How To Structure A High-Frequency Workout Plan

Brad Borland
Written By: Brad Borland
January 20th, 2015
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Training
154.8K Reads
How To Structure A High-Frequency Workout Plan
Learn to structure a high-frequency training program that helps build muscle faster by ditching traditional training, but still using the same basic principles.

Even though high frequency training isn’t a new concept when it comes to conditioning, it’s a whole other story when it comes to muscle-building. Traditional bodybuilding programs often have you training each body part once per week with a high volume of sets. Body-specific training and long periods of rest and recovery have been staples for most gym-goers with hopes for packing on muscle.

But what if there was a faster way to build muscle mass? What if you could take lessons from the past and reap big gains today? What if changing just a few simple things can get you on the high road to growth?

What exactly is high frequency?

The type of high frequency training I am talking about is for those wanting to build muscle. Not necessarily for strength gains exclusively (although strength will be a welcomed side-effect) these muscle building plans are designed for one main purpose: to grow muscle.

So, what exactly is high frequency training? The big picture is simple: train a muscle more often to reap faster gains in mass. Nothing extreme here, just a sound, common sense approach using basic training principles.

This isn’t some groundbreaking idea. If you look at bodybuilders in the pre-steroid era most if not all used a high frequency training program to build some impressive physiques. John Grimek and Steve Reeves come to mind just to name a few. They had lean, muscular physiques with V-tapers, broad shoulders and shape.

Did these guys train every body part once per week? Heck no! They performed three full-body sessions per week with other work thrown in oftentimes. You would never see them bombing their chest with countless sets of presses, flyes and other auxiliary work until they couldn’t brush their teeth that night. They hit the body more as a whole while using the big compound lifts bench presses, chin-ups, cleans, squats and push presses among many others.

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Why high frequency?

If the reason to go high frequency still hasn’t sunk in then let’s look at some pros and cons and then throw some math into the mix.

Traditional training:

Pros -
  • You can train each muscle once per week giving you plenty of rest and recovery.
  • You can bombard each body part with a high volume of sets recruiting a lot of muscle fibers.
  • You can take your time during your training sessions – you only have one body part to train!
  • You only have to work legs once per week.
  • Oh, did I mention you only have to work legs once per week?
Cons -
  • You can only get in (in a perfect year) 52 sessions per year for each body part.
  • You only work legs once per week!
  • For some, seven days of rest is too much rest resulting in undertraining.
  • If you miss a day or two your entire week goes in flux.
  • It is difficult to adjust anything major due to the high volume of work.

High frequency training:

Pros -
  • You get the opportunity to train more frequently meaning more growth opportunities. If you trained each body part twice per year you have created 104 versus 52 opportunities in that year to grow more muscle.
  • You get to train legs more frequently meaning multiple spikes to your metabolism each week for a leaner physique.
  • For the most part you will still be able to keep your weekly volume of sets – just spread throughout the week.
  • If you miss a day or two it will be easy to get back on schedule since you are training more frequently.
Cons -
  • You will have to pay close attention to central nervous system stress weekly.
  • You will have to fight the urge to do more volume.
  • You may not be able to buddy up in the gym since your friends will still be doing their old traditional routines.
  • You may have to buy a few new shirts with bigger sleeves

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How to structure a high frequency training program

Unfortunately, you can’t just jump into a high frequency training program blindly. If you want to be successful you will need to follow a few key parameters.

  1. Keep workouts simple and progressive. Don’t cloud your training with countless sets of isolation work. Stick with the basics such as bench presses, squats, rows, pull-ups, shoulder presses, Romanian deadlifts and calf raises.
  2. Keep a close eye on central nervous system stress and regulate the big, compound lifts correctly. You won’t be able to squat, deadlift, barbell row and bench press with low rep big weights each and every day. You will need to give some thought to rotating the heavy, multi-joint exercises in order to keep progressing without burning out.
  3. You will need to stick to a weekly total volume. This simply means if you are used to doing 16 sets for chest, say, every Monday then that means you could either do 8 sets twice per week or around 4 or 5 sets three times per week.
  4. You can’t go full-bore for weeks on end. You will need to establish a 4 to 6 week span of a program before taking a few days off or a week of low intensity, active rest workouts.
  5. Pay strict attention to rest and recovery. Proper diet and plenty of sleep, when done consistently, will do amazing things for your progress.

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Sample training routines

Below are 3 sample high frequency routines. Whether you can train 3, 4 or 6 days per week, one of them will surely fit into your schedule and recovery abilities.

