The body is an amazing ever-adapting organism. It fights off disease every day, it breaks down food and distributes and utilizes it efficiently to stay alive, and it adapts to all kinds of trauma, including
intense weight training. In fact, the body is so effective at adapting-unless you've severely over trained it that if you don't regularly vary the stress of your workouts, it slips into coasting mode, and you
get no gains in size and for strength.
Most bodybuilders realize that the body has this quick-fix mechanism, so they try to push heavier poundages, change exercises, use different rep ranges and incorporate intensity techniques, such as forced reps, every so often, but there's another simple yet sometimes forgotten method you can use to force more growth. It's called changing your stress frequency.
You simply change the number of times per week you hit any muscle group. Most bodybuilders work each muscle group twice a week and never alter that schedule. It's the old three- on/one-off routine. They may mix up the exercises, but the number of times they hit each bodypart remains constant, and "constant," in this cases, equates to "stagnant."
It makes just as much sense, if not more, to alter the frequency of the stress every four to six weeks in order to get more frequent growth surges. For example, if you're on a typical three-on/one-off split and you're hitting each bodypart with, say, eight sets, don't you think your muscles will send an emergency adapt-and-grow signal to your brain when you suddenly shift to a three-days-per-week, full-body routine that hits each bodypart with three or four sets three times a week? You bet it will. True, you'll be doing a few less sets per bodypart per week.
On the three-on/one-off split each target area gets 16 sets every seven days, while on the three-days-per-week routine each area gets only nine to 12 sets. Still, the stress is more frequent on the full-body regimen, and that's the key. You're actually using fewer recovery days between bodypart sessions to up the stress in place of more sets. You hit a bodypart hard, rest a day, then hit it again, rest a day, hit it again, rest two days, then start over. Even advanced bodybuilders can benefit from this type of stress-frequency change.
The problem is that most of them think they're too far along on the bodybuilding ladder to use a full-body program. If you continue indefinitely with a three-on/one-off split, your body gets efficient at handling the twice- weekly stress on each bodypart, and the only way left for you to spur a growth increase is to up your intensity-by lifting heavier poundages or using techniques like drop sets-or to up your sets, all of which put you at risk of overtraining. Try reducing your bodypart set totals and then hitting the muscles more frequently.
At least try it for a four-week phase every so often, and then you can go back to your standard split. Better yet, try different routines from Popular suggested routines which at times outlines everything from four-day splits to three-day full-body workouts to a once-every-seven-days-target-overload schedule every few months. Varying the number of times you stress any bodypart is one more weapon in your mass-boosting arsenal.