . . and I’m 77 years old.

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thank you for the interesting info.
so basically an upper-lower split but still low volume.
congratulations on hanging onto that muscle; a lifetime of good training!

Many lifters who do a bunch of sets to failure Don’t use squat, bench press, deadlift or pullups, specifically because it’s hard to do a bunch of sets to failure with those lifts.

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I’d agree with that, with the glaring exception of pullups - they’re a bodyweight exercise, plenty of people can do many sets to failure with them, 5/3/1 frequently programs 50-100 pullups in, etc.

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Doc, I think we can all say we hope to grow up to be like you. Haha

I posted this in another thread a few weeks ago but I’d like your thoughts if you’re willing to give them!

I have heard other coaches say that it takes roughly 1/3 the volume to maintain. Meaning if you needed 15 hard sets in a week to gain muscle. 5 Sets a week would maintain That muscle and size.

I can say from personal experience that I have had months of training where I was doing very few sets per workout and was simply pushing those really hard. I’m not a professional and I’m natural. That’s purely anecdotal of course. I figure you’d know if anyone does if that holds true to top level bodybuilders.

Is there a reason why you can’t keep the intensity high while decreasing the frequency to a level that is manageable for your recovery ability? Maybe train every 10 days?