The Best Training Frequency For Strength Gains!


Training Frequency For Strength

Training frequency is easily one of the most controversial topics in the fitness industry. Some say training body parts once per week is best, while others say you should train key lifts at least 2-3 times per week for optimal results! Which side is right? Find out the truth right here!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Overview Of Training Frequency
  • Part 2: Low Frequency Training
  • Part 3: Moderate Frequency Training
  • Part 4: High Frequency Training
  • Part 5: Rotating Workout Formats
  • Part 6: Eccentric Training Frequency

In this article I am going to cover many of the most popular training frequencies used by today’s top strength athletes.

There are three main approaches to training frequency: training body parts once per week, training body parts at least twice per week, and training body parts once every five days.

Here’s a summary of what you need to know:

Training body parts once per week for strength gains works well for a minority of lifters.

They tend to be extreme hardgainers or highly advanced strength athletes. These guys tend to be outliers but their results are legitimate.

Training body parts once every five days is the most under-rated training frequency.

Julius Maddox is the strongest bench presser in the world and trains this way. This was also Charles Poliquin’s favourite training frequency. 

Training body parts twice per week is probably the gold standard for strength gains.

The scientific literature certainly supports it. It is also the most-used training frequency amongst world-class powerlifters and strongmen competitors.

Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg.

In the rest of this article we are going to take a deep dive into these three different approaches to training frequency. Of course numerous sample training programs will be provided complete with sample training videos.

Note: if you have difficulty reading any of the routines included in this article then you need to read this article!

Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: Overview Of Training Frequency

Training frequency is one of the most hotly debated topics in the entire fitness industry.

On the one hand strength athletes such as Dan Greene have achieved unbelievable levels of strength and broken countless world records training body parts at least twice per week.

On the other hand there are athletes such as Stan Efferding and Eric Lilliebridge who have become some of the strongest men on the planet training key lifts only once per week.

So who’s right? Is high-frequency the way to go, or are you better off with a low-frequency approach?

What you need to understand is that the optimal training frequency for strength gains varies tremendously from one individual to the next.

You can’t make generic statements about training frequency the way you can about training volume.

There is no such thing as the optimal training frequency for everyone because it is heavily influenced by genetic differences between individuals.

This is especially the case for more advanced trainees.

Most beginners make rapid progress training body parts 2-3 times per week. However, things become much more chaotic when you look at a more advanced training population.

There are three main approaches to training frequency: 

  1. Low frequency
  2. High frequency
  3. Moderate frequency.

Low frequency training involves training body parts once every 7 days.

This training frequency has fallen out of favor in recent years. I would agree that most individuals are better off training body parts more often.

However, certain types of individuals actually do AWESOME training body parts only once per week. Some of the world’s strongest powerlifters and strongmen competitors also train this way. 

The term “high frequency training” usually refers to the act of training body parts or lifts at least twice per week.

This is an extremely common way to train amongst world-class strength athletes.

In fact, the 4 days per week upper body / lower body split is probably the single most popular training split amongst advanced strength athletes and it features two workouts per week per body part. 

Finally there is what I like to call the moderate approach.

“Moderate training frequency” could be defined as training body parts on average once every five days.

It’s rare to see any of the major authorities in the fitness industry mention this moderate frequency approach when talking more generally about training frequency.

This is somewhat understandable as the scientific literature has largely focused on the relative effectiveness of training body parts once, twice, or three times per week.

In my experience this moderate approach is extremely underrated. It was a favourite of the world’s greatest strength coach Charles Poliquin and tends to work great for intermediate and advanced trainees.

The strongest bench presser in the world  Julius Maddox also trains his chest once every five days under the guidance of Josh Bryant.

Now let’s take a deeper dive into each of these approaches to training frequency.

Part 2: Low Frequency Training

Let’s kick our discussion off by giving the once-per-week training frequency a thorough examination.

This training frequency has gotten a bad rap in recent years. This is understandable as most of the scientific literature from the 21st century supports the idea of training body parts at least twice per week.

I’m not going to argue that training body parts once per week is the way to go for most trainees. However, there are individuals who make the best strength gains of their life training body parts once every seven days. 

In my experience these individuals fall into one of two categories:

  1. Extreme hardgainers
  2. Highly advanced strength athletes

Hardgainers have gotten a bad rap in recent years. I agree that many people would rather complain about their genetics than bust their ass in the gym. I have no sympathy for these people.

However, there are some unlucky individuals who were blessed with very little tolerance for strength training. Think of the über-ectomorph such as Woody Allen, Jim Carey, or Michael Cera. Often times these individuals FINALLY start making progress when you reduce their training frequency to once per week.

The other group of individuals who tends to respond well to lower-frequency programming is highly advanced strength athletes. We’re talking guys who are benching at least 2 x bodyweight and squatting / deadlifting at least 3 x bodyweight.

I’m not trying to make the argument that all advanced powerlifters and strongmen do best on this training frequency. However, there are some individuals who cannot continue to make progress unless their training frequency is reduced.

Eric Lilliebridge and Stan Efferding are two world-class powerlifters who got their best results hitting body parts every seven days with only two total workouts per week!

Andy Bolton is another powerlifter who comes to mind. In case you did not know Andy Bolton was the first man in the world to deadlift 1000 pounds.

