If you’re training 5 times a week, you could be wasting your time (well, wasting 2 days anyway).
In a recent article (here) I demonstrated how 3-days per week was equally effective to training 5-days per week for building muscle i.e. a 3-day full body routine VS a 5-day split routine.
In THT training we use:
- A 3-day full body plan for 10 weeks
- Then take a week off. Then…
- A 5-day split routine for 10 weeks.
- Then take a week off. Then…
- Back to the 3-day plan (and so on back and forth as you continue to get bigger and stronger)
But now a new study  suggests that perhaps the 3-day full-body plan is actually superior (at least for actual SIZE gains).A new study suggests that training 3days/wk is better than 5 for muscle size gains Click To Tweet
STUDY TITLE: Influence of Resistance Training Frequency on Muscular Adaptations in Well-Trained Men.
Regarding the purpose of the study, the researchers stated…
“The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of training muscle groups 1 day per week using a split-body routine versus 3 days per week using a total-body routine on muscular adaptations in well-trained men.”
The subjects were 20 males, aged ~20-25, with good training experience (so no newbie gains).
They tested for both size and strength gains…
“Subjects were tested pre- and post-study for 1 repetition maximum strength in the bench press and squat, and muscle thickness of forearm flexors, forearm extensors, and vastus lateralis.”
“Results showed significantly greater increases in muscle thickness for TOTAL [full-body 3-day routine] compared to SPLIT [5-day split].
“No significant differences were noted in maximal strength measures.”
So strength increases are pretty much the same no matter which option you go for (this has been my experience too). But size gains were better when training 3 times a week.
Personally, for a while now I’ve been doing back to back 3-day THT training. It hasn’t been for superior gains, it just fits my lifestyle and schedule better.
But it’s true; if I had to pick only one way to train for the rest of my life, I would train my whole body 3 times-a week.
The researchers concluded…
“The findings suggest a potentially superior hypertrophic benefit to higher weekly resistance training frequencies.”
If you still have not downloaded THT training (for free), or downloaded it but never used it, start today! You seriously do not know what you’re missing. Start with the 3-day plan in the 8-12 rep range.
You can download below. Also, make sure you get the Android and iPhone apps (search for musclehack on your device).
NOTE: You don’t have to go to your email to confirm anything. Once you click the button, you’ll be taken straight to the download page 😀 I operate a ‘Strictly Zero Spam‘ policy.
Debunking the ‘More Is Better’ Mindset
Just a short note on this (annoying) mindset. People say this to me all the time, “I’ll just do the 5-day workout because I want better and faster gains”.
Apart from real-world experience and study results, (more studies in the free THT book) training 5 days in NOT more effective than training 3 days per week.
In a 5-day split each body part may get more sets, but there’s only 1 day of primary focus. With a 3-day full-body plan, each muscle gets primary stimulation 3 times a week – that’s 3 times the frequency – and frequency is an important part of stimulating growth.
Also, time in the gym is about equal.
In THT, a single session from the 5-day routine takes about 40 minutes (working 2 muscle groups).
A single full-body 3-day session takes about 65-70 minutes to complete.
Add it up: 40 x 5, and 70 x 3…
That’s 200 minutes for the 5-day plan and 195-210 minutes for the 3-day plan. So stop with this “5-days must be better than 3” nonsense.
I’ve been training 3-days a week for ages now.
And again, I’d like to point you to a more in-depth article I wrote on this subject called, “Is 3 Days Really Enough To Build Muscle?“. If you’re unsure about training 3 days week, you owe it to yourself to read that article.
I hope this clears this issue up. If you have any questions or need help, ask me below 😀
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P.S. People ask me all the time if Total Six Pack Abs is just a diet, an ab training program, or what exactly is it? You will continue training your whole body THT-style and making gains in the gym. On top of this, the T.S.P.A. diet will burn all the unwanted fat you have sitting on top of your muscle. You do NOT need to ever lose muscle to get a ripped six-pack.
Reference:  Influence of Resistance Training Frequency on Muscular Adaptations in Well-Trained Men.
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Yes, me too. I changed to back to back 3 day cycles to fit my lifestyle and have more free time. I certainly kept the same sort of strength and size gains I was always making. So sticking was a no-brainer.
Just downloaded THT. Excited! Mark which routine do I start with?
@Domi. I cover this in the article, buddy. The best way to start THT is with the 3-day/week plan using the 8-12 rep range. Thanks.
The naming is a bit misleading. “3 day full body” VS “5 day split”. They both are splits just one covers full body in 3 days where other in 5 days.
slightly confused with the wording, are you saying you would do a full body workout three days a week ( i.e. every muscle x 3) or three days as 3 day split (different muscles per workout as per tht)?
