Workout frequency can be a little confusing sometimes. Everyone has an opinion some of which are pretty dumb. A little common sense here can go a long way toward best practices but there isn’t really a blanket answer for everyone. One could say, “workout as much as you need to reach your goals” but that really isn’t helpful. Let’s try to bring some clarity to the subject.
We firmly believe that everyone should be active everyday. Go for walk, play at the park with your kids, ride a bike, go swimming, whatever normal activities you want to participate in. For the sake of this discussion we’re only talking about intense formalized training. There are few things you should consider regarding your capacity to workout that will help you decide how often you can/should exercise. Weigh all these factors when making your decision.
While we can still train hard as we get older and reach incredible levels of fitness we have to be honest about our age. As we get older our body often takes longer to recover, it takes a little while longer to get warmed up and moving like a well oiled machine. I plan on training well into old age but I will do so with my eyes wide open to the fact that my body probably won’t work quite as well as it does right now.
One of the biggest factors for recovery is what you’re eating. If you’re regularly following our nutrition blueprint then you should be just fine. There is a school of thought that you just need to eat enough food to recover well but we feel there is also benefit from eating foods that help reduce systemic inflammation in the body.
The other large factor to recovery is sleep. If you go out partying often or stay up all night bing watching The Walking Dead then your body just won’t recover well. You’ll be worn out, and you body and mind will be under performing. Being sleep deprived is not the time to try and hit a snatch PR. It can become a safety concern. Get more sleep.
Do you take care of your tissues? If you are tight like beef jerky then you’re not going to move well and your training is going to suffer. Stretching and smashing your muscles helps keep them healthy and supple. The better you can move the more you’ll be able to workout.
How much time do you have to commit to training? Is training getting in the way of spending time with your family or friends. Even if you are doing great on all the issues above being a normal human being that doesn’t live in the gym is probably a good idea.
If you’re just staring in your training you should probably ease into working out any more than three days a week. Your body will still adapt to the training stimulus and this will give your body time to recover. As your body's response to the training stimulus decreases you can think about either increasing your intensity or increasing volume. I always recommend increasing intensity before increasing volume.
Everyones goals are different and some can be reached with just a couple days a week of training. Others have more aggressive goals that may mean five days a week and multiple workouts on some of those days. We love goals. We don’t really care what they are as long as you’re trying to get a little closer to reaching them everyday.
How many days?
Two days a week
With a well designed program you can improve your fitness with training just two days a week but you’d have to commit to being very active outside of the gym. You’re not going to reach elite levels of fitness with two days a week but with proper nutrition you can be healthy and more fit that most americans. If you are extremely out of shape, elderly or extremely obese this may be the best place for you to start. Get a couple good training sessions in and spend the rest of your time figuring out how to live an active lifestyle.
Three days a week
This would be an every other day schedule like Monday, Wednesday, Friday. The purpose would be to put at least one day in between training sessions to ensure recovery. This is a great place for a lot of people to start. You’ll see faster results than working out two days a week and you can add a little more variation into your program. Again, this is in addition to living an active lifestyle. You should be doing something active everyday.
Four days a week
This schedule would look like something like Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. Giving you a little rest on Wednesday so you could hit Thursday and Friday hard and then go out and be active on the weekends. It’s important to use your fitness and not live in the gym.
Five days a week
There are a couple ways to do this. You can do five days straight Monday through Friday but it’s really hard to put a good amount of effort into Thursday and Friday’s training sessions because your body hasn’t had adequate recovery time. This schedule fits best into most peoples lives because it aligns with a typical work week. A more optimal five day a week schedule would be Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Here you can break up your rest days throughout the week and this makes it easier to maintain intensity in all your training sessions.
Six out of Seven Days
I personally like this schedule if you need to get a lot of training in. It’s a three days on and one day off schedule so the days you train are different every week. If you plan your training properly this schedule should be sustainable and give you adequate time to recover. As long as you’re doing all the things listed above to aid in your recovery.
There are a lot of variables in determining how often you should workout but this should at least help you decide what will work for you based on your goals and your available time and energy. If you just want to be healthy, spend a couple days in the gym with a well designed program and then go out and be active the rest of the time. You’ll be just fine.
Now go live better.