Train More Frequently for Better Results

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

For most of us, we are training to get stronger and add some muscle.

In doing so we will become more athletic, more resilient to injury and will be more confident with the way we look and feel.

So with this in mind a common question I am asked is how many times per week should we train in order to maximize strength gains and a leaner, more muscular physique?

And how long should training sessions be?

Should training take hours on end a couple times per week, or should we be training nearly every day utilizing shorter sessions?

As usual the answer is somewhere in the middle, and as always, it depends on the individual.

The Untrained Individual

This isn’t a knock on anyone who has been getting after training consistently, but you may not be as trained as you think.

Unless you have been training consistently for more than two years, you are an untrained individual. Again, this is not to say you are not a consistent trainee, but you still have not reached the status of a truly trained individual.

And if you are someone who has been “working out” off and on for more than two years, remember that the training must be consistent in order to be considered trained.

Untrained individuals will see dramatic improvements and progress with training when compared to trained individuals as they have a bigger window of adaptation.

Think of anytime you pick up a new skill or hobby (including training). You may not be the best at first, but you will make quick progress if you stick to it consistently. Then, after a while progress slows.

It has been shown that untrained individuals will experience sufficient strength and size gains with a more traditional, less frequent approach to training. This less frequent approach would be something like three full body sessions per week.

But, it has also been shown that these same individuals will make similar progress on a more frequent training split (4+ sessions per week).

Trained Individuals

Those of us who have been at the training game for more than 2 years (consistently) will likely experience greater progress with more frequent training when compared to three times or less per week.

And the great thing is that this is volume matched training. This means that you may not have to perform more overall volume (adding extra volume with another session in addition to your already existing three times per week), but instead you can redistribute your 3x/week training over 4+ times per week.

For example, let’s say you perform a total of 12 sets of squats per week.

To take advantage of more frequent training, you do not have to now perform more sets of squats per week (say 15-16 sets), but you can simply take your 12 sets and spread them out over more sessions during the week.

This may mean that instead of 4 sets of squats 3 days per week, you can now do 3 sets of squats 4 days per week.

And the same would go for any other exercise.

Hopefully that math is not too complicated!

 

The Added Benefits of More Frequent Training

When you only train 3x or less per week you will have to perform a high volume during those sessions to accrue a sufficient stimulus for the week.

If you train 4x or more per week you can perform less volume during those sessions as the total overall volume is now distributed over more sessions.

Not only will this decrease the amount of time each sessions takes, but in my personal experience as well as those of our athletes, it will decrease the demand on the body during each session.

I am not saying that the intensity won’t be high, actually quite the opposite. When you have less overall volume to perform in a given session, you can put more effort/intensity into each set.

Although you may try not to, if you know that you have a marathon of a session ahead, you are likely to sandbag and not push the initial sets of your session to your full capacity.

Knowing that you have less total sets to perform for a session will allow you to make the most out of every set.

Lastly, you will notice that at the end of the session you will not feel like you were just run over by a 18 wheeler! Instead, as long as you kept the intensity high, you will feel like you completed a quality session that will leave you ready to train again soon.

To Train or Not to Train…More Frequently

Taking the above info into consideration, it would seem that a greater training frequency is superior to less frequent training, especially when you are a trained individual.

Untrained individuals can achieve sufficient adaptations from a less frequent training regimen, but will still achieve the results with more frequent training.

Many of us can dedicate 45 minutes to an hour per day for training, but it is when we start talking about an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half that things start to get a bit crazy!

With higher frequency training, sessions are shorter, less damage to the body will occur and because of the more frequent stimulus on the body (central nervous system, musculoskeletal system, cardiovascular system, hormone regulation, etc.), you will experience greater strength and muscular gains.

And the best part is that this occurs without any extra volume. Merely spreading the same training program out in an efficient manner will provide the adaptations necessary for continued progress.

Try taking your existing program and spreading it out over 4+ days and let us know how you do.

 

 

 

Make Change Easy…Easier!

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

 

 

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to spend the day with a bunch of really smart dudes (and dudettes) at the 3rd annual Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar.

While I am always excited about the talks that go over the nuts and bolts of training such as movement assessment, cueing/coaching and programming, I was the most excited to see Greg Robins present on helping athletes get and stay motivated to reach their goals, and make a positive change.

