I recently read Convict conditioning book and in the workout routines part the author put a routine for beginners in which trainees workout an exercise only once per week.
But I've read on the internet that beginners should train 3 times per week.
So, is once per week for bodyweight exercises like pushups and pullups enough for building muscle ?

4 Answers 4


Yes, you will see improvements, but they will be slow.

The residual training effect table on exrx.net (found here, screenshot below) describes how the body retains changes in body state and motor control after ceasing to exercise for a certain time period:

enter image description here

The table shows a 15 day (+/- 5 day) retention period on strength endurance. This is defined as: slow twitch fiber hypertrophy, aerobic/anaerobic enzyme activity, local blood circulation, lactate tolerance. Also shown is a 30 day (+/- 5 day) retention on maximal strength.

There are a number of medical references on the webpage for further reading. See also detraining muscle mass, which states:

Squat strength of Olympic Weightlifters declined approximately 10% in after 4 weeks of cessation of weight training.

And also:

Muscle mass returned to pretraining levels after 5 months of detraining.

One can logically presume that, given the residual effect window, you should be able to progressively overload (and thus build strength and muscle). However, due to the limited training volume and stimulus you can receive in a single day of training, your progress would obviously be slower than a more rigorous routine.

  • 1
    I'm guessing decline in training effect is not linear, but couldn't find any information via your link. Would you know of any guidelines as to how quickly training effect diminishes?
    – user8119
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 13:06
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    I think the chart (and article generally) is referring to athlete-like exercises. Because based on that chart, performing strength exercises every 10 - 20 days is enough to retain strength. I don't have the resources to disprove your claim, but I don't think that's absolutely true. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 13:06
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    @Kneel-Before-ZOD: HIT training is sometimes done in this way and supposedly works for some people. Granted, most people doing HIT split their workouts, so they train 3 times a week, although different muscles. I did hear from people doing one HIT full body workout per week, though, and they were making gains. So I guess it's not impossible, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, either.
    – user8119
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 13:10
  • Good question @LarissaGodzilla regarding training effectiveness. I don't have a resource for that. I agree with your comment and would not recommend a once-per-week routine to anyone either. I imagine one could still make improvements if that were their only option, however.
    – Daniel
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 13:13
  • @LarissaGodzilla Thanks for the info. I guess I have more researches to perform. I find it hard to believe that exercising once a week (with any other smaller in-between exercises) is enough to get stronger over time. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 13:13

You will probably see an initial benefit, but I doubt it'd take you far. 3x Week will be more efficient and will allow you to see benefit much further down the road assuming you follow proper progression and eating.

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    While I agree with you, this is not really an answer. It has no sources, not even anecdotal and it doesn't really explain anything. As it stands it's an opinion and would have better been posted as a comment.
    – user8119
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 13:36

Hi Peter,

Assuming you aren't performing any other muscle building or weightlifting exercises, one day exercise is not enough. The 6-day rest period is too large to make any significant progress, especially if you're just starting.

Any benefit you see in a day will have eroded by the 4th to 5th day.

I haven't read the book, but it's likely that the author was talking about performing a specific exercise per day. So, Day 1 could be pull-ups, Day 2 could be bicep curls, Day 3 is push ups, etc.

If my assumption is wrong and the author was actually talking about exercising once a week, you can update your question with the reasons he gave for such a recommendation.

So again, no, you won't really see much (permanent) benefits (if any at all). However, you're equally more likely to quit.

Just find a way to include your routines into your daily life and it'll be easier to do them. :)

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    Yes, I've read the book and he definitely did not mean 1 day of exercise and 6 of rest.
    – G__
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 23:52
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    Any references on "any benefit you see in a day will have eroded by the 4th to 5th day."? Seems unfounded.
    – Daniel
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 12:54
  • @Doc It's just an estimation. But given the amount of rest days between the exercises, it's unlikely that the benefits would have eroded sooner. Unless you disagree with the entire notion that the benefits would erode at all :). Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 12:57
  • The research indicates they erode within a certain time period. See the table in my answer. Also, "one day of exercise is not enough" -- enough for what? Seems subjective.
    – Daniel
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 13:01
  • +1 for 'find a way to include your routines into your daily life'. It's really easy to do some push ups three times a day. An article on a similar topic that I've read recently gives some pointers on how to start.
    – user8119
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 13:40

You must have misunderstood the author about this.
I've read the book and the workout routines was at least twice a week in the routine "New Blood" He also includes more intense routines but he advises not to use them until you reach level 7 of each of the big six movements.

But if you're planning to workout just once a week, You will hardly see any results.

http://www.aworkoutroutine.com/training-each-muscle-group-once-per-week/ This website is really helpful when it comes to building your own routine

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