I used to be religious about hitting 5-6 workouts per week to maintain my physique.
This was at a time when I was hardcore into bodybuilding and assumed that any less than that would cause my physique to whither away.
This was also the same time that I assumed that I needed 200 mg per week of Testosterone for my TRT or else I would lose everything I had gained over the years.
During those times, I would go to the gym 5 or 6 days a week, minimum.
I was so consistent that I wouldn't even miss a workout when I had the flu and felt like dog sh*t.
As time went on and my free time became more and more limited as a result of increased work demands, I started to hit the gym less and less.
At first I dropped down to 4 or 5 days per week.
Then I dropped to 4.
Then I dropped to 3.
I have now stuck with 3 days per week for a while.
I started to realize that I was able to maintain my physique and was not regressing at all, despite my lowered weekly volume.
I was working out half as frequently as I was previously, and my physique didn't change at all.
This is when I started to truly realize that when it comes to muscle maintenance, less can be more.
The demands your body has to gain muscle are different than your demands for muscle maintenance, and I started to realize this as I lowered my TRT dosage, and lowered my training volume.
Nothing changed when I cut my volume in half, not for better and not for worse.
It had been grilled into my brain that I needed to be in the gym on a nearly daily basis.
Hell, if IFBB pros are training twice per day, then surely I should at least be in there 5 days a week to maintain my physique I thought to myself.
My previous assumptions about training were thrown out the window at that point, and I started to realize that it was actually possible to maintain my physique lifting weights for no more than 3-4 hours total per week, which would have seemed absolutely insane to me years ago.
However, it should be noted that this is not necessarily ideal if you are actively trying to gain as much muscle as possible.
Gain As Much Muscle As Possible As Young As Possible
I encourage you to build as much muscle as you can as young as possible.
The reason for this being that after going through puberty your body is primed to build maximum amounts of muscle, and this amount will slowly decline over the coming years.
Not just via the decrease in endogenous androgen production that you will inevitably experience with age, but just cellular breakdown in general.
Recovery and muscle building becomes harder and harder the older you get.
In addition, the clinical data suggests that a muscle can gain myonuclei and never loses it, ever [R].
That means that any myonuclei (the nuclei of a muscle fiber or cell) gained throughout your younger years where accruing muscle is exponentially easier will stick around even in old age, and consequently allow you to retain a lot more muscle in old age than you would otherwise.
This is essentially what muscle memory boils down to.
Build A Bank Of Myonuclei
I'm sure you've experienced muscle memory at one point or another in your life.
You take some time off for an injury, or because you were sick, or you just needed a break, you lose some size, but then when you get back on a strict regimen you get back to where you plateaued last relatively quickly.
This is muscle memory.
But this “memory” extends far beyond just the idea that you can get lost gains back quick after an injury.
It implies that if you build up a bank of myonuclei in your youth when you are the most primed to build lean muscle mass, you can then draw on that “bank” to maintain a muscular physique with far greater ease as you get older.
When endogenous androgen levels are at their highest and your body is primed for recovery simply via being young, you can build up a huge bank of myonuclei that you can then benefit from later in life when gaining muscle will be a much more difficult endeavour.
The same principle extends to exogenous anabolic hormone use, as you could build up a bank of myonuclei that would have otherwise been impossible to accrue with natural endogenous androgen levels, and then benefit from that for years to come when building that same physique would have been extremely difficult.
Kevin Levrone is a great example of this.
He built up an incredible physique in his youth, and then took years off of bodybuilding entirely.
Then when he decided to get back in shape, within short order he blew back up and took full advantage of that myonuclei bank (muscle memory) he had accrued throughout his youth.
If Kevin tried to build that physique from scratch in 2016, there is no way he would have even come close.
This is where accruing as much lean tissue as possible is ideal, as you can then go on to build on that later if you desire, or just maintain it with ease as you get older, which I think is the more ideal outcome.
Build your physique when your body is most capable of avoiding negative ramifications, and then remove those stressors as you get older and reap the rewards of maintaining a phenomenal physique with minimal stress on your body.
In a performance enhancing context (if you aren't natural), obviously gaining muscle with hormone use is not healthy at any age, but I think if someone is dead set on building a physique that is not attainable naturally, they would be best served by getting there as quick as possible when their body is most capable of packing on that muscle.
After the foundation is built, they can then remove those stressors so then they can enjoy the fruits of their labor with minimal stress on the body, minimal hormone use, and potentially even minimal training in the gym if desired.
This goes back to my statement where I stress the importance of making the most of each bulking phase and milking them for muscle gain while you are capable of it.
And if you are using exogenous hormones, DO NOT waste your blasts!
In addition, aside from the obvious performance and body composition benefits of building up a strong bank of myonuclei, it will significantly offset the likelihood of musculoskeletal degenerative disease in old age.