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For strength/hypertrophy, is there any evidence that better results are achieved by doing a lower volume workout 7 days a week instead of a higher volume workout 3-4 days a week, or vice versa, assuming the total volume per week stays the same? In other words, given a fixed total volume per week, does it really matter how that volume is divided up between days?

Concretely, my current everyday morning routine is something like this: breakfast, 45 min walking briskly on the treadmill, followed immediately by one set of chin-ups to failure, followed immediately by one set of push-ups to failure, followed followed immediately by one set of body weight rows to failure, followed immediately by one set of dips to failure, followed by some leg raises and oblique sit ups. Followed by second breakfast.

I know I'm not overtraining because I don't feel any soreness and I'm making some progress in how many reps I can do (8 chins to 11 in 2 weeks). What is the evidence as to whether it would be better for strength and/or hypertrophy to do two sets each 3-4 days per week instead? Or perhaps even 3-4 sets each 2 days a week?

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  • There is little evidence regarding such things, especially if you want to compare 2 approaches. The scientific side of fitness is very problematic for many reasons. Also everyone responds different. All we have are programs that have been working for a large number of people over the years. Your best bet is following one if them. – Raditz_35 Apr 12 '18 at 6:48
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    Programs with 2 to 4 times a week training are popular bevause normal people can't go to the gym 7 days a week. – Ekaen Apr 12 '18 at 13:59
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I found a meta analysis that studies this exact question. The conclusion: "When comparing studies that investigated training muscle groups between 1 to 3 days per week on a volume-equated basis, the current body of evidence indicates that frequencies of training twice a week promote superior hypertrophic outcomes to once a week. It can therefore be inferred that the major muscle groups should be trained at least twice a week to maximize muscle growth; whether training a muscle group three times per week is superior to a twice-per-week protocol remains to be determined."

The effect size on hypertrophy was 0.49 ± 0.08 vs. 0.30 ± 0.07. Training each muscle group twice per week yielded 63% more gains than training each once per week, even after controlling for total weekly volume.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27102172

In other words, bro-splits (defined as training each muscle group once a week on specific days) are horrible. Every muscle group needs to be trained twice per week minimum. Since your body doesn't know that weeks exist I would say a 72 hour maximum latency between workouts, to be precise.

Also, anecdotally, training at higher frequencies with lower volumes dramatically reduces the incidence of DOMS.

Here's another meta analysis that supports training each muscle group 3x/week for untrained individuals and 2x/week for trained individuals: http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/12618576

Here's a third meta analysis that says strength development in collegiate/professional athletes is maximized by training twice per week, at ~85% 1RM for a total of 8 sets per week per muscle group.

Don't know if any of these studies looked at doing 1 set per day 7 days per week though. Or looked at just exercising every second day instead of arbitrarily having an extra rest day every seven due to the prime number of days in a week.

Here's a study that shows muscle protein synthesis spikes after training but returns almost to baseline after 72 hours. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1474228/

Another study that shows running concurrently with strength training reduced the benefits of strength training by a third, but cycling concurrently did not. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2012/08000/Concurrent_Training___A_Meta_Analysis_Examining.35

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I don't know of a perfect study on this, but I have seen athletes who trained similarly every day (crew, swimming, and gymnastics) who all got significant muscle development. Granted the loading may not be as high as weight lifting in crew or swimming. (Gym is reasonably intense, even just training tricks or routines, not strength. You have to take turns vice continuous effort.)

It would also be interesting to compare 1 set 7 days per week, 2 sets 3.5 days per week, and 2 sets 7 days per week. For the last one, it may not be as time efficient, but the question would become if there is a differential advantage or if you actually do worse (lack of recovery time).

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Hypertrophy & Strength


I frequently see Hypertrophy & Strength training used interchangeably when there is a important distinction between the two.

Exercise prescription only becomes clear with an understanding of how rep ranges tie into physiology.


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Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is an increase in the volume of the non-contractile muscle cell fluid, sarcoplasm. This fluid accounts for 25-30% of the muscle’s size. Although the cross sectional area of the muscle increases, the density of muscle fibers per unit area decreases, and there is no increase in muscular strength. This type of hypertrophy is mainly a result of high rep, “bodybuilder-type” training.


Myofibrillar Hypertrophy

Myofibrillar hypertrophy, on the other hand, is an enlargement of the muscle fiber as it gains more myofibrils, which contract and generate tension in the muscle. With this type of hypertrophy, the area density of myofibrils increases and there is a significantly greater ability to exert muscular strength. This type of hypertrophy is best accomplished by training with high weight & low reps or eccentrics (overloading).


Be creative, and put together the most result-producing programs available for our athletes or ourselves. This may mean incorporating both types of hypertrophy training into your routine, depending on your goal and training phase.


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  • This does not answer the question, which was whether it is better to do more frequent lower volume workouts, or less frequent higher volume workouts, assuming the same overall weekly volume. (This may have been due to poor wording from the OP, who incorrectly used "heavier" to describe number of sets performed.) Furthermore, none of the studies/articles you cite support the idea that low intensity work causes sarcoplasmic hypertrophy while high intensity work causes myofibrillar hypertrophy. – David Scarlett Jul 24 '18 at 4:37
  • By no means is this black and white, it's hard to measure fiber density. However there have been quite a few high quality studies within the last 2 years backing exactly this. Read a little closer or I didn't explain well enough. – Mike-DHSc Jul 24 '18 at 4:50

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