Performing a major lift (squat, bench press, deadlift, pull-ups…etc.) only once a week is the way most professional bodybuilders and powerlifters train. Since it’s a well known fact that they are also taking a lot of anabolic steroids, most alternative gurus tend to consider similar routines ineffective for naturals. There is definitely some truth to this statement, especially when it comes to the usual bodybuilding programs consisting of 20 exercises and poorly organized progression a.k.a. “bro splits”. It would be naive to deny the fact that bodybuilding is much more dependent on drugs than training. You can have the most perfect routine in the world, if such thing even exists, but it will not make you a pro all by itself. Sadly, there is a limit which naturals cannot overcome regardless of training effort.
During my training “career”, I tried a lot of stuff and what worked the best in terms of strength increase was doing every major lift once a week, or once every six days which is almost the same thing.
After a heavy lifting session the body and the mind need time to recover. You have to reload your weapon before the next fight. Having only one heavy lifting session per exercise every week is one of the safest way to train in the long run, even if you are natural. Of course, you may recover in less time such as 3-5 days, 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 adding more and more training stimulus gives less and less results. Imagine the following situation: You squat two times a week – once heavy and once light. Which do you think is the more important day? Of course, it’s the heavy day because that’s when work is being done. That’s what cuts through the rock. 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 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.
So, what would happen if there’s no light day? Probably nothing.
What would happen if we add another light day and then maybe another just to be part of the hardcore “everyday we lift” community? You will reach a point where adding more stuff equals less and less profit when it comes to the end result. You will be giving more of you to achieve less.
You could try and squat the bar every day, as advised by some, but what good will that do when you are already capable of moving heavy weights with good form? Is the bar some sort of an entity requesting daily rituals?
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 thing 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 doing deadlifts that week, the pulling workout will dig into your recovery. Therefore, it may be better to just do the two major hip lifts (squat and dead) just 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. First, it’s inefficient to go to the gym every day and do your GTG ritual. Unless you have a home gym, you will be spending too much time and money when you can achieve similar results with less frequent training. GTG only works 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 a major lift heavy once week is still one of the best ways to train in terms of practicality and results. It may not seem super fancy, but it still gets the job done and there’s the smallest risk to overtrain.