More than 51 percent of Americans reported working out three or more days a week for at least 30 minutes in a 2010 Gallup survey.
Have you wondered if more would be better?
The American College of Sports Medicine advises “for general muscular fitness, an individual should resistance train each muscle group 2-3 days a week.” This is the minimum recommended, so experts agree that when looking to get lean, the number of days matter, but the total volume (sets x reps) is a determinant as well.
Will the results be the same on strength and body composition when doing a full-body workout three times a week when compared with doing a split routine (two days focus on upper body and two days focus in lower body) four days a week doing the same exercises at the same volume?
Conclusion: Three is as good as four
In a study where subjects were advised to not to change their diets to avoid any dietary influences in the results, both groups – three days/week total body workout vs. four days/week split training – increased lean body mass and strength after eight weeks of resistance training.
“When the numbers of sets per week is equated – 72 sets in this particular case – gain in lean mass and strength are not influenced by training frequency,” concludes the study published by The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (November 2011).
Frédéric Delavier advises that when working three times a week, all the muscles should work together, especially when you’re looking for performance. Muscles work all together and not individually. In a three-days-a-week program “each muscle is stimulated by a few sets so the total volume of the session is manageable,” says Delavier in his best seller "The Strength Training Anatomy Workout."
That being said, for Brian Biagoli, EdD, executive director NCSF, four days a week would be superior to three days based on a potential increase in volume and the ability to create more time under tension. Especially when looking for performance and a particular aesthetic.
Super-set your workout
If you want to test yourself with the same routine that the study used with its participants, this is what you have to do:
Perform the workout on non-consecutive days, three times a week. Do three sets of 8-12 reps from each super-set.
The workout is designed in super-sets, meaning two exercises performed one after another with no pause in between. In this case, the study mainly used one upper body exercise followed by one lower body move.
1. Super-set: chest press – leg press.
2. Super-set: lat pull-down – leg extension.
3. Super set: shoulder press – leg curl.
4. Super set: bicep curls – triceps pushdown.
Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning, coach and master trainer who is an adjunct professor at Florida International University. Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website martamontenegro.com, combines fitness, nutrition and health tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.