Greg’s ability to put the information into context, as well as emotionally connect with the audience made his presentation 2nd to none. It was also a great demonstration of how we as coaches, spouses, friends and family can help others make a positive change and live a happier and healthier life…and get jacked diesel and more athletic of course!

The big three components to making a change (one that actually lasts) are the mind (knowledge), the heart (emotion) and the path (situation/environment), as Greg discussed.

 

 

This was something that I had previously read about in Switch by Dan and Chip Heath, but the way Greg was able to reiterate their message was superb and a great reminder to how we can be successful with our training, nutrition and lifestyle.

So just how can we make sure that a positive change will occur, last and make it easier to obtain?

It is not by accruing more information. Many of us already know what to do and in many cases have too many options. Rather it is by making an emotional connection to the change we are seeking and then paving a path that will be the most conducive in allowing us to get there.

Here are a few tips to help you in making the change in which you seek whether it is to lose body fat/weight, gain muscle and/or strength or simply to live a healthier life that will allow you to have fun and enjoy everything to the fullest.

 

1)      Identify your goal

 This is pretty self explanatory as most of us know what our goal is, but again, it is how we get there that we need help with.

 

2)      Ask yourself why you want this at least three times

For example, if you want to lose body fat as yourself why.

Let’s say your first answer is so you can fit into your old clothes, ask yourself why again.

 

 

Your second answer may be that you want to be able to do so as you have a 10 year high school reunion in a few months.

Ask yourself why one last time and you are likely to discover that you want to lose body fat so you feel confident around others, and maybe so you can impress that someone you used have a thing for.

That is the deeper why, and the why you need to make an emotional connection.

 

3)      Make the emotional connection

From the last point you may have been able to make the emotional connection. Maybe you want a passionate relationship that you can be confident in. There is your emotional connection…the want to love, and to be happy with yourself the entire time.

Other emotions can be the driver such as fear, but discovering a positive emotion is best.

 

4)      Pave a better path

Now it is time to make the journey easier.

Develop a support team (your friends/family/colleagues) who will be there for you along the way. Make sure they know about your goals and ask them to help you. If they think it is silly and tell you to forget it, well, forget them. Remove them from the situation.

 

 

Next, make your living environment fit your goals. Again relating to health and performance, try to get replace the temptations that may hold you back from your goals such as highly processed, high sugar foods. Try replacing them with something else that is still sweet but healthy.

And if your daily routine consists of you working, getting home and sitting on the couch, make it a point to replace sitting on the couch with something else such as a walk, foam rolling session or quick training session.

The idea is to replace the non-constructive stuff with more conducive items/activities.

 

5)      Make the change EASY

If the change you are seeking seems like a daunting task, make it much simpler. Instead of losing 20lbs, think of losing 1-2 pounds per week as the goal.

And even better, make the goal a process goal. Forget about losing weight/fat and focus on building routines/habits such as eating protein with each meal, going for a 10 minute walk every morning or taking 15 minutes to chill out in the middle of your day.

Whatever you think you can do 99% of the time.

As Greg mentioned, it is the little successes that will grow into big accomplishments and allow us to continue to make progress. So try and recognize your little successes and keep them piling up!

 

Conclusion

While this article is an extremely, let me repeat, EXTREMELY watered down version of what we discussed (in fact this may be only about 5% of what Greg covered), it is a good start to understanding a conducive behavior change process.

As Greg and I talked about afterwards, it doesn’t matter if you (or the person who is trying to make the change) knows 100% of the what they need to do if they are not emotionally invested and have a path to follow.

Greg and I both agreed that we would rather have an athlete who only understands 10% of what to do and does that nearly 100% of the time than an athlete who knows 100% of the information, but only does 5% of what they know, and only 50% of the time…that works out to 10% vs 2.5% for those you who really want the math!

So identify your goal, ask yourself why 3 times, find the emotion attached and start to plan the path that will allow you to get closer to your goals every day. And when your goals change (which they will) repeat the process and live a happy and healthy life defined by the body and confidence you want and deserve.

If you liked this article share it with EVERYONE so they have a better chance of reaching their goals and making positive changes…and give Greg a shout out because he is a smart dude!

Should You Train Through Soreness?!

 

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

 

Whether you have been in the training game for a while, or just recently started training, it is likely that you have experienced (or will soon experience!) Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), or the soreness 24-72 hours post training.

