One of the coolest parts about working as a researcher in the muscle sciences is questioning old ideas about how we develop muscle.
Each exercise that includes muscle building actually involves you doing “harm” to your muscles when you lift weights. The body then restores those muscles while you heal between workouts; you’re actually building new muscle during this period. That’s why many gym-goers rely on rest, proper diet and supplements for men for faster recovery.
Have the Wisdom
The conventional wisdom on this cycle suggests the body needs less time to repair and build muscle after a strength workout, while you gain experience in the weight room.
Allegedly, younger lifters can develop and restore muscle after their workout for up to 48 hours or more. If you are an experienced lifter, there is a shorter repair period, about 24 to 36 hours. This is why you’ll often see training pro bodybuilders many times a week. After all, if you want muscle development to be maximized, you often have to question your muscles, right?
Needless to say. It all comes down to this at the end of the day: You will find a level of training that works for you and your lifestyle. Whether this is six days a week or three days a week, you will find ways of muscle building.
A recent experiment I’ve done with Croatian, Australian, Washington and New York researchers helps to show that. We recruited 27 young men who had been lifting for the past six months at least twice a week, splitting them into two study groups: one group lifted three days a week on non-consecutive days (RT3), while another group practiced six days a week (RT6).
Training for Overall Growth
Although the RT6 group lifted twice as often as the RT3, we made sure that by the end of each week, all groups received the same amount of volume. Everybody performed seven exercises per workout for six to twelve reps, except that the RT3 group did four sets per workout, while the RT6 group did two.
Unless you follow the conventional line of thinking that more training sessions are needed to keep seeing success, you may predict greater results for the RT6 group than for the RT3 group. Yet, by the end of the six-week training period, both groups generally saw similar muscle and strength gains.
Let me break things down a little bit: Both groups improved their upper and lower body power, which we tested through a one-rep max barbell bench press test and barbell back squat test. We used an ultrasonic to measure the thickness of several muscles, including their quads and forearm muscles, to gage muscle growth. Once again, the muscle growth of both classes was relatively similar.
No one seemed to overtrain just as crazy. The men who exercised six days a week showed no signs of overtraining, questioning the notion that between sessions muscles require 24 to 48 hours of rest.
So do not overthink the duration of your workout. Personally, practicing every day is less convenient for me so I do a few longer sessions each week. But busy people, training for half an hour every day over your lunch break might make total sense. Do what you need to do to stay consistent.
Do you want to see the results of your workout? Then practice consistency.