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.