Building muscle takes fewer workouts than you'd think, research shows 3 years ago

Building muscle takes fewer workouts than you'd think, research shows

Train smarter, not harder

It's not the amount of time you spend in the gym - what really counts is how you use that time. For building muscle, you actually need fewer workouts than you'd think.


These are the findings of research published in the Frontiers in Physiology journal.

Scientists found evidence of muscle growth after just five workouts on a single muscle group.

Muscle gains were recorded using an MRI scanner, to be absolutely sure of results. The team of researchers even waited at least 96 hours after a workout was finished before analysing the results.


This was done to prove growth wasn't mistaken for the typical post-training pump you experience.

People involved in this study trialled leg training via the flywheel squat machine. if you're unsure what this, then The Rock recently posted his demonstration.


Which are the best lifts to opt for?

Any exercise performed against resistance can grow muscle - at least in theory. But compound lifts arguably provide the biggest bang-for-your-buck. Compounds work many muscle groups at once, effectively halving the time you spend in the gym.

Examples include:

  • Bench Press
  • Barbell Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Overhead Press
  • Pull-Ups

Compound lifts are also great for fat loss due to the huge amount of calories they burn.

How many times a week should you lift weights?

The research found five workouts were enough to spark new gains. Training a muscle five times in one week may be a little excessive, though.

Instead, aim to train each muscle group two to three times a week. You'll be looking at a minimum of two weeks before your muscles start to respond to the physical stresses placed upon them.


Example workout routines which achieve this:

  • Full-body workouts: Hit each muscle group with one exercise in a single workout three times per week (e.g. Monday, Wednesday & Friday)
  • Upper/lower splits: Train your upper body on two days (e.g. Monday and Thursday) and lower body on two (e.g. Tuesday and Friday)
  • Push/pull/legs: This has you in the gym six times a week, hitting chest, shoulders and triceps on push day, back and biceps on pull day and then legs the following day. You'll then rest one day and repeat the three-day cycle.

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