To put this feat of strength into context powerlifting guru Louie Simmons said he did not think he would live to see the day that someone crossed the mythical 1,000 pound mark.

There are three main splits that strength athletes should consider when using this training frequency:

  • 2 days per week upper lower split
  • 3 days per week push / pull / legs split
  • 3 days per week Poliquin-style split

Each of these splits has their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a closer look at each one. 

The 2 days per week upper / lower split. For example:

  • Wednesday: Upper Body
  • Saturday: Lower Body

That’s it! This is the exact schedule that Stan Efferding and Eric Lilliebridge used to break powerlifting world records.

The primary benefit of this split is that you get an unbelievable amount of rest in between workouts. You will feel refreshed and ready to go for pretty much every workout.

If you are already throwing around some incredibly heavy weights then you may stand to benefit from this split.

Let’s take a closer look at the exact workouts that Stan and Eric use in their own training.

Stan’s Bench Press Workout

When Stan Efferding trained for his powerlifting competitions his motto was simple: “go heavy or go home!” 

Stan wasn’t interested in doing a bunch of fluff volume work or wasting time performing dynamic effort work.

Instead Stan wanted to hit some doubles or triples on the bench press and then throw around some heavy slag iron on a couple of assistance movements.

He would then take a full week to recover before training his pressing muscles again. As they say, you can’t argue with results! Check it out:

The Stan Efferding bench press workout

  • A1: Bench press competition grip, 3 x 3, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Incline dumbbell press, 2 x 6-10, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Dips, 2 x 14-20, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed

Here are some of Stan’s training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1.

This was Stan’s “heavy” bench press workout. When peaking for a powerlifting meet he usually performed a heavy bench press workout one week and then focused on assistance work the next.

For example:

  • Week 1: Heavy bench press workout
  • Week 2: Assistance work only
  • Week 3: Heavy bench press workout
  • Week 4: Assistance work only
  • Etc.

Keep mind Stan’s assistance work days were anything but light! He was frequently incline pressing 500 pounds for reps or behind the neck pressing 315 pounds for reps.

Still, this “off” week gave Stan’s shoulders and central nervous system enough time to recuperate before his next big bench press workout.

Of course a discussion of the 2 days per week upper / lower split would not be complete without mentioning Eric Lilliebridge.

Eric Lilliebridge has done more than any other powerlifter to promote this minimalist 2 days per week upper / lower split.

I know of many powerlifters who have adopted this training schedule after learning about Eric Lilliebridge’s success with it.

Let’s take a look at Eric’s Squat and Deadlift workouts as he is most famous for his unbelievable lower body strength. Eric trains his lower body every Saturday. However, he does not train the squat and the deadlift in the same training day. Instead he trains them on alternating weeks. For example:

  • Week 1: Heavy Squat
  • Week 2: Heavy Deadlift
  • Week 3: Heavy Squat
  • Week 4: Heavy Deadlift
  • Etc.

Most trainees need to practice these lifts more often in order to make consistent progress. However, at his advanced level of strength development Eric thrives on this approach. 

Now let’s take a closer look at the workouts themselves.

Eric Lilliebridge squat workout:

  • A1: Competition-style squat, 3 x 1, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Lat pulldown (wide pronated grip), 3 x 12-15, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Lying leg curl (feet dorsiflexed / pointed straight), 3 x 8-10, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1.

Eric Lilliebridge deadlift workout:

  • A1: Conventional deadlift, 3 x 1, X/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Barbell bent-over row, 3 x 12-15, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Leg press, 3 x 8-10, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Decline sit ups 3 x 12-15, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise D1.

There really isn’t anything fancy or magical about these workouts. Eric just focuses on hitting his key numbers each week in the squat or deadlift and then putting in some quality work on exercises that work for him.

This should give you a very good head start in terms of organizing your very own Efferding- or Lilliebridge-style powerlifting workout. Of course there are some resources I can recommend if you want even more information.

First of all I have written one of the world’s best resources on Stan Efferding’s powerlifting training programs. I highly recommend you check it out.

Eric Lilliebridge also has an ebook on his training program called The Lilliebridge Method.

The ebook is relatively short but it is worth a read if you are interested in this type of programming. Eric covers the exact training percentages that he uses during his 10 week training cycles leading up to a meet.

The 3 Days Per Week Push / Pull / Legs Split

Another reasonably popular split amongst strength athletes is the 3 days per week push / pull / legs split. For example:

  • Monday: Push
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Friday: Pull

The main advantage of this split over the 2 days per week upper / lower split is that it’s easier to train your upper body with a greater variety of exercises.

This is the exact training split that Andy Bolton used to break the 1,000 pound deadlift barrier. Many bench press specialists such as Vincent Dizenzo have also used it with much success.

Here is one of the exact training programs that Vincent Dizenzo used to bench press 600 pounds raw. Of course this was his “push” workout that he used while training on a 3 days per week push / pull / legs split. Check it out:

The Vincent Dizenzo Bench Press Workout

  • A1: Bench Press (competition grip), 1 x 3, 1/1/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Speed bench press (competition grip) 2 x 3, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B2: Overcoming isometric bench press (below sticking point), 2 x 1, 1/0/1/X, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Speed bench press (competition grip) 2 x 3, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C2: Overcoming isometric bench press (above sticking point), 2 x 1, 1/0/1/X, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Bench press w/ chains, 3 x 3, 1/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest 
  • E1: Dead bench, 4 x 1, 1/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Rolling DB extension (on flat bench w/ doubled mini band behind back), 4 x 8, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • G1: Cable pushdowns (straight bar w/ fat handles), 3 x 12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest 
  • H1: Band scapular retractions, 3 x 12, 1/1/X/1, 30 seconds rest
  • I1: Band pull aparts, 4 x 12, 1/0/1/0, 30 seconds rest
  • J1:Planks 3 x 30 seconds, 30 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise C1, exercise C2, exercise D1.

