T Nation

Workout Frequency Question


Do you think that working out 3 days a week doing chest, back, and legs all on seperate days will give me results doing 14 sets with 7 different exercises for each group? Then on 2 of my 3 days off i would be doing cardio. Or would it be better to hit each muscle group more frequently? thx


It depends. If you are doing 15 reps per set than this would be way too much volume. Do you see where I'm going with this?

We need more information. What are your goals, what are your weak points as far as your lifts go, etc.


Thanks for replying, i kinda figured you would need more information about me and my workout, so here it goes. I have been lifting hard since January, but i lifted before then, just not consistantly. I see results very easily and can add/drop fat in a matter of days.

According to scrawny to brawny i am a mesomorph with a shoulder/hip ratio of 21.5/13.5 and a shoulder/height ratio of 21.5/74. I just recently started eating healthy and have seen good improvements since then(maybe 3 weeks?). My goals however is to get semi-big and shredded. Im 180 lbs right now and would like to get to 200-210 of muscle. The body type of Owen Mcgibben (a menshealth model).

For supplements i take whey and creatine and flax seed oil. Just 2 weeks ago i started taking glutamine powder and CLA capsules. My protein intake is roughly 200, carbs about 100, fat i dont know, calories in the high 2000 low 3000.

I want to change workouts because it seems im in a bit of a platau gaining strength wise. My old routine was that i would hit my chest and back 2 times a weeks my legs 1. But only doing maybe 9 sets per muscle group. My new chest routine looks like this.

DB incline bench 2x10
flat bench 2x10
machine flies 2x10
db decline/incline (depending what day it is i like to switch this exercise up) 2x10
machine chest pullover 2x10 (not sure if this is the right name, but thats what i call it)
cable crossover 3x10
dips 2xfatigue (which isnt too many after everything)

so do you think that i would gain from doing this only once a week? or is 2 times optimal? I kind of think that once a week is too little. I also do cardio 2-3 days a week.


I'm going to assume you mean 14 TOTAL sets in a workout, because 14 sets of each exercise for 7 exercises is bordering on ludicrous. No, check that, it IS ludicrous. You sound like you want to build muscle mass. If that's true, check Waterbury's articles for full body training splits that go 3-4 times a week. That's good stuff. I'm a fan of frequent training. Hey, if it works for the world's strongest athletes (Oly lifter/PLers), it can work for me.

Of course, it all depends on how you set up your schemes...


How about switching to one of the total body routines on the site? You want to work the muscles more frequently, not less. Try the Waterbury Method for starters.


Ok, well, it seems you're trying to educate yourself. Reading, etc, that's good. You're getting a good amount of protein for your bodyweight, and you're taking flax seed oil which means you've got balls ('cause that stuff is AWFUL! I can't even get it close to my mouth) :).

Here's the story...if you want to gain bodyweight and strength, you need to squat and deadlift. Those things add slabs of muscle onto your frame, all over, not just on the legs. Best builders of all exercises. Can I see your leg workout, please?

Also, you might think about dropping the reps down to the 5-8 range. Check out writings of Christian Thibaudeau, and esp. Chad Waterbury's "Set/Rep Bible" article.

Finally, while variety is good, and you have plenty of variety with your chest routine, variety isn't everything. Drop the machine/cable work completely, it doesn't help add strength and can be setting you up for problems down the road. Stick to 3-5 exercises per session/workout that hit the most muscle groups. My top ten in that I use are,in no particular order:

bent row
overhead squat
good mornings

and military press (11)

And, let's see your back routine too.

Finally, as you say you are in a plateau, try a couple things: 1--cut off the "dead weight" exercises (ie-isolation/machine ex.), and 2--think about taking a couple easy weeks to recoup. Sometimes the problem isn't too little work, it's too much. Usually though, just cutting away the fancy stuff and going back to hard core basics works great (thanks Dan John!).


Thanks alot, heres my back and leg workout

rope cable row to neck
upright row
straight arm pulldown
bent over row
v-bar pulldown
seated cable row
back extension

all 2x10 except back extension is 2xfailure

here is my leg workout

squats 3x10
leg extensions 2x10
leg curls 2x10
standing calf raises 2x10
sitting calf raises 2x10
(i know my leg workout sux, alot of isolation)

there is no room for dead lifts in my gym (its a very softcore gym with a bunch of old people but nice equipment) I really hate full body workouts, do you think if i were to cut some of the un-needed exercises out that i could hit all body parts twice a week? or even do this workout twice a week per muscle group but that might be overtraining then. or what about back and chest one day and then legs the next? thanks again

and about the flax seed oil i use the capsules.


Fair enough, whole body workouts aren't everyone's ideal. I don't generally do them either. Just a thought.

For legs, I suggest using the squat rack for deadlifts. Just put the bar on the floor and have a go. If not that, then do some lunges and maybe good mornings or step ups(weighted, of course) instead of leg extensions and curls. If you need, you can add the curls and stuff at the end of the workout, but more as an after thought. GMs are the best, but really hard on you if you aren't careful about form and working into them slowly. If you do them, you'll have to watch yourself on back day just to see how you react. Worth the effort to work into though, many times over.

As for back, do your bent over rows first, if you do them with a barbell. Chins would be nice to add in, but it looks ok for now. Basically, keep in mind that it's getting the most bang for your buck that's the secret, not a million different exercises. I do admit though that variety is really nice. If necessary though, stick with the heavy basics. It ends up adding more muscle anyway. So at least prioritize them.

Yeah, if you cut out all the unneeded exercises you could probably hit each part 2x a week. But I definitely wouldn't do these workouts as is 2x a week. Then, if you feel overworked, just back off to 1x a week for a while. It takes a while for your body to get use to frequent training.

Back/chest one day, legs the next, and repeat looks fine from here. Just change up the organization after about 4-6 weeks, whether that means changing days, reps, sets, exercises, scheme, whatever. Change at least one thing.

I'd also suggest checking out anything and everything by Christian Thibaudeau and Chad Waterbury. Everything they write works. I think I may have already mentioned them (or maybe that was another thread), but regardless, read their articles. Good ideas to think about, even if you don't want to change your workout right now.


Thanks alot Aragorn, i will take your advice. I got really confused about whether to be working out 1 or 2 days a week per muscle group. My friend is lifting with an old bodybuilder (won first place in the tri-state bodybuilding competition) and what he does is 24 reps for his chest on monday, tuesday 24 reps on his back, wednesday 24 for legs, thursday bis and tris, and friday abs.

This didnt seem right to me but kinda made me wonder how many times a week I should be lifting per muscle group. But thanks again and I will check out Christian's and Chad's stuff. And also could you post your workout for me to see? i would like to compare them.