@Mike. Hi. No they’re not both splits. The 3-day routine is a full body workout.
You train your whole body on Monday.
You train your whole body on Wednesday.
You train your whole body on Friday.
So the frequency that each muscle is worked is three-fold.
@Ali. Yes I’m saying I would train my whole body every session, 3 times a week (which is what I am doing now).
Thanks @Mark for clarification. I’ve check the study and from what I can gather from abstract there were 10 exercises (1 per muscle group) to cover full body. If you are on this right now can you confirm gaining strength with such program?
The problem I have is that I work away from home all week and can only get to the gym on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. So presently I am doing back and chest on Tuesday, arms on Wednesday and legs and shoulders/traps on Thursday. I am also in the gym a little longer than I would like as I am trying to keep to the 8 sets per body part, so that is 16 sets most days ( with a little ab work thrown in for good measure). So I am not really doing either the full body ( as I can not have a rest day inbetween) or the 5 day split ( as I dont have 5 days in the gym). What, in your opinion, would be the best way to split over 3 consecutive days?
Thanks in advance..Alan
@Mike. Yes I train full-body 3 times a week and gain strength as well, if not better, than a 5-day split Download THT. In there I have 5 studies that show even just 1 set to failure will stimulate size and strength gains. Then begin the THT 3-day plan.
@Alan Brand. For you, I’d recommend my 3-day split. You can get it here free https://musclehack.com/best-3-day-workout-routine/
In the sixth decade of life, my personal experience is that 3/4 days of full-body training every two weeks provides optimum time for recovery and, consequently, hypertrophy.
For me, 3 days full-body training is too frequent. It does not allow enough time for recovery.
I started training two years back at the age of 64 and have made satisfactory gains of muscle.
Great info as usual.
Just clarify… with THT 3 Day you hit each body part 6 Times per week (3×2) with mostly Compound exercises. With a split you are hitting each bodypart 8 times, but also with some isolation (lateral raises for example).
My question…do you feel the 3 Day full body workout is sufficient to still cover the muscle groups used during the isolation exercises of the split routine?
Mark I’m definitely convinced that full body workouts are superior. But what about guys who are really strong and squat and deadlift over 450lbs in the 5-8 rep range? Surely 3 times a week would be too much for the lower back? Most guys lifting these weights train the squat and deadlift only once a week and at the most twice with the second being a lighter higher rep day but still focused on progression in that rep range. Very interested to know your opinion
@Johnny. Have you got the THT book? The way you are describing the 3-day plan is incorrect. There are both compound and isolation exercises in the 3-day routine.
Yes, the 3-day plan covers everything and can recruit every muscle fiber in every muscle you have. That’s why I am using it exclusively these days.
If I understand correctly how the study was conducted, in the split routine each muscle was trained only once per week whereas in the full body workouts, all muscles were trained three times a week. Here’s an excerpt: “…this study was to investigate the effects of training muscle groups 1 day per week using a split-body routine…”. Based on that description of the purpose of the study, it appears that they were performing split training with only 2 sessions per week rather than 5 times a week. It would make sense that training a muscle 3 times a week would result in greater hypertrophy. I’m surprised that there was no significant increase in strength if they were in fact training a muscle group only once per week vs. 3 times per week. Do you think that the purpose of the study was poorly worded and they actually did perform split training 5 days a week?
In the full text of the article available to view on the link below it shows them doing a 3 day split vs a 3 day total body and not a 5 day split. Scroll right to the bottom where it shows a table of the workouts. Either way it still shows a 3 day total body is better and I’ve certainly found that to be true for myself.
@Jerry Lee. It was a 5-day split. They trained 5 days week, working 2 body parts per session. Each body part is hit once a week.
This versus training the WHOLE body in a single session 3 times a week.
Hello Marc, I really appreciate all of the e mails and help you have given me. I will only have my weight bench for about 4 more months (it’s borrowed). I was wanting to gain as much muscle as I can. I was informed of “Micro-Periodization.” It involves 4 days of training. I use to train like you said 3 days a week. Do you think 4 days with this type of training will be okay? Thanks a million.
@Darshan. At that low rep range, 2 times week might work better. However, each trainee can assess their own recovery ability. Try 3 times to begin and see if your strength is increasing even slightly between sessions. If so, do 3 times a week. If the same or lower, drop the frequency. At a hypertrophic rep range, however, most people can do 3 full body sessions per week.