Talk about a high-volume bench press workout! This workout was actually designed by Josh Bryant. Anyone who has worked with Josh before will probably be able to recognize this type of routine structure.

This amount of volume in a single workout would crush most mortals. I think it is safe to say that Vincent is anything but human…

I am only providing videos for the main exercises of this workout. You can go ahead and use your imagination for what the accessory exercises would look like.

Finally there is the 3 days per week Poliquin-style split. For example:

  • Monday: Chest / Back
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Friday: Arms / Rotator Cuff

This is another split that gives you the option of performing slightly more exercises for the upper body. Charles Poliquin has trained some powerlifting world record holders using this exact split and it should not be overlooked.

Part 3: Moderate Frequency Training

In my opinion the single most under-rated training frequency in the world today involves training body parts once every five days. In fact, this “moderate” approach has been almost entirely ignored by the scientific literature!

Nearly all of the studies produced on training frequency look at training programs hitting body parts once, twice, or three times per week.

Why haven’t any researchers stopped and asked if something in between these high-frequency and low-frequency extremes could work? That is a great question!

Fortunately for us many of the world’s leading strength coaches have been more willing to experiment with this approach to training frequency. For example, the most accomplished strength coach of all time Charles Poliquin trained as much as 70% of his trainees on a once-every-five-days training frequency.

Julius Maddox, the strongest bench presser in the world, has also been very successful training chest every five days.Let’s take a closer look at Julius’ bench press workouts.

The Julius Maddox Bench Press Workouts

Although Julius trains chest every five days he prefers to train heavy on the bench press only every other workout.

For example, here is what Julius’ training schedule would look like:

  • Day 1: Bench press primary workout
  • Day 6: Accessory work
  • Day 11: Bench press primary workout
  • Day 16: Accessory work
  • Day 21: Deload bench press workout
  • Day 26: Deload accessory work

Of course Julius is throwing around absolutely mind-blowing weights on the bench press. It is much more typical for someone using this training frequency to just train heavy every five days.

Now let’s take a look at his exact workouts:

Julius Maddox Heavy Bench Press Workout

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 3, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Bench press (competition grip)**, 8 x 4, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Reverse band bench press, 3 x 2, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: V-bar dips (upright torso), 2 x 5, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • E1: Seal row, 3 x 6-8, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Chain fly, 3 x 8-10, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • G1: Chain triceps extension (v-handle), 3 x 8-10, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Use 70% of your 1-rep max and lift as explosively as possible on every rep. These are compensatory acceleration reps.

Here are Julius’ training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise D1, exercise E1, exercise F1, exercise G1.

This is an example of a typical Julius Maddox bench press workout when he is getting ready for a competition.

Julius is also coached by Josh Bryant (who else?) so this routine format may look familiar to you by now.

If you were to try and perform this type of bench press workout twice per week you would likely be crushed!

In my experience this is one of the big advantages of the once every five days training frequency. You can use quite a bit of volume on each individual workout.

However, the training frequency is still high enough that productive workouts add up fast.

Of course this was Julius’ heavy bench press day. Every other workout Julius performs a much lighter accessory workout for his pressing muscles.

Julius’ accessory bench press day is designed to give his central nervous system a break from the incredibly heavy poundages that he throws around in training.

Of course he is still able to get in some quality work and attack muscular weaknesses. I am particularly fond of the overhead presses he performs with the earthquake bar.

I know most of you reading this article will not have access to this bar. The hanging weights create a chaotic environment where your deltoids and rotator cuff have to work overtime to stabilize the bar. Check it out:

Julius Maddox’s Bench Press Accessory Day

  • A1: Push ups, 10 x 25, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B1: Flat DB press, 2 x 20, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Standing “ITY” raises, 3 x 5, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Overhead press w/ earthquake bar, 6 x 15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise D1.

This is still quite a bit of volume for an accessory day.

Once again this highlights the advantages of the once-every-five-days training frequency: you can be pretty aggressive with your training volume whilst still hitting body parts relatively often.

Please keep in mind that Julius Maddox is by far the strongest bench presser in the world as I write this article. His training program might not work for you at all if you are much weaker than him.

Still, it should serve as food for thought.

Get Super Strong With Charles Poliquin

Charles Poliquin is arguably the most successful strength coach the world has ever seen. Charles had many tricks up his sleeve to get his athletes super strong in record time.

Let’s take a closer look at two of his favorite tools for this goal:

The Poliquin splits

Charles had about 70% of his clients train body parts once every five days.

This is already somewhat unusual as most strength coaches tend to gravitate towards training body parts either once per week or upwards of two times per week.

Things get even more unusual when you take a look at the exact training splits he prescribed for his athletes.