3 days per week full-body starter plan:

Perform each workout once per week on nonconsecutive days such as Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Day 1 Exercises Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest
Barbell Back Squat 2x12 3x6-10 60
Seated or Lying Leg Curl - 3x8-12 60
Incline Bench Barbell Press 2x12 3x8-12 60
Wide-Grip Pull-Up 2x12 3x8-12 60
Dumbbell Upright Row - 3x8-12 45
Standing Barbell Curl - 3x8-12 45
Parallel Bar Dip - 3x8-12 45
Seated Calf Raise 1x12 3x8-12 45
Floor Crunch - 3x10-15 30
Day 2 Exercises Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest
Bulgarian Split Squat 2x12 3x8-10 60
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift - 3x8-12 60
Flat Bench Dumbbell Press 2x12 3x8-12 60
Bent-Over Barbell Row 2x12 3x8-12 60
Seated Dumbbell Press - 3x8-12 45
Incline Bench Dumbbell Curl - 3x8-12 45
Close-Grip Bench Press - 3x8-12 45
Single Leg Dumbbell Calf Raise 1x12 3x8-12 45
Hanging Leg Raise - 3x10-15 30
Day 3 Exercises Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest
Leg Press or Barbell Front Squat 2x12 3x8-10 60
Barbell Romanian Deadlift - 3x8-12 60
Incline Bench Dumbbell Press 2x12 3x8-12 60
T-Bar Row or Barbell Deadlift 2x12 3x8-12 60
Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise - 3x8-12 45
Preacher Bench Curl - 3x8-12 45
Lying Triceps Extension - 3x8-12 45
Standing Calf Raise 1x12 3x8-12 45
Incline Bench Sit-Up - 3x10-15 30

6 days per week full-body intermediate plan:

Perform each workout once per week for a total of 6 days with one day off.

Day 1 Exercises Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest
Incline Bench Barbell Press 2x12 5x8-12 60
Wide-Grip Pull-Up 2x12 3x8-12 60
One-Arm Dumbbell Row - 3x8-12 60
Dumbbell Upright Row - 3x8-12 45
Bent-Over Dumbbell Lateral Raise - 3x8-12 45
Floor Crunch - 3x10-15 30
Day 2 Exercises Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest
Barbell Back Squat 2x12 5x6-10 60
Seated or Lying Leg Curl - 3x8-12 60
Standing Barbell Curl - 4x8-12 45
Parallel Bar Dip - 4x8-12 45
Seated Calf Raise 1x12 3x8-12 45
Day 3 Exercises Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest
Flat Bench Dumbbell Press 2x12 5x8-12 60
Bent-Over Barbell Row 2x12 3x8-12 60
Close-Grip Pulldown - 3x8-12 60
Seated Dumbbell Press - 3x8-12 45
Barbell Upright Row - 3x8-12 45
Hanging Leg Raise - 3x10-15 30
Day 4 Exercises Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest
Bulgarian Split Squat 2x12 5x8-10 60
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift - 3x8-12 60
Incline Bench Dumbbell Curl - 4x8-12 45
Close-Grip Bench Press - 4x8-12 45
Single Leg Dumbbell Calf Raise 1x12 3x8-12 45
Day 5 Exercises Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest
Incline Bench Dumbbell Press 2x12 5x8-12 60
T-Bar Row or Barbell Deadlift 2x12 3x8-12 60
Wide-Grip Pulldown - 3x8-12 60
Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise - 3x8-12 45
Front Plate Raise - 3x8-12 45
Incline Bench Sit-Up - 3x10-15 30
Day 6 Exercises Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest
Leg Press or Barbell Front Squat 2x12 5x8-10 60
Barbell Romanian Deadlift - 3x8-12 60
Preacher Bench Curl - 4x8-12 45
Lying Triceps Extension - 4x8-12 45
Standing Calf Raise 1x12 3x8-12 45

4 days per week basic split plan:

Perform each workout once per week for a total of 4 days with no more than two consecutive days of training such as Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Day 1 Exercises Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest
Incline Bench Barbell Press 2x12 3-4x6-12 60
Flat Bench Dumbbell Press - 3x8-12 60
Neutral-Grip Pull-Up 2x12 3-4x8-12 60
Bent-Over Barbell Row - 3x8-12 60
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press 1x12 3x8-12 45
Wide-Grip Barbell Upright Row - 3x8-12 45
Hanging Straight-Leg Raise - 3x15-20 30
Day 2 Exercises Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest
Barbell Back Squat 2x12 3-4x6-12 60
Leg Press - 3x10-12 60
Seated or Lying Leg Curl 1x12 3x8-12 60
Seated Calf Raise 1x12 3x8-12 60
Seated Dumbbell Curl 1x12 4x8-12 45
Decline Bench Close Grip Press 1x12 4x8-12 45
Day 3 Exercises Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest
Incline Bench Barbell Press 2x12 3-4x6-12 60
Flat Bench Dumbbell Press - 3x8-12 60
Dumbbell or T-Bar Row 2x12 3-4x8-12 60
Wide-Grip Pull-Up or Pulldown - 3x8-12 60
Seated Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise 1x12 3x8-12 45
Bent-Over Dumbbell Lateral Raise - 3x8-12 45
Incline Sit-Up - 3x15-20 30
Day 4 Exercises Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest
Barbell Front Squat 2x12 3-4x6-12 60
Bulgarian Split Squat - 3x10-12 60
Barbell Romanian Deadlift 1x12 3x8-12 60
Standing Calf Raise 1x12 3x8-12 45
Barbell or EZ Bar Curl 1x12 4x8-12 45
Weighted Parallel Bar Dips 1x12 4x8-12 45

