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BendtheBar 09-14-2012 09:06 AM

High Frequency vs. Low Frequency
T NATION | High Frequency vs. Low Frequency

Just sharing some info from an article:


High Frequency: Training a specific movement or exercise three or more times per week.
Low frequency: Training a specific movement or exercise once a week or less.

Lifts that seem to respond favorably to high frequency:

Olympic lifts
Bench press
Overhead press
High-bar squats
Bodyweight exercises
Sport-specific movements
Abs/core work
Note: I have not had good success training both the bench press and the overhead press with high frequency simultaneously.

Lifts that seem to respond favorably to low frequency:

Low bar squat
Good mornings
Most lat exercises
Biceps exercises

BendtheBar 09-14-2012 09:08 AM

Article also lists some pros and cons:


Delivers faster/better results.

Builds neuromuscular coordination. Strength and performance are highly neural in nature; being able to practice these movements more frequently is beneficial.

More practice is usually better. Think of the guideline that mastery takes 10,000 hours you'll build that up faster with higher frequency training. At the end of the year I like to simply look at how thick my training log is; how many pages is it (each session is a page). The thicker the log, the more likely I was making progress.

High frequency allows one to build significant work capacity in that exercise. Work capacity follows the principle of specificity you can get good at one thing while not being great at something else.

When I'm specializing in the bench press, I might do 50+ reps at 85% or more over a week my work capacity in that exercise is great.

But that doesn't mean if I suddenly switched to a bodybuilding style, '20 sets for chest with minimal rest' workout that I would rock it out. If I were peaking for a bench press competition that type of workout would destroy me.

Allows for more practice with heavy weight. You have more time to rehearse your set up, focus on your cues, and simply get prepared to lift the weight and perform the exercise.

The body gets used to lifting heavy frequently, at least on certain exercises. The first few weeks are often rough and that's when most people quit but after that initial period, the body adapts and almost seems to crave going heavy on a regular basis.

It works. My best gains in the bench press were on high frequency programs. Also, the success of Sheiko style, Smolov, and Olympic lifting routines are enough to warrant a serious look at high frequency training.

High frequency training seems to work well with female trainees or smaller, lighter lifters. I suspect it's because their smaller frames experience less damage even if the relative intensity is the same for a larger lifter and thus are able to recover faster.


Higher rate of injury. When you're training heavy and hard on a regular basis, your chance of injury is higher. In the earlier example (adding 100 pounds to your max squat to save your family), you'll either adapt and get strong or you'll simply fall apart, resulting in a terrible squat by month end. Injury risk increases with exposure more frequent exposures means a greater chance of injury.

If you have any compensations or preexisting injuries, high frequency training can be a rough ride. If your squat form is just so-so and you decide to start squatting hard three times a week your knees and lower back could pay the price. Remember, squats aren't bad for the knees, but lousy squats might be bad for your knees.

High frequency programs are harder to program. I find this to be particularly true when programming for the masses some lifters seem to make great gains, others struggle to move along. The progress with lower frequency programs is much more consistent.

It's harder to peak and/or taper on high frequency routines. When the body is used to going heavy all the time, taking even a couple days off might mess with you. On the flip side, if you just keep lifting heavy until the max day, you might show up fatigued and leave a few pounds on the platform.

Once the body is used to higher frequency, you can feel a little lost when you get off that program. You can't stay on an intense high frequency program forever (due to injury or burn out), but after you scale back there's often a period that feels like nothing is working and your strength drops significantly.

Strength levels seem to fluctuate more on high frequency programs. The good news is that if you peak right you can be really strong when it's max-out time, but there will also be periods where your strength is lower than normal or well off your max.

With high frequency training, gym maxes are similar to competition maxes. Don't expect a big increase just because it's a meet the body gets used to doing 95-98% regularly, but don't fool yourself into thinking that on meet day you'll suddenly have another 10% in available strength.

It can be hard to focus on muscular balance and work on weak points. If you're benching all the time, you should in theory be performing a ton of pulling movements.

But if most of the session is devoted to benching, you won't have enough time to do all the necessary pulling exercises, unless you happen to live in the gym. One tends to specialize, and that often comes with a tradeoff of undertraining something else.

High frequency training has a greater rate of burnout. I've seen a good number of fellow gym members that appear to be serious, come in and blast away for a few months, and then suddenly stop showing up for a significant length of time.

RobMoriRB 09-14-2012 11:45 AM

umm, this is interesting....I assume this guy never met Louie simmons lol

miked96 09-14-2012 12:33 PM

I think he is right on with all his points. I have trained on "programs" that had me benching three times a week and squatting up to five and ones where I benched and squatted once. High frequency is tougher to program and requires more of an experienced lifter or a coach that knows when to call it a day. Lower frequency is easier to program but I didnt see the immediate strength bump that I saw from higher frequency.

I think the biggest point is that both work. There are examples of successful guys that train both ways. I think it needs to fit the individual lifters lifestyle and enthusiasm level.

BendtheBar 09-14-2012 12:46 PM

Good points Mike.

I want to add that like the author, I found the combo of high frequency benching and pressing to be too much. Specifically, the more I overhead pressed, the weaker my bench eccentrics became. There was lingering fatigue/recovery issues.

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