For example, here is the split Charles prescribed most often in his strength coaching career:

  • Day 1: Chest / Back
  • Day 2: Legs
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Arms, Rotator Cuff
  • Day 5: Off
  • Day 6: Repeat

This training split is designed from the ground up so that you can train antagonistic body parts together.

For example, if one of his clients was performing an intensification phase routine they might alternate between sets of bench presses and chin ups with 2 minutes rest between sets.

This type of antagonistic superset has many advantages: 

  1. You recruit more motor units on all exercises
  2. You fatigue more slowly over the duration of the workout
  3. You double your workload for a given period of time

All of this has been repeatedly demonstrated in the scientific literature. In fact, Josh Bryant has an interesting section on antagonistic supersets in his book “Bench Press: The Science.”

Charles often prescribed a cluster sets training routine using a once-every-five-days training frequency for his athletes that needed to get stronger in a hurry.

In fact, Charles considered cluster sets the number one set / rep scheme you can do to rapidly boost strength.

If you are not familiar with the term a cluster set involves performing five total reps with your 3-repetition maximum.

In order to do this you take 10-15 second rest breaks in between each of the five reps. So you perform 1 rep, rack the weight and rest 10-15 seconds, perform a 2nd rep, rack the weight and rest 10-15 seconds, etc. until you have completed five total repetitions. Here is the exact protocol for a cluster set:

  • Perform rep #1, rack the weight, rest 10-15 total seconds
  • Perform rep #2, rack the weight, rest 10-15 total seconds
  • Perform rep #3, rack the weight, rest 10-15 total seconds
  • Perform rep #4, rack the weight, rest 10-15 total seconds
  • Perform rep #5, rack the weight, DONE!!

All together this is one cluster set. A typical cluster sets workout will include up to five total cluster sets per major exercise.

Here is a cluster sets routine covering all body parts using Charles’ famous training split. Check it out:

Chest / Back Poliquin Cluster Sets Routine

  • A1: 45 degree incline bench press (shoulder-width grip), 5 x 5**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Sternum chin ups (slightly wider than shoulder-width / pronated grip), 5 x 5**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated DB overhead press, 3 x 5-7, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated cable rope face pulls (with maximum external rotation), 3 x 5-7, 2/0/1/2, 90 seconds rest

**Performed as a Poliquin style cluster set as described above. Rest for 10-20 seconds in between each rep on your 5-rep sets.

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Lower Body Poliquin Cluster Sets Routine

  • A1: Front squat (medium stance / heels flat), 5 x 5**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Bilateral seated leg curl (Poliquin method**** / feet straight) , 5 x 5**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 3 x 5-7, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: Glute-ham raise, 3 x 5-7, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest

**Performed as a Poliquin style cluster set as described above. Rest for 10-20 seconds in between each rep on your 5-rep sets.

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Arms / Rotator Cuff Poliquin Cluster Sets Routine

  • A1: Flat bench press (shoulder-width grip), 5 x 5**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: 60 degree incline DB curls (supinating grip), 5 x 5**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Dead stop skull crushers (close grip), 3 x 5-7, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated cable rope face pulls (with maximum external rotation), 3 x 5-7, 2/0/1/2, 90 seconds rest
  • C1: Seated DB external rotations, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/2/0, 120 seconds rest

**Performed as a Poliquin style cluster set as described above. Rest for 10-20 seconds in between each rep on your 5-rep sets.

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

In my experience a cluster sets routine performed once every five days per body part really is one of the fastest ways to gain strength. The downside of this routine is that it can be hell on the nervous system.

Make sure to use this routine at the end of a 2-4 month peaking phase. After 2-4 weeks on a cluster sets routine you may want to test your 1-rep maxes, take some time off, or transition to a higher-rep accumulation phase.

Of course here are the training videos in case you are brave enough to give this exact routine a go:

DC Training

Before moving on I would like to discuss one other training program that features the underrated once-every-five-days training frequency. That training program is DC Training.

It may seem a little strange that I am talking about DC training in an article on getting stronger. After all, DC training is first and foremost a bodybuilding training program.

There are two reasons.

First of all, DC training does utilize the once-every-five-days training frequency. The standard DC Training split is essentially a 3 days per week upper body / lower body split.

For example:

Week 1

  • Monday: Upper Body
  • Wednesday: Lower Body
  • Friday: Upper Body

Week 2

  • Monday: Lower Body
  • Wednesday: Upper Body
  • Friday: Lower Body

In the third week the cycle repeats itself. Body parts are trained three times every 2 weeks, or about once every 4.7 days on average.

The second (and more important) reason is that DC Training is an unbelievably effective training program for boosting absolute strength.

You only have to look at some of the bodybuilders Dante Trudel has trained using this system.

For example, just take a look at the weights Justin Harris, Steve Kuclo, Jason Wojo, David Henry, and Dusty Hanshaw were throwing around.

These guys were unbelievably strong! Many of these guys could squat and deadlift 6-7 plates per side while working with Dante Trudel. 

Of course the DC-style rest-pause sets play a huge role in the effectiveness of this training program. However, I also believe the once-every-five-days training frequency played a big role.

Here are a couple of sample DC training workouts in case you were curious. If you want more information on this article you will have to look elsewhere.

Covering this training system in depth would extend beyond the scope of this article. If you are curious I did talk about this training program a little more in this article.

