When it comes to weight lifting, more is not always better. For instance, while your initial temptation may be to take your ambitious mind and eager muscles to the gym as often as possible, that strategy can actually work against you. Again, one essential key is to know when to work out and when to rest. Too much of one or the other and you've upset the apple cart.

If you recall what we said in Chapter 3, as you lift, you're actually fatiguing and wearing down the muscle tissue. It's during the recovery process that your muscles actually grow bigger and stronger. So as you can see, you should never train the same muscles on consecutive days since it's actually counterproductive.

That's where a split routine comes in. This is a program in which you train different muscles on different days. So while you might lift on consecutive days—chest, shoulders, and triceps on Monday; legs, back, and biceps on Tuesday—you'll be using different muscles each day. Not only does this allow ample time for your muscles to recover, it means you'll be doing fewer exercises on any given day. This prevents burnout, allows you to spend less time lifting on each visit, and means you'll be able to work more intensely on the exercises that you will do. Right now, don't sweat the particulars since we'll talk lots more about split routines in Chapter 23, "High Tech."

At the other end of the "too many" spectrum, if you train too infrequently, the strength gains you made in one session will be lost by the next. That means even if you do the best routine in the world on January 1 and little or no training until February 1, the result would be minimal at best in the strength gains department. That should come as no surprise, but we hear people who lift twice a month lament the fact that they're not making much progress.

So what is the ideal frequency? That varies from individual to individual and has a lot to do with how hard each training session is. Here's another immutable rule to note: A hard workout will require more recovery time than an easy one.

Individual strengths and weaknesses aside, two workouts per week is good; three may be better. Whenever possible, we advise beginners to aim for three workouts. If you manage to do two, fine; however, if you're shooting for two, the tendency is that you miss one and compromise your gains. There's another reason why three sessions may

Bar Talk

A split routine is a strength-training program in which you divide your body's muscles into two or more groups. On the first day of a split routine you train muscle groups A and B; the following day it's on to groups C and D.

be better than two. Early in your workout life, one of our primary goals is to get your brain and body used to the exercises. At this stage we're less concerned with intensity than frequency. So don't worry about your body's ability to tolerate three workouts a week. Once you make going to the gym a regular part of your life—when your weight-lifting workout becomes part of your regular routine—we'll up the intensity and really start to see significant gains.

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