Mark you recommend 3 day workout for 10 weeks then break and then 5 day workout for another 10 weeks.
Will there’ll be any difference.in muscle gain if one uses 3 day workout or 5day workout (for 10 weeks then break and then again the same 3 or 5 day workout) always without shuffling them.
Me personally, I have gained more muscle using the 5 day routine than the 3 day routine. I use them both and alternate every 10 weeks as THT requires. That’s just me though.. I’ve never met a work out plan as good as THT… Thanks Mark
Interesting post Mark. I think a 3-day full body routine would work better for my schedule and perhaps be more physically satisfying. Can you confirm that by ‘3-day full body’ you mean the HIT cycle? If so, do you perform both the Mass and Consolidation workouts?
Wondering if you can answer me this question why do my shoulders and traps cramp up so much and what can I do to relieve it I have tried stretching it but no success even gone as for as massageing.
Hey Mark, I’m already in the 7th week of the 5-day routine. Would you suggest I change to the 3-day routine? Because I’m really trying to form some definition, or complete the 10 weeks? This article is messin’ with my emotions man, its the 5th month of THT for me.
@Trampas. No. And there’s no need to be changing things up so often. I’d recommend the 3-day plan for max gains over the next 4 months.
@Abhilash. That’s never been tested in any real scientific way, so I can’t give you a straight yes or no answer. Suffice it to say that this “shuffling” has worked very well for others. But like I say myself in the article, I have been doing back-to-back 3-day cycles for a while now. It just suits my lifestyle.
@Chris. Yes I mean the HIT cycle. However, I don’t use those terms anymore. Please download the latest THT 5.4 if you haven’t got it. Yes to your second question, too.
@Mike. There could be many many reasons. I couldn’t diagnose that from a distance. If you’re using very heavy weight and low reps, do THT training instead (if not already).
@Delight. LOL, if you’re saying you usually switch between cycles, go ahead and stick out the 10 weeks of the 5-day routine. If you’ve NEVER done the 3-day plan, you can do your remaining 3 weeks as the 3-day workout. Then take a week off, then back onto the 3-day for a full 10 weeks.
Would you now advocate a 3 day THT full body routine to replace the THT Advanced routine that’s complements the JnR diet or maybe remake a fresh 3 day routine to go with the Jacked ‘N’ Ripped program.
Interesting article. I’ve been doing full body three times a week for well over three years now. Sometimes I mix it up and do a four day upper lower. I find them both equally effective but three day doesn’t seem to beat me up as much as four. Plus I like the feeling of hitting everything in one session.
Body part splits suck for me and have never worked. Nor has massive amounts of volume. Chad Waterbury along with many others have been writing for years now about the benefits of higher frequency over higher volume per session. The science seems to be there. I always have to smile at all the bros in my gym pumping away their cable flyes for hours on “chest day”. I’m in and out before they’ve even warmed up. And I’m stronger and bigger. Lol
Hi Mark,for back to back 3 day routine ,the first cycle should hit the 8-12reps,then take 1 wk off,then the next cycle should change to 6-8reps with heavier wt or still hit the 8-12reps continuing the last cycle?
as of yet I have not concluded which works best for me, because I’ve seen great gains on both the 3 day full body workout as well as 5 day JnR split.
My next ten week cycle will be a modified 3-day full body routine, with techniques learnt from JnR. I’m very excited to see how this works and welcome comments, ideas or sharing from personal experience.
Is the 3 day recommended for your ab plan. 3 days would work better than 5 for me
@stickupkid. Not to replace it. But you can and should use the 3-cycle but just add in some of those advanced techniques like an “E.S.” at the end of a particular body part.
@Sam. If doing back-to-back, you’d then switch to the 6-8 rep cycle with heavier weight.
@Luis hermenegildo. Yes it is. You can do this 3-day workout when on Total Six Pack Abs 🙂
mark, how does this affect the JNR programme where a 5 day split is recommended – can a 3 day work on this programme too? can i use the same workouts as THT and wack in a few of the advanced training methods?
Also, does this impact the JNR diet in anyway? can i stick to my JNR diet even if i’m not training on certain days? for example, on a 3 day i would be having tuesday off – can i still perform a FF on this day? hope this makes sense!
@Sanlander. Please see my response to @stickupkid above. And the JnR diet would not be affected in any way 🙂
Would you recommend the 3-day split of the 6-day for the TSPA program?
@Stefan. In TSPA, trainees can train 3-days, 5-days, or 6-days per week depending on their schedule. I link to the workouts in the book. Even when I am cutting, I train 3 times per week. So yes, you can train 3 x full-body workouts in TSPA.