DC-Style Upper Body Workout

  • A1: 30 degree incline DB press, 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Seated behind the neck press, 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: V-bar dips (upright torso), 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Rack chins, 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: Barbell dead stop row, 2 x 10-12, 2/1/X/0, rest as needed

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise D1, exercise E1.

**Performed as a rest-pause pause set. Train to technical failure, rest 20-30 seconds, go to failure a 2nd time, rest 20-30 seconds, go to failure a 3rd time, DONE!

DC-Style Lower Body Workout

  • A1: Unilateral preacher DB curl (supinated grip), 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Seated zottman curl, 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Leg press calf raise, 1 x 7-10, 2/8/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Bilateral lying hamstring curl (feet plantar flexed / pointing in), 1 x 7-10**, rest as needed
  • E1: Back squat, 2 x 4-8, 10****, 3/0/X/0, 4 minutes rest

**Performed as a rest-pause pause set. Train to technical failure, rest 20-30 seconds, go to failure a 2nd time, rest 20-30 seconds, go to failure a 3rd time, DONE!

****Performed as a “widowmaker squat” or “breathing squat.” Load the bar with your 10-rep max and perform 10 repetitions. After your 10th rep take several deep breaths and perform 1 more rep without racking the weight. Repeat this process until you have completed 20 total reps without racking the weight.

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise D1, exercise E1.

The bottom line is DC Training is the most popular training program in the world that uses the 3 day per week upper body / lower body training split. It also happens to be one of the best bodybuilding training programs for getting freaky strong.

If you love throwing around heavy slag iron and get good results training muscle groups once every 5 days then you have to give DC Training a short!

Part 4: High Frequency Training

Now that we have covered the low- and moderate-frequency approaches let’s talk about high-frequency training.

When I use the phrase high-frequency training I am generally talking about training body parts at least twice per week. However, for the purposes of this article I am strictly going to talk about training programs that hit body parts twice per week.

If you want more information on the “squat every day” training program then you will have to look elsewhere!

The twice per week training frequency has a long and proven track record for producing fantastic strength gains. It is heavily supported by the scientific literature and it is favored by many of the world’s top powerlifters and strongman competitors.

In fact, the 4 days per week upper body / lower body split is probably the most-used training split amongst elite strength athletes.

For example, here is what the 4 days per week upper / lower split might look like in practice:

  • Monday: Upper
  • Wednesday: Lower
  • Friday: Upper
  • Saturday: Lower

Of course Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday would be rest days. The exact days that you choose to train on are not so important as long as you don’t train more than two days in a row.

The list of powerlifting and strongman competitors and teams that have used this split is staggering. For example:

  • Westside Barbell 
  • Ed Coan
  • Eddie Hall
  • Leen Xtreme
  • Brian Shaw
  • Etc.

There are of course some key questions that you have to ask yourself before using this kind of split. In my opinion the most important question to ask yourself is the following:

Should I train using four heavy workouts per week? Or should I train using 2 heavy training sessions and 2 lighter training sessions?

Some guys like Ed Coan went relatively heavy on every upper body and lower body training day. For example, Ed was able to hit his first 500 pound raw squat simply by maxing out twice per week!

On the other hand the Westside Barbell powerlifting team famously uses 2 “max effort” workouts and 2 “dynamic effort” workouts per week.

These are both excellent approaches. You will have to experiment on yourself to figure out which one works best for you! Now let’s look at the training programs of famous strength athletes who have used this higher-frequency approach.

The Eddie Hall Pressing Program

Eddie Hall is a man that needs no introduction. He shocked the world in 2016 when he deadlifted a mind-boggling 1,102 pounds!

Of course he went on to win the World’s Strongest Man title a year later in 2017 before retiring from the sport of Strongman for good.

Of course Eddie was known for more than his deadlifting strength. He also had an unbelievably strong bench press and overhead press.

Eddie trained his pressing muscles twice per week. Tuesday was dedicated to bench presses and incline presses while Friday was dedicated to overhead pressing variations such as the log press.

Here are some sample workouts that he used in his prime:

Eddie Hall’s Tuesday Workout: Chest and Triceps

  • A1: Bench Press (wide grip), 1 x 3-6, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Incline Bench Press (wide grip), 1 x 3-6, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Tricep cable pushdown (straight bar), 1 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1.

Eddie Hall’s Friday Workout: Shoulders

  • A1: Seated DB overhead press, 1 x 15-20, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Standing log press, 1 x 1-8, 1/0/X/1, rest as needed

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1.

On both of these training days Eddie would take his time warming up and then perform one all-out working set per exercise.

Eddie often used his “rule of six” for his primary pressing exercises. If he could press a particular weight six times then he would take a sizable weight jump at his next workout. If he could not perform six clean repetitions then he stuck with the same weight until he could.

This was a rather simple way to periodize his workouts but it clearly worked wonders for Eddie.

Chuck Vogelpohl’s Squat And Deadlift Training Program

Next let’s take a look at the squat and deadlift training of one of the greatest powerlifters of all time, Chuck Vogelpohl. Chuck trained at Westside Barbell for many years before leaving and starting his own powerlifting team, Lexen Xtreme.

Chuck and his team definitely prefer to have one primary lower body day where they do their heavy squats and deadlifts. On the other day they focus on assistance exercises for the squat and deadlift such as good mornings, belt squats, various back extensions, reverse hyperextensions, and sled drags.