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29 Comments
vincenzo no
Posted on: Sun, 01/05/2020 - 10:28

sir, what about stretching? i was thinking of doing yoga the 7th day

Saif hans
Posted on: Sat, 05/19/2018 - 22:12

I had a question regarding the rest time given in these workouts. Are you supposed to strictly stick to those rest periods? (60/30 seconds). If yes, then does this mean I am supposed to be lifting lighter in all these workouts? For e.g. I would probably need more rest than 60 seconds if I bench at my max capacity. And also even if I do rest more and lift at full capacity will I be able to recover to hit the same muscle group again after just a couple of days?

Matt
Posted on: Sat, 02/17/2018 - 07:19

Hello Brad

I hope you are well.
I'm going to do a 4 week block of high frequency, I'm going to persevere with it as never tried it for long before.
I need to
legs x's 3 a week
Back x's s week
Calves x's 3 a week
All other body groups x's 2 a week except biceps.
Am I write saying this, refering to above, that if my usual leg volume is 20sets a week, I would do no more than them sets split into 3 workouts. Then, no more than 30% to complete failure. So if 7 or 8 sets on legs, 2 or 3 maximum to failure?
All the other sets would be about 3 reps short of failure?

Also Brad, how would you split this please?

-legs back calves
-chest shoulders triceps
-back legs calves
-chest shoulders triceps
-legs Back calves

Thanks for your time.

Matt

arno cornette
Posted on: Thu, 11/17/2016 - 17:19

Hey Brad, I like the article, I'm already doing this for a week now but another 6 days plan. I use maximum mtor activation, drop sets and a heavy drop out set, I'm also doing chest and back on seperate days and triceps with chest and biceps with back.

Vicky
Posted on: Tue, 06/07/2016 - 09:19

Hi Brad,

Excellent article, actually my life saver! I train 6 days a week, one muscle per day, with 2 leg days. But, due to work pressure, I was thinking to reduce my workout. Of course, I was worried that I will loose my gains!

So, I now can switch to a 3-day plan and try it. I just wanted to know the clues about the diet. I take the usual; about 2gms/kilo of protein and rest comes from good carbs. But as in this plan, I have a gap(s), what do you recommend for gap days? BTW, I am 39 yrs, primarily a Mesomorph.

Many thanks!
- Vicky

Elliot
Posted on: Wed, 11/11/2015 - 03:13

DO you think the 6 day week plan is good for a person who has been lifting for a year?

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BradBorland
Posted on: Wed, 11/11/2015 - 22:04

Hi Elliot. Well, that depends on your experience (quality, not just quantity). But, if you start slow and with a little less volume and build up, I think you'll do fine.

Landon
Posted on: Fri, 04/10/2015 - 13:36

I have a question regarding high frequency training: I work two jobs, a day job and one in the evening. I have zero time to workout between jobs. HOWEVER.. I have a gym in my shop at my day job consisting of a cheap bench and bar, some squat stands and a bar, a deadlift bar, and 2 pairs of threaded DB handles; with about 500lbs in old weight plates. I also have a chin-up bar and a weight belt.

I have three short windows of opportunity to workout: 930am - 950am, 230pm - 250pm, and 330pm - 410pm, Monday - Friday. There is little to no info regarding short frequent workouts on the net. If these were your only opportunities to workout, what would you do? How would you organize your sessions? Lift everyday? 4 day split? 3 day? I want to get big and strong!! Think outside of the box!! Opinions please!!

930am - 950am: Workout A

230pm - 250pm: Workout B

330pm - 410pm: Workout C

I consider these time frames a gift as I'm basically getting paid to workout! Now, how to get the most out of it......

