You’ve seen me report on training frequency and volume before, and you’ll probably see it again. I think these factors are some of the simplest factors in your fitness plan that you can adjust to see results. The interesting thing about them, however, is that opinions are polarized. Unbelievably, so is the research.
Let me explain what is meant by training frequency versus volume, first off. People can often confuse frequency for volume, even in research. Often when you work out more, it also means you have done more volume in, say, a week’s time as well. The two, however, are separate factors. As one example, in his book, Science and Practice of Strength Training, Zatsiorski noted that, for strength, a higher training frequency with the same training volume was superior. On the flip side, in a “study” that I myself performed on a good friend and very talented professional fighter, we determined that (at least for him) the weekly frequency of his running made no difference in his results, but rather it was his total mileage (the volume) that predicted his cardiovascular ability.
So it seems depending on what result you’re looking for the response might be different. A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning agrees that when the issue is how healthy people report themselves to be frequency and volume might both be a good idea.
In the study, researchers looked at a group of soldiers both prior to and after deployment. They questioned them about how often they performed strength training and cardiovascular training while deployed, and how they reported their strength, body fat, and health. Most of the soldiers got stronger and healthier, also losing body fat. Interestingly, they didn’t increase their VO2 peak values, though. Now, keep in mind these soldiers were asked how often they trained, which probably means their volume was higher as well, but it’s difficult to be certain.
Although there were some differences in response to training based on frequency, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the study was their self-reports of health. A little over half of the soldiers who exercised three times per week or more reported that their health had improved during deployment. A little under a quarter of those who exercised fewer than three times per week indicated an improvement in health. Considering that just as many total soldiers reported their health declined while deployed as those who said it improved but didn’t train much, it’s not farfetched to say that training frequency and probably volume, too, helped these soldiers tolerate the conditions of deployment.
In physically difficult situations, it looks like how often and how much you train correlates with how healthy you feel. To some, this might sound uncontroversial, but to others who support the “less is more” approach of training – at most once per week – it’s probably true that a greater frequency or volume, to a degree, is the right approach for most athletes, soldiers, and anyone else.
1. Bradley Warr, et. al., “Influence of Training Frequency on Fitness Levels and Perceived Health Status in Deployed National Guard Soldiers,” Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27:2 (2013)
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.