This is a FANTASTIC way to get the benefits of hitting body parts twice per week while minimizing unnecessary stress to the lumbar spine.

I know from experience that some trainees cannot handle 2 heavy squat and/or deadlift workouts per week. However, they frequently benefit from performing a second “assistance” workout in the same week.

Let’s take a look at some sample Lexen Xtreme lower body training days. These workouts were taken directly from the old Lexen Xtreme training logs that are still available at elitefts.com. The training logs are archived and you can find them if you are determined enough. Check it out:

Chuck’s Primary Squat / Deadlift Day

  • A1: Back squat (wide stance / feet flat), 3 x 1, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest 
  • B1: Conventional stance pin pull against bands (from mid-shin), 3 x 5, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: 45 degree back extension (safety squat bar on back), 3 x 10, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest 
  • D1: Reverse hyperextension, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Unilateral kneeling hamstring curl (feet dorsiflexed / pointing straight), 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise D1, exercise E1.

Chuck’s primary squat and deadlift day focused on, you guessed it: the squat and deadlift! These are the exercises that Chuck went crazy on.Everything else in this workout can be regarded as assistance work designed to boost these two lifts.

Of course Chuck Vogelpohl and the Lexen Xtreme powerlifting team didn’t perform this type of workout twice per week. Their other workout was somewhat lighter and primarily featured assistance exercises for the squat and deadlift. For example:

Lexen Xtreme Accessory Squat / Deadlift Day

  • A1: Good Mornings w/ Safety Squat Bar and chains, 3 x 5, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest. 
  • B1: Belt squat (close stance), 3 x 8, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Belt squat (wide stance), 3 x 8, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Bilateral lying hamstring curls (feet dorsiflexed / pointing straight), 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: 45 degree back raise (holding sandbag to chest), 3 x 10, 2/0/1/2, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Static barbell holds with double overhand grip, 3 x 20 sec holds, 60 seconds rest
  • G1: Sled drag forwards, 4 x 150 ft, 60 seconds rest 

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise D1, exercise E1.

This may be a “lighter” lower body training day but that does not mean it is low volume! In fact the total number of sets and reps performed on this day exceeds that performed on the “heavier” squat / deadlift day.

This is very similar to the way that Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell organizes his workouts over the course of the week. 

Matt Kroc’s 4 Day Upper / Lower Split

Finally I want to talk about Matt Kroc’s unique take on the classic 4 days per week upper body / lower body split. Matt Kroc was a powerlifter who at one point in time was the single best 220 pound powerlifter in the world.

I find his lower body training to be especially interesting. Back in his powerlifting days Matt would have one squat-focused workout per week and one deadlift-focused workout per week.

What I find so interesting is that he would go heavy on the squat and deadlift every other week. For example:

Week 1

  • Monday: heavy squat workout
  • Friday: light deadlift workout

Week 2:

  • Monday: light squat workout
  • Friday: heavy deadlift workout

Rather than alternating heavy and light lower body workouts within a single week he alternates heavy and light squat or deadlift workouts over a 2 week period.

4 x World’s Strongest Man winner Brian Shaw is also a big proponent of this system. 

This just goes to show you how versatile these high-frequency training splits can be. Although you are training body parts twice per week you have plenty of room to decide how demanding each of these training sessions will be.

First let’s take a closer look at Matt’s squat workouts. These were taken directly from his training log on Elitefts.com:

Matt Kroc’s Heavy Squat Workout

  • A1: Competition style squat w/ squat suit, 2 x 1-3, 2/0/X/1, 240 seconds rest 
  • B1: Walking lunges (barbell on back), 1 x 20, 1/0/1/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Roman chair situps, 1 x 20, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1.

Matt Kroc’s Light Squat Workout

  • A1: Olympic style back squat, 1 x 10, 1/0/X/1, rest as needed
  • B1: Lying leg curls with bands (feet dorsiflexed / pointing straight), 2 x 15, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Leg press calf raise, 2 x 25, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Roman chair situps, 1 x 10, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise D1.

During his heavy weeks Matt would work up to a top set of 1-3 reps. This would either be raw or with a squat suit depending on how far out his next competition was.

On his lighter week Matt usually worked up to a top set of 10 reps on the Olympic squat.

Of course he still went relatively heavy on this exercise.  He frequently used 500+ pounds on his Olympic back squats! Both of these workouts concluded with 2-3 accessory movements for the squat.

Now let’s look at Matt Kroc’s deadlift workouts. Matt’s deadlift workouts were structured very similarly to his squat workouts. He trained his deadlift heavy on one week and then performed lighter accessory work on his lighter week. Check it out:

Matt Kroc’s Heavy Deadlift Workout

  • A1: Conventional deadlift, 1 x 1-5, X/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Cable abs, 1 x 10, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Leg press calf raise, 2 x 25, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1.

Matt Kroc’s Light Deadlift Workout

  • A1: 90 degree back extension, 1 x 10, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Cable abs, 1 x 10, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1.

The thing I find fascinating about Matt’s deadlift workouts is the extreme difference between his “heavy” and “light” weeks! On his light weeks Matt pretty much worked up to a top set of back extensions and then called it a day!

Matt has talked about the fact that he had to take it easy on his lumbar spine every other week or he quickly over trained.

Essentially Matt was only deadlifting once every 2 weeks in his prime powerlifting years!

