IS DOING EVERY MAJOR LIFT ONCE A WEEK TOO LITTLE?

| April 30, 2015 by Truth Seeker |

Many professional powerlifters and bodybuilders perform every major lift (e.g., squat, bench press, deadlift, pull-ups…etc.) only once a week. Since it’s a well-known fact that they are also taking a lot of anabolic steroids to break the natural limits, most alternative gurus tend to consider similar routines ineffective for natties.

There is definitely some truth to this belief. It would be naive to deny the fact that bodybuilding is much more dependent on drugs than training. Sadly, there is a limit which naturals cannot overcome regardless of their efforts in the gym.

During my training career, I tried my fair share of lifting programs. I had my best results from routines requiring me to do a major lift every 6-7 days.


After a heavy lifting session, the body and the mind need time to recover. You have to reload your weapon before the next fight. Doing every lift once a week is one of the safest ways to train in the long run even if you are natural. Of course, you may recover in less time, but the extra days will make sure that you are on the safe side.

The more you do, the less you get. This is not skill training.

After a certain point, additional training stimulus gives fewer and fewer results. If you squat two times a week, once heavy and once light, which day do you think is more important? Of course, it’s the heavy day. Without heavy days, there are no light days.

One could argue that the light day is there to help you train form, but what if you are already experienced enough and have a pretty decent technique? The squat is not an advanced ninja skill. You don’t need to rehearse it every day. This is not piano training either.

What would happen if we add another light day and then maybe another one just to be part of the hardcore “every day we lift” community?

Sooner or later, you will reach the point of diminishing returns when you give more to achieve less.

You could try and squat every day as advised by John Broz, but similar results can be achieved with a smaller investment.

The combination of exercises is very important

Technically, you don’t need 6 days to recover from a heavy lift unless it’s the deadlift. For example, if the only exercise you do for the lower body is the squat, you can have a second heavy day in the same week. However, if you are also deadlifting that week, the pulling workout will dig into your recuperation cycle. Therefore, it may be better to perform the two major hip lifts (squat and dead) once a week with a few days in between.

But, what about the GTG (grease the groove) method?

This method is good for basic bodyweight exercises, but it has major flaws when it comes to the slow barbell lifts. Going to the gym every day for your GTG ritual is inefficient. Unless you train at home, you will be spending too much time and money to achieve results that can become a reality with less frequent training.

GTG works only in very specific conditions which are not always possible to replicate. Besides, how sustainable is this type of training? How long can you realistically do GTG?

At the end of the day, doing every lift once a week is still one of the best ways to train in terms of practicality and results. It’s not fancy or quick, but it still gets the job done while minimizing the chances to overtrain to a minimum.

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4 comments

  1. Danny

    So true. I used to train with some wildly juiced record-holders in the IPA while I was natty in the USAPL. I was squatting at least thrice weekly while they shook their heads and squatted once per week. Gear increases recovery yet these guys only squatted once per week! Meanwhile I suffered tons of overuse issues with my knees.

    Years later and now I’m enhanced, too, and once a week has proven best. Every time I get greedy and add a day, my progress slows and/or my knees start falling apart.

    I can get away with every fifth or sixth day with squats and every fourth or fifth day with bench (upper body recovers a bit more quickly than lower because there is less mass to repair), but it’s more convenient to stick to once per week for everything.

  2. Dominick

    I’ve always had a tendency to train lifts often because I am prone to anxiety. With four years of lifting under my belt, it stands to reason that I am not going to magically forget how to press or deadlift over the course of a week!

    One very interesting read I’ve had recently was this: http://ditillo2.blogspot.ca/2010/03/press-and-basic-body-power-doug-hepburn.html Doug Hepburn states that he was training the clean & press by doing 8 sets of 2 with 320 lbs and putting some more weight whenever he could. He said this: “When I am working to get my record up I will push my training poundages to the limit, and I work on the press with near limit weights only one day a week. I go stale if I train with such weights on the press more frequently.”

    Very interesting. This is from a man who held the world record in the Press when the original article first got published (in 1951).

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Different people have the right to choose their main lifts. The main lifts are technically not limited to bench, squat and dead. Therefore, I gave “samples” and e.g. should work too.

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