 

 

DOMS is a natural part of training and occurs when your body has been stressed past a point of its current threshold (which is the goal of training). Training that surpasses your current threshold provides a mechanical and metabolic stress that results in a multitude of factors that have been said to cause DOMS. These include lactic acid build-up (this has actually been proven incorrect), damage to the muscle cells themselves (mirco-tears), damage to intracellular organelles and more.

What truly causes DOMS is still up for debate and is not the focus of this article.

Rather, the focus here is whether or not you should train when DOMS rears its little ugly head…and like most questions involving training, the answer is it depends.

To illustrate this, let’s go over a couple different scenarios that involve DOMS, and how to handle them.

 

Scenario 1: “I’m a little sore, but not too bad”

 

If you wake up the next day after a training session and you find yourself a little “stiff” and feel like you just have to “stretch it out” (and you can move around without any range of motion limitations) you are good to get after training once again.

 

 

While I wouldn’t suggest completing the same movement patterns and exercises, especially at the same intensity, I would not keep you from training the same muscle groups (legs, back, chest, shoulders, etc.) again if you are working them in pattern/region specific splits.

For example, if you are working on a full body routine, you could again complete another full body routine using different exercises, but still stress some of the same muscles. If you squatted the first day you could deadlift the next. If you benched the first day, perform a push up the next.

Although you will be utilizing many of the same muscle groups (legs, chest, shoulders, etc. in the above example), you are stressing a different pattern, and the soreness you experienced from day 1 is not significant enough to compromise form or exacerbate the possibility of injury (remember this is the “not too bad” soreness scenario).

I would actually suggest that training the same muscle groups in a different pattern would be beneficial as it would provide a form of active recovery, as well as enhance your proprioceptive abilities.

Promoting blood flow to the region of soreness helps to transport the necessary nutrients that will help with recovery. And if you have any difficulty feeling an exercise in the muscle groups that are supposed to be working, training with a little soreness will help you more easily target that muscle (although we should be training movements and not muscles, we also definitely want certain muscles working over others in most cases).

A little soreness should not keep you from a training session and in fact could help speed recovery as well as allow you to better feel the activation of the targeted muscles. So as long as you are ready to train again (central nervous system is not compromised, nutrition and hydration status is adequate, mental state is on point, etc.) go ahead and get after it.

 

Scenario 2: “I can’t even walk up the stairs”

 

If the day after a training session you find yourself unable to walk up or down stairs, or when you go to sit on the couch it feels like something may actually rip off the bone, you have likely stressed the tissue to a point that you do not want to again stress to any significant level.

 

 

Not only is stressing a tissue that is already compromised more likely to result in an injury, but trying to properly execute a movement that stresses said tissue is near impossible because of pain. And while pain itself is no good, it is not actually the pain I worry about, but rather the faulty movement it promotes. Faulty movement is going to improperly load a joint and the muscles that surround it, which can often times result in an overuse injury.

So if you find yourself cursing with every movement, and the tissue itself is sore to the touch, do not try to perform any form of intense activity that stresses the same tissue. That doesn’t mean you can’t train other unaffected regions/movements, but if you are training on a full body routine that may be difficult.

Instead, active recovery such as a nice walk, light conditioning session or if you can tolerate it, a much lighter resistance training session, is a better way to go. But if you know that no matter how bad you hurt, if you were to step inside the gym it is all or nothing…well, stay out of the gym!

 

To Train or Not to Train?

 

The bottom line is that if you are sore, you can still train, but you must first determine how sore you truly are and go from there.

If you fall under the “Ehh, it’s not so bad” scenario, get after your training. With that said, I’d encourage you not to stress the same movements at the same intensity. Choose different movements from the previous session and make sure the intensity is appropriate, and you will reap the additional benefits of the session (active recovery and enhanced proprioception).

On the other hand, if you find yourself needing an IV of liquid Advil just to get out bed in the morning, you will want to stay away from stressing the same tissue to any significant degree. Active recovery, foam rolling, a lighter conditioning session or a session that stresses different tissues can be completed.

 

 

And if you do decide staying away from the gym is best, don’t fret about not training that day. If you train and you stay sore for days on end, you will not only be limiting the quality of your training, but you will also be limiting your results and risking injury…which will keep you from the training game for a much longer period of time than is required to recover from some DOMS!

I hope this article helped clear up the question of whether or not you should train with soreness!

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