Strength & Physique Differences Training 3x/wk (3x5) vs. 5x/wk (2x5)

Discussion in 'Barbell' started by freeflowme, Sep 12, 2019 at 1:08 PM.

  1. freeflowme

    freeflowme Triple-Digit Post Count

    Hey all,

    After using PTTP (same exercises 5x/wk) for ~6 mo, I've been working with the Tactical Barbell "Operator" template (same exercises 3x/wk) for the past weeks.

    One thing I've noticed is that the overall volume is roughly the same between the two workouts (2x5 5x/wk on PTTP = 50 reps/wk; 3-5x5 3x/wk on Operator = 45-75 reps/wk, though it's noted that 3 sets/45 reps may be best for many trainees).

    Let's assume one trainee was doing squat, bench, and pullups for 2x5 5x/wk in PTTP style, while another was doing squat, bench, and pullups for 3x5 3x/wk in Operator style. What differences might we expect to find between the two trainees? I'm inclined to think that the 3x/wk would produce more hypertrophy, given that more muscle is being broken down in each session, followed by greater time for recovery. Is this correct? And are there any other significant predictable differences?
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  2. Bauer

    Bauer More than 500 posts

    Based on your experience so far, how would you describe the subjective differe ces between the 2 programs?
  3. freeflowme

    freeflowme Triple-Digit Post Count

    1) Psychologically, I don't like only touching the weights 3x/wk. This is just personal preference, I suppose, and someone else might feel completely different given their goals or lifestyle. But I like the day-to-day familiarity that comes from the "practice" of high-frequency training. I also start to overthink things with so much time between workouts. I always need something to be doing. In fairness, Operator is designed at 3x/wk frequency so that trainees can do conditioning on off-days, which I'm not doing / don't have much interest in doing, but if I started doing S&S on off-days the psychological element might improve.

    2) Strength-wise, the only exercise I directly carried over from PTTP was pullups, and I have found that I am exploding up to the bar on those. They've never felt stronger. This is somewhat discouraging, as I liked training them Fighter Pullup Program style or PTTP style doing 5,3,2 5x/wk. Apparently, 3x/wk is working better for me, though. Or now that I'm more rested from more off days, maybe I'm reaping the benefits of that later accumulation of volume?

    3) Recovery-wise, I feel better. Training 5x/wk, I seemed to accumulate too much fatigue over the course of a few weeks. Maybe that's par for the course, though, and I should've learned to treat the 4th week as a deload, which PTTP kind of builds in by having you start a new cycle at light weights again around that point. In any case, feel like I'm moving better, and have less inflammation and joint pain. My lower back, in particular wasn't loving 5x/wk deadlifting, and doing both presses and pullups 5x/wk put a lot of strain on my shoulders.

    4) Aesthetically, I actually feel like I'm getting a bit smaller. This could all be in my head (I've been thinking I should take general measurements to actually put something concrete to changes in programing), but I feel like I'm just not putting in enough work. I suppose I could up the volume to the max (do 5 sets of 5 instead of 3 sets of 5) on work days.
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  4. Antti

    Antti More than 2500 posts

    Impossible to say based on just those differences. There are too many variables.

    I'll quote Jamie Lewis quoting Zatsiorsky and say "it is absolutely unclear which criteria one should use for selecting proper intervals between consecutive workouts".

    In general, if life and duties etc don't intervene, more is better. As much as you can staying reasonably fresh and recovering well.
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  5. freeflowme

    freeflowme Triple-Digit Post Count

    Interesting. By that, did Zatsiorsky essentially mean that it needs to be intuitive (i.e. listening to your body) because no one protocol is going to work the same for everyone?

    The "more is better" made me pause for a minute because I see the terminology "minimum effective dose" thrown around so much around here and in other "easy strength" circles. But maybe the minimum effective dose is what people are looking for who have highly taxing other activities and or need to be relatively fresh all the time (martial arts, being a firefighter, etc.) but if you want to get as strong as you can you need to push the other end of the spectrum and do as much as you can without overtraining? Am I getting that roughly correct?
  6. Antti

    Antti More than 2500 posts

    I will not be so bold as to say what exactly Zatsiorsky meant by his words. I agree with you that there is a lot of room for individual variability. I will also point out that powerlifting world champions have trained with vastly different styles. Some trained six times a week. Some fourteen. Some twice.

    I see "minimum effective dose" also used often. I find it fair to admit that, personally, I don't like it when it comes to lifting. I could use it when it comes to work. Do the minimum hours to allow me a comfortable life. When it comes to strength training, I love it, and love to spend time with it. If anything, I'm looking for the maximum effective dose, and maybe I also cross it at times, when the training is more pleasurable than the performance outcome.

