CT, In your opinion from your experience as a coach what is the a minimum amount of work that can be done to maintain the muscle one has and make slow progress?
I am for the most part happy with where I am but, am finding it harder to get my weekly sessions in due to my work schedule. What would be a good split/routine for someone who would be happy maintaining and making steady progress who can train 3-4x a week (it varies due to work).
It’s an odd question and I don’t really know how to answer it.
First of all you are not clear about what you ask. “Maintaining” and “making slow progress” are two completely different things. They are not even remotely similar.
Most people who train HARD will gain around 5-7lbs of muscle mass (not weight) in a year once they are passed the beginner stage, this is not “fast” progress but it is typical and require a lot of hard work to accom0lish. Even fast progress would be considered “slow progress by most!”. Even training to gain a solid 3lbs of muscle in a year require a good level of effort. Training to add 3-5lbs of muscle in a year will require a lot more work than just maintaining exactly what you have.
Maintaining muscle is actually fairly easy but it is at least as much about nutrition as it is about training.
For training I would say about 5-6 work sets per muscle per week would be enough to maintain muscle mass provided that the intensity level is high enough.
There are even some examples of people maintaining muscle and even gaining some with something like Mentzer’s consolidation routine which was basically 2 training sessions per week for about 2-3 sets per muscle group.
Some general points:
It’s easier to maintain muscle when your nutrients intake is higher. Take dieting bodybuilders for example. Even with a high level of training they often lose muscle when dieting down
the higher quality if your food, the easier it is to maintain muscle mass
the harder you train (as in working hard on your work sets, not as in doing lots of sets) the easier it is to maintain muscle mass
you can maintain muscle mass while looking worse, even if you don’t gain much fat. Training tends to shift water inside the muscle while doing nothing tends to shift it outside (which will make you look smaller and fatter). Training increases glycogen storage in the muscles. Training increases muscle tone making the muscles look harder. So your visual appearance needs more work to be maintained than what is needed to simply keep your muscle mass.
the more lifting experience you have and the more progressive/gradual your gains where, the easier it is to maintain them
the more physically active you are in your life, the easier it is to maintain your muscle
the LESS stressful your life it, the easier it is to maintain your muscle mass
It’s easier to maintain muscle with a higher frequency/lower volume than a high volume/lower frequency approach