Why High Frequency Training is So Effective
Frequency fixes just about all of your problems.
Bad at playing a certain instrument? Practice it more. Not great at talking to strangers? Make it a habit to talk to 1 stranger every day.
The same can be said for lifting. One of the most pervasive tips you will here from strength coaches time and time again is, if a lift isn’t going well for you…train it more frequently.
As coaches we aren’t just saying this to get you to go away. While extremely simple in concept, increasing the frequency to which you train a certain lift you want to see improve is one of the best tips your coach could give you. Here’s the reasons why high frequency training is so effective.
1. Increased Volume:
On a very basic level the first thing we do when we increase our overall training frequency is increase our actual training volume. So if you currently are training 5 sets of 5 reps on squats on Monday and add an additional squat session of 3 sets of 5 reps on Friday, your squat volume just jumped from 5 total sets for the week to 8 total sets.
This is great!
Increasing your overall volume is one of the main tenets behind increasing both your strength progress in a movement, and potentially even your overall muscle growth. Obviously there’s an upper limit to how much volume you can add before you are absolutely running yourself into the ground, but you might be surprised by just how frequently you can train certain lifts.
Higher level lifters can be seen training upper body movements like bench press and overhead press three to five times per week, and lower body movements like the squat and deadlift two to three times per week.
The goal is to gradually increase your frequency and in turn your training volume over the long run. So if one squat session per week is no longer driving progress for you, just jump to two squat sessions per week and see how it goes. You don’t need to go from one session a week to five sessions right out of the starting gate.
2. High Quality Volume:
Not only are we going to increase our overall training volume but we are also going to increase the overall quality of the volume that we are actually getting in. This potentially means greater loads lifted each session, and with better technical efficiency.
Because we have a greater number of sessions in which we are training a certain movement we can more effectively “spread out” the volume of the entirety of the week.
Consider if you were to try to complete 15 sets of 5 reps of squats all in one day. How good do you think your sets would be by the time you got to around set 7 or 8? How would the load on the bar be effected? Would your form be compromised? How fatigued would you be?
Now consider taking those same 15 sets and splitting them up into 3 separate training sessions. Now you are still getting the same amount of volume in for the week. But you only have to deal with 5 sets of squats at a time. This is not only mentally much more manageable, but it’s likely you’ll be able to complete those 5 sets with more weight on the bar, and with better form.
3. Increased Variation:
If you only have one training session for a given movement you’re most likely sticking with the “normal” version of that lift. However, if you have multiple training sessions per week with that same movement, you are open to adding in some different training variations to your routine.
For example, if you are training squats 3 times per week, your first day could be a “normal” high or low bar squat, your second day could be a tempo or pause variation, and your third day could be something completely differen like SSB squats/band squats/chain squats/etc.
This can let you specifically target in on areas you think you are weak in. Practice your form with pause and tempo variations. Or specifically make the lift variation harder to challenge yourself.
Adding variations into your training can also break up the monotony of a boring training program and keep you interested in lifting for the long term.
4. Rapid Skill Acquisition/Retention:
Should go without saying, the more frequently you do anything, the more practice you are going to get with that skill. If you have a new lift you are looking to learn as quickly as possible, training it multiple times per week is a good way to do so.
This can be a weak point of some novice programs out there as the new lifters will only train a lift once per week so their overall skill in a movement moves along slower than it could be otherwise.
Additionally, high frequency training leaves you in an almost constant state of readiness. Being “in the groove” with your lifts is a very real thing, and if you are practicing them frequently enough you shouldn’t have any issues with them feeling “off” like you haven’t trained them in awhile.
5. Improved Recovery
This is actually the opposite of what most people think will happen when running a high frequency program. Initially seeing that you could be squatting and deadlifting two to three times per week can leave you thinking you’re only ever going to feel fried.
However, like we discussed above, you are breaking your training volume into much more “digestible” individual sessions. It’s much less fatiguing to take on a handful of sets a couple of sessions across the week, then it is to full send all of your training for the week on one day.
Additionally, despite the fact that we are training more frequently, none of that training should truly be going to an RPE 10 effort. Most of your training sets on a high frequency training program will be in the RPE 6-9 range and the risk of you failing any particular lift should be low.