This is a classic example of someone training body parts relatively frequently (2 x per week) but training specific lifts rather infrequently (once every 2 weeks). I will talk about this concept more later in the article.

Part 5: Rotating Workout Formats

So far we’ve covered three different training frequencies for building strength: once per week, once every 5 days and twice per week. Here is a quick summary of the major points made in this article so far:

  1. Training body parts once per week for strength gains works well for a minority of lifters. They tend to be extreme hardgainers or highly advanced strength athletes.
  2. Training body parts once every five days is the most under-rated training frequency. Julius Maddox is the strongest bench presser in the world and trains this way. This was also Charles Poliquin’s favorite training frequency.
  3. Training body parts twice per week is probably the gold standard for strength gains. The scientific literature certainly supports it. It is also the most-used training frequency amongst world-class powerlifters and strongmen competitors.

This is all well and good. But what if I told you there was another way to look at training frequency beyond how often you train each body part?

In reality it is just as important to look at how often you train specific lifts as you do specific body parts. For example, Matt Kroc trained his lower body twice per week but trained the deadlift only once every 2 weeks.

Is Matt using high frequency or low frequency training? This is a very important question to ask from a program design perspective. 

This is how I look at this example. Matt is training his lower body twice per week. However, he is rotating through 4 separate workouts:

  1. Heavy squat
  2. Light deadlift
  3. Light squat
  4. Heavy deadlift

After the fourth workout he repeats the whole cycle.

Most trainees will progress faster simply by repeating one workout several times in a row before moving on to something else.

For example, here is what an intermediate trainees lower body program might look like:

  • Workout #1: Routine A
  • Workout #2: Routine A
  • Workout #3: Routine A
  • Workout #4: Routine A
  • Workout #5: Routine B

And so on. This trainee performs the “A” workout four times in a row and tries to improve on it each time. On the fifth workout they switch to workout “B” and repeat the process.

Most trainees will make their best regains repeating specific workouts 3-6 times before moving on to something else. The exact number of times they would repeat their workouts depends on many factors including how strong they are, how efficient their nervous system is, how may years they have been training and their ratio of fast twitch to slow twitch muscle fibers.

Of course there are people who need more variation than this in their programming. A great way to do this would be to rotate through 2-4 different workouts before repeating the whole process over again.

Here is what a 2 workouts progression might look like:

  • Workout #1: Routine A
  • Workout #2: Routine B
  • Workout #3: Routine A
  • Workout #4: Routine B

And so on. Stan Efferding, Eric Lilliebridge, and Julius Maddox all follow programs that are similar to this.

For example, when Stan was training to break powerlifting world records he would rotate through 2 bench press workouts and 2 squat/deadlift workouts. 

Here is what a 3 workouts progression might look like:

  • Workout #1: Routine A
  • Workout #2: Routine B
  • Workout #3: Routine C
  • Workout #4: Routine A
  • Workout #5: Routine B
  • Workout #6: Routine C
  • Workout #7: Routine A
  • Workout #8: Routine B
  • Workout #9: Routine C

And so on. The best example of this 3-workout rotational system is Dante Trudel’s DC Training program.

Dante has you cycle through 3 upper body and 3 lower body workouts. After completing all three you start back with the first workout and do your best to beat your training logbook. 

Finally, here is what a 4 workouts progression might look like:

  • Workout #1: Routine A
  • Workout #2: Routine B
  • Workout #3: Routine C
  • Workout #4: Routine D
  • Workout #5: Routine A
  • Workout #6: Routine B
  • Workout #7: Routine C
  • Workout #8: Routine D

You could argue that lifters like Matt Kroc and Brian Shaw are using this method, particularly with their lower body training.

For example, Matt would cycle through 2 separate squat workouts and 2 separate deadlift workouts. After completing all four workouts he would repeat the whole cycle.

I want to warn you about the dangers of using one of these “rotating workouts” programs. They tend to work extremely well if you are more advanced or have a dopamine-dominant neurotransmitter profile.

Basically you need to have a very efficient nervous system (either through genetics or training) to profit from these methods.

If you are the type of person who quickly “forgets” how to do a certain lift if you take a break from it then these methods are not for you.

A Sample Bench Press Cycle

Here is a sample upper body program that is designed to boost your bench pressing strength. On this program you are going to rotate through 4 seperate upper body workouts.

Your goal is to complete each seperate workout a total of four times. This means you will perform 16 total upper body workouts for this program (4 x 4 = 16). 

For example:

  • Workout #1: Routine A
  • Workout #2: Routine B
  • Workout #3: Routine C
  • Workout #4: Routine D
  • Workout #5: Routine A
  • Workout #6: Routine B
  • Workout #7: Routine C
  • Workout #8: Routine D

On this program I recommend you train each body part once every five days using a 3 days per week upper body / lower body split. For example:

Week 1

  • Monday: Upper Body
  • Wednesday: Lower Body
  • Friday: Upper Body

Week 2

  • Monday: Lower Body
  • Wednesday: Upper Body
  • Friday: Lower Body

Of course week #3 would be a repeat of week #1’s schedule. 

Overall this whole program should take you about 10 weeks to complete. If you have the guts to complete it then I am sure you will be pleased with the results!

If you do not wish to perform this program then I hope you find it informative.

