Sport Workouts

Monofrequency vs Multifrequency workout: what to choose?

Monofrequency vs Multifrequency workout: what to choose?

by in Sport - Workouts

last updated: July 18, 2016

  english change italiano english français español

Should one train each muscle once per week (single frequency) or more times a week (multifrequency)? Here's how to get the most for muscle growth

In gyms you hear more and more about the monofrequency and multifrequency and what is best for the development of muscle mass, so in this article I decided to talk about these two structuring so that every one can make their choice consciously.

Monofrequency training has, since the 60s, constituted the basic structure used in gyms and consists oftraining each muscle set once per week.

The multifrequency workout instead provides for 'training the same muscle groups repeatedly during the weekly microcyclethrough full body boards or the classic ABAB.

Beginner? Multifrequency is better

For people that put their foot inside the gym for the first time or on rare occasions, the monofrequency, although adopted most of the times, does not seem to be the most suitable choice, at least for the first few months.

This is due to the fact that these individuals are not able to involve a great number of motor units of the muscle target during the lift due to the technique used, which is probably, not the best due to the fact that the central nervous system is not yet sufficiently accustomed to the new activity.

Training of motor units

One consequence of poor training is that in an attempt to increase the intensity and the value of the load lifted the effort is directed, of course unintentionally, on muscle groups that should only be in support of the main muscle thus crippling the technique and also increasing the risk of accidents.


To ensure that a Monofrequency training regime is effective it is necessary that the practitioner is able to administer a large stress to the muscle, this is because the recovery time is high and consequently if we are not able to bring the muscle work to the limit after the supercompensation seen in the early days the muscle faces a period of stalemate and then experiences a loss of gains.

How much rest is needed between workouts?

A very common question is about the time it takes before you can repeat a more effective workout on a specific muscle without the risk of suffering from overtraining.

The balance which allows proper muscle growth develops between protein synthesis (active for at least 48 hours after training) and muscle catabolism.


Super compensation is a biochemical process of metabolic and hormonal basis that allows the body to carry out the next training session in the best possible conditions.

Studies have shown that the minimum recovery time necessary to allow the maximum yield in a next workout varies from 48 to 72 hours (of which the first 7-10 are dedicated to the disposal of lactic acid and the restoration of muscular glycogen stores).

That said, the physiological principle of super compensation is often misunderstood, and it is mistakenly believed that more stress will automatically translate into higher earnings.

It really is not so, in fact, the GAS, general adaptation syndrome states that if the stress undergone by the organism is too intense or lasts too long, the body will no longer be able to adapt and overcome it.

For beginners and intermediates: 3 days

It takes three days (for the larger muscles such as the quadriceps, the spinal muscles and chest) to recover completely; if we are going to hit the same muscle district once every seven days we cannot exploit our growth potential fully.

This speech is especially valid, as previously said, for beginners and intermediates as they are not yet able to create muscular damage of great extent and cannot train a large number of fibers and for this reason even the next super compensation will be at a high level.

multifrequency training = more motor units recruited

The structure of a multi-frequency workout instead takes full advantage of the super compensation process by approaching the training stimulations and allowing, especially in the newbies, the increase in the number of motor units being trained.

A recent study done by Brad Schoenfeld, one of the leading authorities in the field of training for muscle development and author of over 60 published studies, has determined that the tone appears to be the most effective for a structured workout.

He compared, for athletes with at least 4 years of training behind them, two different routines that each included 21 exercises (3 exercises per muscle group) on the major muscle groups.

The subjects who performed the split-routines have been training for seven years according to this subdivision:

  1. chest and back
  2. legs and calves
  3. shoulders, biceps and triceps

The others were following a routine where it was performed only one multi set exercise per muscle group but 3 times instead of once a week.

The total workout volume of the two groups was the same so the result was influenced exclusively by the training frequency.

At the end of the study the group that obtained greater results was the one that trained their muscles 3 times a week.

This proves that for equal volume a mutifrequency workout is more effective than monofrequency. However, it should be noted that in this study the subjects were college students and therefore should not bear excessive workloads during their day.

Muscle Failure

In the multi-frequency workout, unlike the mono, the muscle failure hardly happens, and if that happens, it is of technical type, i.e. not at the muscular level but at the level of the lift technique (definitely less stressful workouts).

One way to take advantage of a muscle failure may be to alternate between training sessions on failure on all other series in which you exercise at constant load so using a buffer of typically 2 repetitions (using a weight that at the end of repetitions required in these exercises, you would be able to perform 2 more of them).


In this way, we are able to get an elevated systemic stress and still have a chance to recuperate. If you are using a distribution like this, you should document sessions involving complete muscle failure close to the periods of extreme rest, for example if you train Monday to Friday, dedicating Thursday and Friday for the most stressful workouts seems to be a good choice; while considering, with respect to previous example, that towards the end of the week, you have accumulated a greater amount of stress due to both previous workouts, therefore, it is for everyone to understand which period is more effective for him/her to perform workouts involving muscle failure.


The multifrequency workout turns out to be a successful strategy for everyone, from beginners to advanced with slight toggle being required for single frequency through a good schedule which remains critical for progressive and durable muscle growth.

An idea may be to exploit the multi frequency workout to increase the strength and training of motor units by creating an effective neuro-metabolic base and using single frequency workout successively to make the most of the results obtained through highly effective techniques of intensification in the short term such as the supersert, the rest breaks and set drop.

Suggested articles:

How to set up a ceiling session

Let's look at the basic concepts of ceilings and how to structure a session for ceilings, to break a deadlock in your progress read article

Calisthenics MANIA! Basic exercise programme

Find out what the calisthenics workout is, what are the basic exercises you can already do without the need for equipment or gym, the best advice… read article

Isometric training

By isometric contraction, we mean the kind of contraction that develops muscular tension at a constant length, thus statically (without movement). read article