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BradBorland
Posted on: Mon, 04/20/2015 - 15:07

Hi Landon,

I would definitely take advantage of the times 9:30 and 3:30 since those are spaced out apart pretty well and the later time is 40 minutes. Plenty of time to get things done. You could divide each workout up into those two times and do the requisite 4 days per week. Just as above but just spread out over two times.

I hope that helped...

Danielsson, Joe
Posted on: Mon, 03/07/2016 - 07:54

Maybe something like this...
Do one or two warm up sets and do two working sets: Do two weeks with 15 reps, two weeks with 10 reps and 2 weeks with 5 reps. Try adding some weight to the bar each workout.

Workout A) Squat and Chins + 1 set of triceps
Workout B) Cardio, maybe Jumping ropes or something for ten minutes
Workout C) Squat and Bench + 1 set of biceps

Do the workout 3 days per week. You can super set if you need to keep the workout even shorter.

Nick Murray
Posted on: Mon, 03/23/2015 - 15:44

Hey Brad,
Is this workout a good idea to use as a cutting workout. If that is, is it alright to jump right into it? Ive been doing a lot of research and I have been constantly reading that you should slowly progress your frequency and rep ranges so your body doesn't adapt. Any help would be appreciated, thanks

Kirk
Posted on: Fri, 01/30/2015 - 11:57

Is it good to do RDL same day as BDL? Would it be better to split them up? Would you recommend that or just hit them both in same day?

Akash BaArat
Posted on: Wed, 01/28/2015 - 13:28

going to try it tomorrow
:D

Kirk
Posted on: Tue, 01/27/2015 - 09:39

With the starter 3 day full body what could I do to alter it for more extreme? I've been lifting for 2 years and beyond starter or beginner status. Would it be with more sets more excercises for that particular day... Thanx

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BradBorland
Posted on: Tue, 01/27/2015 - 22:11

Hi Kirk,
I would simply add a set or two to the existing exercises. Keep in mind that the goal should be to keep it simple and just add more intensity. Good luck.

Nick
Posted on: Mon, 01/26/2015 - 08:25

When do you do cardio for this type o working out? Is it better to do it before or after the workout?

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BradBorland
Posted on: Mon, 01/26/2015 - 22:27

Hi Nick. Try after.

Stuart
Posted on: Sun, 01/25/2015 - 13:45

I did an upper body/lower body split twice per week. So - mid frequency. I did this for more than 3 years - but stalled out by the third year. I am 46 years old. I think high frequency is far more effective when you are younger. I switched back to working each muscle group once per week and I am starting to make some gains again. Age and recovery play a big role with frequency in my opinion. I will switch back to mid frequency when I get ready to cut some body fat. I think that there is no right or wrong. Do what works for you. We are all different.

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BradBorland
Posted on: Sun, 01/25/2015 - 17:51

Stuart, absolutely. I am 40 and still like to hit things frequently. I sometimes get everything in 3 times per week. Changing it up is a good thing. But still, do what works for you.

Drew
Posted on: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 12:37

Where would you suggest adding deadlifts?

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BradBorland
Posted on: Sat, 01/24/2015 - 15:20

Drew, that depends on which plan you choose. Just be sure it's not before or after a heavy squat day. Actually you could add it to a lower body day quite easily.

Mike
Posted on: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 08:03

What if you workout at home and all that you have is 400lbs in weights, rack, pull up bar, 25lbs and 35lbs dumb bells?

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BradBorland
Posted on: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 10:40

Hi Mike. Well, you have more than most people who workout at home. There are a ton of exercises you can do with all that equipment - and combined with some bodyweight stuff your pretty limitless. The focus I was making in the article was to increase frequency. That alone will make a huge difference in whatever exercises you choose.

Jonathan
Posted on: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 22:22

Love the article Brad! Whats the best way to add HIIT cardio to the 6 day plan to help stay lean while doing this?

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BradBorland
Posted on: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 10:38

Hi Jonathan, thanks!
I would simply start with HIIT on off days or directly after training twice per week. After a few weeks add a third day. It depends how you are progressing really. Just don't add a ton of cardio off the bat - you might burn out before you see results. Your progress should come slowly but steadily.

Greg
Posted on: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 08:51

Great article! I am going to give the 4 day split plan a shot when I finish my current routine. Thanks Brad!

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BradBorland
Posted on: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 22:10

Hi Greg, good deal. Let me know how you do!

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JoshEngland
Posted on: Mon, 02/18/2019 - 10:14

Hi Ryan,

That should be fine.

Ryan Cherry
Posted on: Sat, 02/16/2019 - 18:02

Can I add an arm day to the 4 day upper lower split, considering there is no direct arm work. Which would make it a 5 day split. I like training 5 days with weights. 6 feels like a lot for my recovery and time.