Coach Mark is a gym owner, personal trainer, and mentor to other PTs with over 10 years experience in the fitness industry.
How Frequently Should You Perform the Same Exercise?
This is something that seems to get very definitive answers with huge levels of authority. Yet, those responses tend to be incredibly inconsistent.
In gyms up and down the country, every day is chest and biceps day for some. Others look to squat every day. For some it’s deadlifts and abs.
But, ask most "experts" and they will tell you that you can’t do the same exercise every day. You certainly can’t do it twice per day and you need to recover, so you should only be training every second day.
Is this true?
Do your muscles really need 48 hours to rest?
The truth is, it depends entirely on how you approach it.
The most important thing to remember is that, your muscles do not grow when you train them, they recover to adapt to the training you have thrown at them. Therefore, if you train to a level that requires 48hrs to fully recover from that workout, then yes, you need to leave it 48hrs before you attempt another workout.
If, however, you only push to the point where you can be fully recovered after 24hrs, then resting any longer than that is only going to waste time and make your progress sub-optimal.
Why, then, would you even consider training more frequently?
Ignore the fact you are training the same muscle each time. Let’s just look at the effectiveness of a long, highly intensive, workout versus a short one.
If you were to take one single workout (let’s say it lasts for one hour) then the energy you have for the exercises in the 2nd half will not be the same as those in the first half as your body is getting tired.
But, you can keep pushing and essentially earn a longer rest period.
Making it more efficient. Right?
Not so fast!
Imagine breaking that workout into two halves.
You do the first half in the morning and then, whilst still feeling relatively fresh, with your energy only slightly dipped, you stop. Go and eat, relax and regroup. Eight hours later you return and do the second half of the workout.
Clearly, those exercises are going to get more focus and have more energy behind them thus being more effective than if they were carried out at the end of the first workout.
Plus, when you complete this second workout, you will not be so fatigued and so it will take less time to recover for your next workout.
So, despite doing the same exercises in both cases, the quality of the reps and the quality of the is higher for the second half by splitting up the session.
Thus, training more frequently can be said to be more beneficial.
However, it's still not so straightforward.
If you were to push through each workout to a level beyond your ability to recover, then each time you are simply going to start from a position of fatigue and therefore run yourself into the ground. You will end up either sick or injured.
The trick is to listen to your body; adapt to the feedback it is giving you and respond accordingly.
What’s this got to do with training the same movement though?
Let’s assume you aim to deadlift every day.
If you were to go for your 1-rep maximum every session, you would be pushing your nervous system to a point that requires a lot of recovery.
As a result, after a few days, that 1-rep max is going to regress.
You’ll start to feel drained. And, most likely, you’ll start to feel like you don’t want to do it anymore.
If, however, you train up to around 80-90% of your max for your chosen rep range and stop as soon as your explosivity starts to drop; you are effectively training your body to do the movement exceptionally well and then holding back when you see your level start to dip.
This dip may, on some days, happen very quickly. On others it may take a while.
This is just you adapting to the circumstances of the day (good quality of sleep, well nourished, stress free day etc).
You maximize every workout without overdoing it.
What would the benefits be to train with the same movement every day?
- It will help ingrain the movement pattern. Causing your body to connect the muscle contractions in the correct sequence without having to overly think about it. As such, your effective strength in that movement will increase.
- It makes it a habit. You will start to feel when you are doing it wrong, again, without having to concentrate on the details of the movement.
- It allows for greater volume and for your system to maximize the benefit of that addition by never pushing your nervous system too far.
- It keeps you focused and fresh. Because you end every session before you are completely spent, you may feel you are leaving the gym itching to do more, which is going to inspire you to return and do just that rather than dreading it.
- It means less pain. If you train to a level that requires 2 or 3 days recovery, you are feeling it for 2 or 3 days and days 1 and 2 can, therefore, feel extremely uncomfortable. By not pushing to the same level, you never have to suffer through the “I can’t walk up the stairs” phase of recovery.
This is not something everyone should do.
Here are some reasons you should NOT look to do the same movement daily.
- You don’t have great form. If you continually do something badly all that will happen is you get very good at doing it badly and it becomes a habit that is harder to break than to learn it well in the first place.
- You don’t really have the time. It’s all well and good saying you’ll do something and it may look good on paper, but if it’s going to cause you undue stress to fit it into your day, then it is going to have detrimental returns as stress is never a catalyst for growth or improvement.
- You are not getting enough sleep. This is just another stress and given most of your recovery happens when you are sleeping, you are unlikely to be recovering correctly for the subsequent workouts.
- Your nutrition is not good enough. If you don’t put fuel in the car, it’s not going to go very far. Similarly, if you don’t fuel your system, your workouts are going to suffer. You would be better spent skipping the odd workout and using the saved time to prepare some high quality, nourishing meals.
- It feels like a boring grind. This can work both ways. If you are not good at something, by getting good at it you can often end up enjoying it. But, by continually doing something you don’t enjoy, even if you are good at it, you will just find excuses to avoid turning up. The most beneficial workout you can do is the one you follow through on. If this is not it, then find another route.
Hopefully this clarifies both sides of the argument and you can now consider whether doing the same thing daily is for you.
Right or wrong does not come into it.
Either it is appropriate for your specific goals and circumstances or it is not.
The main thing to takeaway is, it is certainly not wrong and if someone tells you otherwise, maybe they need to read this.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2017 Coach Mark Tiffney