What do they mean would be the best question to ask first of all.
These numbers are in reference to the frequency of training a muscle group, or if you are less about the aesthetic and more about performance it will be in reference to movement patterns.
So 3-2-1 is ideal for beginners and people who are short on time yet still want to make a decent amount of progress in terms of strength, hypertrophy, performance and fat loss.
Squat 3 days per week
Press 2 days per week
Deadlift 1 day per week
I’d also add in pulling (elbow flexion) and hip extension movements (rows, pull ups, face pulls, reverse fly, swings, rope pull throughs etc) to the three day group as these patterns are often left out.
Press vertically and horizontally both days, this would also encompass all elbow extension exercises – skull crushers etc.
The reason many will do well deadlifting once per week as they can often lift more weight in this lift and as such will cause more metabolic disturbance.
Taking in to consideration what is above you can guess where 5-3-2 is going.
Yep, more frequency for people with more experience who fall in the intermediate level and need more exposure to the movements.
Depending on goal you may find you squat 3 or 5 times per week, the sam gif true for pressing/pulling it might be 3 or 5 days, you can adjust this as you need to.
Press/Pull 5 days per week
Squat 3 days per week
Deadlift 2 days per week
Over the years it has been shown that more often than not the more frequently you train something (the more exposure it has to training stimuli) the stronger it is and the more developed the muscle/area/movement looks.
Now these guidelines aren’t gospel, they’re just a guide to give people some direction.
What is 1-1-1 then?
Yep, you’ve probably worked it out.
You may even find that you’re one of the luck ones who can train things once per week and make progress, if that is the case then stick with what works because there is no sense in fixing what isn’t broken. If this is you, just make sure each session you give it your all for maximal progress, due to the low frequency you will need to hammer the muscle to hit your required volume/intensity/work capacity needs.
In terms of my own training I will tell you that higher frequency has very much helped me gain high levels of strength relative to my size (what is needed for the combative sports is partake in), however when I dropped my frequency – it was still a minimum of twice per week per muscle group – I made more hypertrophic progress, this was due to not only a different style of training but also eating in a caloric surplus*.
*You need to be in a calorie surplus to gain weight, you’ll struggle if you’re not in one, regardless of set or rep range. If you want to shift fat you can train int he same way you will just need a caloric deficit, fact.
Take a look at your training and compete the frequency of your lifts to what body parts you have developed the most, you’ll probably find the ones you train the most are the best, or as some might say “Those are you naturally strong areas” – well duh, you train them more, they’re going to be stronger than the ones you avoid.
Training is all about learning, applying and adapting until you find what work best for YOU.
Let’s get started.