To stimulate or to annihilate, that is the question. If you have stuck around long enough you have heard the argument on whether more sets and reps per workout is more beneficial or training the muscle more often will result in more muscle gains. This typically is the difference with a more traditional bodybuilder split in which each muscle is trained only once per week and a more movement based split where muscles are being trained more frequently throughout the week.
The answer for which option is more beneficial lies in what kind of lifter you are and your ability to recover in between training. In the defense of the classic bodybuilder workouts where single muscles are trained per session and the muscle is trained every 5-7 days, the built in recovery period is maximized when allowing up to a week between workouts. This kind of training is conducive to extra high amounts of volume. Being able to train with that high of volume also has benefits in allowing athletes to utilize many different exercises and variations that can completely tax the entirety of the muscle’s fibers.
The downside of this training style is that each time the muscle is stimulated or trained there is an increase of muscle protein synthesis (MPS) or growth of muscle tissue. Ergo, limiting the number of times you are training a muscle limits the max amount of times you can initiate this increased MPS signal. As well as limiting MPS the amount of volume needed to get a threshold stimulus to require 5-7 days to recover from to maximize the efficiency of the workouts--is beyond most people’s ability to safely handle in one session. This is why elite level professional bodybuilders are the major proponents of this way of training.
They have acquired the strength and endurance to match the need for the volume required and are synthetically enhanced in their recovery abilities. Alternative to the bodybuilder split is the movement based split, this includes such workouts such as push/pull/legs, upper/lower splits, and many other variations. The idea behind these kinds of workouts is to put more muscle groups into one session which will directly influence volume. As there is more variety of muscles that are now needing to be trained in the duration of the workout—the specific volume for each said muscle group will decrease as time is now more of a limiting factor. The upside of this style of workout is that the muscle is trained more times during the week and takes advantage of increased MPS per session. While also allowing more stimulation of the muscle it also gives the lifter a smaller workload per session to recover from and less of an opportunity for injuries to occur. With the increased amount of sessions per week comes great responsibility. Movement based splits for the more hardcore lifters who have not yet mastered the art of autoregulation are not as highly recommended. That equates to a trainee having deadlifts planned on Monday, whilst a squat session on Thursday, both of these exercises are extremely taxing on the body’s ability to recover. The trainee that is pedal to the metal, deadlifts his heart out on Monday and is still recovering come Thursday, their injury risk is much higher on that Squat session later on in the week. Multiple sessions per week are better suited to lifters that know their body well enough to know when to go all out or throttle down. Similarly, a lifter that knows the difference between exercises that are valuable and ones that are not tend to do better training more times per week, as with more compacted sessions the time for fluffy exercises is eliminated.
On paper the weaknesses of the low frequency and high volume training splits are the strengths of the high frequency low volume split, and vice versa. Whereas a lifter that is very aware of what their body needs to grow would benefit from training more often and a newer trainee would be better off taking more time in between sessions. The trick to both variations lies in the ability to recover from the training session and being able to push the body farther. Incorporating an intra-workout supplement like Performax Labs IntraMax, is is a great way to get valuable nutrients to enhance recovery and promote healing for either annihilating or stimulating sessions.