Upper Body Routine #1

  • A1: Seated DB overhead press, 4 x 6-8, 4/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • A2: Subscapularis pull ups, 4 x 6-8, 4/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: V-bar dips (leaning forward), 4 x 6-8, 4/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: T-bar row, 4 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • C1: Flat DB triceps extensions, 3 x 10-12, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C2: 30 degree incline curls (supinated grip), 3 x 10-12, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise C1, exercise C2.

Upper Body Routine #2

  • A1: Bench press bottom-position isometronics (close grip), 3 x 5**, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Narrow neutral grip pull ups, 3 x 5, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Bench press mid-position isometronics (close grip), 3 x 5**, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B2: Narrow neutral grip pull ups, 3 x 5, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Bench press mid-position isometronics (close grip), 3 x 5**, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C2 :Narrow neutral grip pull ups, 3 x 5, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Bench press (close grip), 1 x 6, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D2: Narrow neutral grip pull ups, 3 x 5, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • E1: Decline ez-bar extension w/ chains (close grip, to chin), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • E2: Unilateral preacher zottman curls, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest

**Perform 5 partial reps in between the safety pins (see video). On your fifth rep perform an overcoming isometric contraction into the top pin for 6-8 total seconds. You are trying to break the pins in half on this isometric!

After the 6-8 second isometric contraction you lower the weight down to the bottom pins and attempt a sixth repetition. If you are able to complete this 6th rep then you need to increase the weight on the next set. If you fail on the 6th rep then the weight was just right.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise D1, exercise A2-D2, exercise E1, exercise E2.

Upper Body Routine #3

  • A1: 45 degree incline bench press, 9 x 4/3/2**, 3/1/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Shoulder-width supinated grip pull ups, 9 x 4/3/2**, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest 
  • B1: Standing rope overhead extensions, 3 x 6-8, 2/2/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Standing ez-bar curls (wide / pronated grip), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed as a 4/3/2 wave. Perform 4 reps on the first set, 3 reps on the second set, 2 reps on the third set, 4 reps on the fourth set, etc. You are performing 9 total sets.

Please consult this article for more information on wave loading.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Upper Body Routine #4

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 3 x 3, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest 
  • A2: Lean-away chin ups on rings, 3 x 3, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A3: Bench press w/ weight releasers (competition grip), 3 x 1, 10/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A4: Lean-away chin ups on rings, 3 x 3, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Decline DB triceps extension, 3 x 5-6, 2/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Incline cable curl, 3 x 5-6, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest

For more information on how to effectively use weight releasers please consult this article.

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Part 6: Eccentric Training Frequency

There is one last topic that I need to cover in this article: eccentric training.

If you are a long-time reader of Revolutionary Program Design then you likely already know how highly I think of this training method.

Eccentric training is probably the single greatest training tool to boost strength levels in intermediate and advanced lifters.

Eccentric training is regularly used by world’s best athletes including speed skaters, triple jumpers, downhill skiers, shot putters etc. to prepare for their sporting activities.

Of course, eccentric training methods are also of interest to powerlifters and strongman competitors.

High levels of eccentric strength in the lower extremities is critical for strongman competitors competing in loading events such as the super yolk, farmer’s walk etc.

The main drawback of eccentric training is that it is incredibly taxing on the body. You have to be very, very careful about how frequently you perform eccentric training workouts.

I have to agree with Charles Poliquin that eccentric training workouts should be performed once every 7-10 days at the most.

This does not mean that you have to wait 7-10 days in between training body parts.

For example, you could easily perform 2 workouts per week with one workout being an eccentric-focused workout and the other a more traditional workout.

The key is to make sure that you are not performing heavy eccentric work more often than once every 7-10 days.

Here is a sample lower body training program that you may want to try. On this program you are going to rotate through 2 different lower body workouts.

The first workout features eccentric training while the second one features more traditional training. You can perform anywhere from 1-2 lower body workouts per week, depending on your unique recovery ability.

Just make sure to alternate back and forth between the two workouts on your lower body training days. Check it out:

Eccentric Squat Workout

  • A1: Back squat w/ weight releasers (medium stance / heels flat), 6 x 3, 10/0/X/0**, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Lying leg curl using 2/1 method (feet plantar flexed / pointing out)****, 6 x 3, 10/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Front foot elevated split squat (holding DBs), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: 45 degree back extension (band tension), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest

**Use a 10 second eccentric phase on the first rep with the weight releasers. On the 2nd and 3rd reps use a 3 second negative phase.

****To perform the 2/1 method you lift the weight concentrically with 2 legs and lower the weight eccentrically with 2 legs. Complete all 3 reps for your non-dominant leg, then complete all 3 reps for your non-dominant leg.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Traditional Squat Workout

  • A1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 6 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral lying leg curl (feet plantar flexed / pointing out), 6 x 3, 10/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Front foot elevated split squat (holding DBs), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: 45 degree back extension (band tension), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Conclusion

Training Frequency For Strength

Optimal training frequency for strength gains is a complicated topic. The scientific literature seems to support the idea that high-frequency approach works best.

However, in the real world things are not so simple. Athletes have achieved world-class strength levels using low, medium, and high frequency approaches.

The most important thing you can do is experiment and find what works best for you! Of course you can save yourself a lot of time by following my recommendations in this guide.

Always remember: the mind is more important than the body. Where the mind goes the body will follow.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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