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How long does it take to recover from a resistance training session, and what is the optimal frequency of sessions per muscle group per week?
Continuing Education5 Credits

Acute Variables: Training Frequency and Recovery Between Sessions

Acute Variables: Training Frequency and Recovery Between Sessions

Brent Brookbush

Brent Brookbush


Course Summary: Acute Variables: Training Frequency and Recovery Between Sessions

1 sub-category

This course discusses training frequency and recovery between sessions. That is the optimal number of strength training sessions per week for similar muscle groups (sessions/muscle/week), and the optimal number of days of rest before the next training session for similar muscle groups. This includes the optimal frequency for building muscle, the number of days of rest required after a power training session to ensure that performance is optimal in the next session, and how frequency and recovery between sessions change drastically in the first few weeks of a new strength training program. Further, this course includes detailed recommendations based on age, training experience, training goal, and training type. Additional topics include delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), blood chemistry and creatine kinase, strength and power loss, and performance in subsequent sessions.

Some findings from the included systematic research review resulted in counter-intuitive, or at least less conventional recommendations. For example, post-exercise decreases in strength, decreases in velocity, increases in DOMS, and increases in recovery time may be larger following increases in load and volume, but may not be affected by increases in velocity (power training). Or, young and middle-aged adults may exhibit larger decreases in post-exercise strength and potentially longer recovery times than adolescents, pre-adolescents, and older exercisers.

Movement professionals (personal trainers, fitness instructors, physical therapists, athletic trainers, massage therapists, chiropractors, occupational therapists, etc.) should consider acute variables essential knowledge for optimal exercise programming, including training frequency and recovery between sessions. This course is part of our continued effort to optimize “acute variable” recommendations.

Position Statement

  • Training frequency and recovery between sessions should be based on the ability to achieve the same or better performance in subsequent sessions. Generally, more days rest should be given between initial sessions of a new routine and then increased to 2-3x/muscle group/week. For experienced exercisers, research suggests that it may not be possible to perform optimal volume and intensity with a frequency of 1 or fewer sessions/muscle group/week; 2 and 3 sessions/week result in similar improvements, and 4 sessions/muscle groups/week may result in less improvement (due to targeting similar muscle groups on consecutive days). In summary, the most efficient and effective recommendation may be a frequency of 2 sessions/muscle group/week, with 2-3 days rest between sessions. However, during the initial sessions of a new routine, 3 sessions/muscle group/2 weeks with 3-7 days rest may be recommended.


  • General recommendation: 2-3 sessions/muscle group/week and 2-5 days rest between sessions
  • Starting a new routine: 3 sessions/muscle group/2 weeks and 3 - 7 days rest between sessions
    • Alternatively: Consider scheduling "de-loading weeks" after the first session of a new routine (not the last session of a routine).
  • The primary indicator of sufficient recovery: Set performance, including set intensity (load or velocity), set volume (reps and time-under-tension), or total work/sets (reps x load x sets).
  • Additional Recommendations:
    • Initial Training Period (8-12 weeks): 1 - 3 sessions/muscle group/week
    • Maintenance: 1-2 sessions/muscle group/week
    • Body Composition: 3 or more sessions/week
    • High-volume (Advanced) Training: 4 or more resistance training sessions/week necessitate split routines.

Recovery Time following Repeated Sessions:

The graph below is a visual depiction of the dramatic difference between 1st session and 2nd session recovery, using an approximated average response and representative values.

Sample Program:

Experienced Exerciser:

  • Goal: Hypertrophy
  • Split: Upper and Lower
  • Routine Construction: Strength/Stability Super-sets and Circuit Training

Acute Variables:

  • Load: Moderate (75-90% of 1-RM); Lighter (60-75% of 1-RM)
  • Reps/set:6-12 reps; 6-12 reps
  • Sets/exercise (circuits): 2-3sets/muscle  group
  • Rest between exercises: Circuit training, 1 min rest between exercises
  • Training Time: 25 – 45 minutes (excluding warm-up).


  • Week 1 and 2 (3x/routine/2 weeks):
    • Upper Body: Monday, Friday, and the following Wednesday
    • Lower Body: Wednesday, the following Monday, and Friday
  • Weeks 3 and 4-6: (2x/routine/week)
    • Upper Body: Monday, Thursday
    • Lower Body: Tuesday, Friday

Upper Body Routine:

Lower Body Routine:

Research Findings: Summary


Webinar: Acute Variables: Training Frequency and Recovery Between Sessions

Study Guide: Acute Variables: Training Frequency and Recovery Between Sessions

Position Statement and Practical Application

1 sub-category

Research Findings

5 sub-categories

Blood Serum Concentrations

7 sub-categories

Body Composition

3 sub-categories


4 sub-categories

Strength, Power, and Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

1 sub-category

Frequency: Strength, Power, and Young Exercisers

6 sub-categories

Additional Topics

5 sub-categories


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1. Post-exercise Recovery

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