If I do (for example) 10 squats 5 times over the space of the day, is that just as good as going 50 squats once a day? Why or why not?

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If I do (for example) 10 squats 5 times over the space of the day, is that just as good as going 50 squats once a day? Why or why not?

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Depends how heavy the thing you are lifting is, if it’s a one rep max weight 50x a day, it makes no difference when you lift, if you are lifting something a lot lighter, your muscles will never reach fatigue if you spaced out the 50x squats over the course of a day, so this would not be as beneficial as doing all 50x at once.

A lot of variables of course, do you want bigger muscles, more defined muscles, stronger muscles, better cardio etc.

It won’t be the same, as a huge part of building muscle requires “time under tension” or the time, that a muscle is straining. You know that burning feeling you get on the last few reps of an exercise? Those few reps are the most efficient when trying to build muscle. If you do 10 squats and then stop for an hour, you’re never going to reach the actual hard part of the exercise, therefore not pushing your body to build more muscle.

Training works, because you’re giving your brain a repeated signal saying “Hey we’re doing something that’s really hard right now, some more muscle would be useful”, so your body starts building more muscle fibres. If you’re not doing something hard, your body doesn’t need to adjust.

Your body is very clever. When it notices that a muscle has been damaged by intensive usage, it doesn’t just repair it, but also makes it a little bit stronger so it doesn’t get damaged again in the future. The idea of working out is to “damage” your muscles a little bit, so your body is going to work on it.

This needs basically two things:

First, you need to actually go far enough to cause some damage. You feel this when your muscles tire or get sore doing something. If you don’t feel this, it means your muscles are still fine and your body has no reason to do anything.

Second, you need to rest so your body can repair. That’s why many workout programs don’t target all the same muscles every day: you would just be damaging them more and more without getting them fully repaired again. If at some point there is too much damage, you have an actual injury.

Looking at these things, you can get your answer. If you use your muscles enough with the smaller sets, then it’s fine for growth. But as your muscles grow it will get easier and easier, so the amount of “damage” decreases, exactly as your body intended. To keep growing, you either have to go to longer sets so there isn’t time for your body to rest in between, or increase the intensity so it gets damaged quicker.

One point that hasn’t been mentioned is that you don’t use all your muscle fibers on your first squat. Only as some muscle cells tire are others recruited. The idea of doing a set with an appropriate weight is to tire as much of the muscle as possible in one set. If you only do 10 squats (at a weight that you could do 50) you won’t end up working all your muscle fibers.