    With the bias out, I think you got the right idea. Not everyone loves the exercise. Lots of people are pleased with moderate development, whatever the reasoning behind it. Plenty of people have demanding duties. Etc. So not all can or want to train with the same intensity and frequency. But if you seek the most you can do, the minimum effective dose will not cut it. How long will the minimum carry you? I don't think anyone can tell.
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  7. North Coast Miller

    North Coast Miller More than 2500 posts

    If volume is equated, overall effect should be close. I know C Thib stated that if you increase frequency it will yield more results, but it is tough to say without looking at relative intensity of effort per set (number of hard sets) rule.

    Only if your per set programming is different enough that you cannot equate volume could you come to some other conclusion.

    The 3x /week hypothesis probably wouldn't hold true. With 2x5 you aren't getting as much breakdown to recover from = more retained muscle protein - as long as the training is sufficient to trigger a similar ratio of protein synthesis to protein breakdown over the same longer time period it should be a push.

    I have all I can do to train 3x week recovery-wise, but I'm also kicking it in the butt as far as momentary capacity goes. If I were to increase frequency even with a volume decrease I'd have to dial back intensity.

    It all comes from somewhere and all needs recovery time commensurate to the work that was done.

    Interesting topic!
  8. Anna C

    Anna C More than 5000 posts Certified Instructor

    I doubt there are physique differences, because they are both 5-rep/set scenarios and similar overall volume. For hypertrophy, you need more overall volume, and also longer sets so you get closer to failure. To get more volume without overdoing fatigue and being unable to adquately recover, you have to reduce the intensity (weight) and adjust the exercises to target the muscles better so you have less systemic work in the work sets.

    Strength differences come down to this: which way does your body respond better by granting you increased strength? For me, it is definitely 3x/week. I get stronger on my recovery days.
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  9. william bad butt

    william bad butt More than 300 posts

    For power lifting I prefer training the Big Lift 1 time per week, something like 5x5, 3x5, 4x4, 3x3 or whatever. And then I like to train a 2nd time that week doing accessories lifts that support that lift. For example, pull ups, shrugs, and rows and paused squats, etc... I follow the "10/20/Life Program".

    Now, when I work with kettlebells I like a 3 day or even 4 day per week schedule. I don't need a full week to recover. I prefer 3 days, less is more.

    I don't like 5 day per week training only because it takes up too much precious TIME. I also recognize that compared to my peers, I seem to require more rest and recovery than others. With barbell lifts that I am very proficient with (squat, deadlift, bench press), high volume really beats me down (aches and pains and joints hurt, and mentally exhausting for me to lift heavy and psyche myself up so often).

    I can do high volume/frequency until I have to lift heavy, and then I need the rest. And heavy is relative. For a kettlebell press, I could probably train everyday lifting my 40 kg bell and be ok (assuming it is 85% of my max, the 48 kg, my biggest bell). But for a barbell squat, a 70% squat session can feel heavy and require days of rest.
  10. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Dir. of Community Engagement, SFB, Senior SFG Staff Member Senior Instructor

    I am not familiar with Operator Style, but the devil can be in the details for things like this. All other things being equal, the volume should be a major factor in determining the results, but there are many other variables. Once a week, pushed hard, plus a couple of other sessions that are easier and/or focused on assistance exercises is a tried-and-true template. 3x/week, PTTP style, will likely yield PTTP-like results but probably not quite as good since the focus of PTTP is skill, and skill is best practiced frequently.

  11. pet'

    pet' More than 5000 posts


    From what I remember - but maybe I am wrong - Pavel T. said that this is "better" training 1 x 5r five times a week than 5 x 5r once a week. He said that this induces a stronger anabolic response without bulk, while maximizing recovery and permit long term gains (meaning strength that lasts for long)

    I guess S&S is based on this principle if we consider the GUs. 5 reps or under, are submaximal loads but fairly close to the heaviest wecan lift without compromising recovery. Consistency seems to be the spot then.

    Kind regards,

  12. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Dir. of Community Engagement, SFB, Senior SFG Staff Member Senior Instructor

    @pet', yes, but people can make good progress with 5 x 5 once a week and then revisiting the same lift in other ways another twice per week. The ROP is an example of a weekly heavy day followed by same-but-easier. @Rif's article on 5 x 5 touches on what he does the rest of the week, if memory serves.

  13. vegpedlr

    vegpedlr More than 500 posts

    I ran Easy Strength last fall 4x a week concurrently with daily MAF training. It worked great, I got stronger and improved aerobically. Then in the winter I switched to minimal aerobic maintenance and Tactical Barbell Operator template. I continued to get stronger, and maintained most of my aerobic base. I also got a little more muscular, which went away when MTB season kicked into gear.

    I was pleasantly surprised by how well ES/EN concurrent training worked, and how fresh TB Operator left me so that I could maintain endurance. I am doing something similar this year. ES/EN through the fall, six weeks of Southwood for fun, then TB Fighter template for a few months. Operator is good, but to get the aerobic volume I need, two days a week is better
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