Exercise frequency and how I arrived at my present routine

Exercise Frequency

Back when I was doing Max-OT, I was doing body part training every day of the week.  I believe this to have been semi-effective, but the frequency was on the high side.  I would make some progress, but would need to take time off frequently.  Some who are more genetically gifted than me would most likely benefit more from a higher frequency program, but I cannot count myself amongst this group.

When I was doing high intensity training (HIT), I was only doing one workout per week, which was total body, with one set to compete failure for each exercise.  I was operating under the impression that training to failure was absolutely necessary to provide growth.  In essence, the HIT crowd believes that your body will not provide an adaptive response unless pushed to its limit, i.e., failure to do any more mechanical work.  More on frequency and an effective hardgainer routine after the jump.

I gained some strength, but wasn’t gaining any weight.  In fact, I even lost some weight.  My diet during this time was strictly paleo.  However, I will also state that during this time that I was so afraid of gaining fat that I was probably subconsciously calorie-restricting myself.  Nothing major, but slightly fewer calories on a daily basis will add up.  Combined with HIT, which is extremely metabolically taxing, the result was minor fat loss, but no muscle gain.

So what was the problem?  I clearly had adequate rest between workouts.  My diet was most likely a factor, to a degree.  I say “to a degree,” because I later tried the classic “bulk” method and all I gained was fat.  I believe the key issue with HIT for hardgainers is the toll it takes on the central nervous system (CNS).  When working out without training to failure, I’ve found that I can work out again much sooner.  High intensity training, for me, requires at least a week of rest, and by the time the CNS is ready, I believe my muscular gains to have stagnated.

I am *not* saying that HIT does not work for muscular gain.  What I am saying, however, is that I did not experience much success with it, even with a caloric surplus.  Success, in this case, would be muscle mass gain.  Though, as an aside, I will say that I have never lost weight so easily, and I’d recommend it for someone trying to reduce body fat.

Discovering a balance

So if five days a week is too often, and one day a week is not often enough, one would logically move to try three days a week.  Currently, that is exactly what I am doing, and what I have enjoyed a fair amount of success with.  The following is my full body workout for each day, employing a heavy, light, medium scheme:

  • Squats
  • Bench press
  • Bent over barbell rows
  • Military press
  • Deadlifts
  • Drag curls
  • Calf raises
  • Exercise ball crunches
This routine was inspired by the beginner’s routine by Casey Butt.  I highly recommend reading some more of his articles, they are extremely well written and researched.

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