How Often Should You Train?

Training 3-4 days a week is most likely the best way for you to achieve your fitness goals.

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Seems like everyone’s talking about being on their “everyday grind” but is that the most effective way to get fit?

Your training frequency (or how many times per week you work out) is just one variable on your path to progress. But it can have a big impact.

Generally speaking, training more often is better. As with most things, there comes a tipping point. More sessions means more opportunities to stimulate the muscle. Lifting relatively heavy lets your muscles know, “hey we may be asked to move heavy weights so we’d better get stronger.”

We don’t actually get stronger from that. It’s the recovery phase, in which the muscles utilize nutrients from food to repair and build. So the stimulus and the recovery are equally important to your progress. You could make the case that recovery is more important as it takes much longer to happen. You can do an hour-long workout at still be recovering 48 hours later.

When you’re a beginner more frequent training is beneficial for a few reasons. You’re becoming accustomed to the exercises, so the more you do them the better they become ingrained movement patterns. Plus, you build the habit of actually going to the gym. We know habits are hard to build and even harder to break.

If one person practiced playing the piano an hour a day and another practiced 3.5 hours twice a week, who do you think would improve faster? It’s similar with training. Learning to squat with a barbell on your back is a skill. Doing it more frequently when you’re starting out will help you learn it better. Seems like a good time to say here that it’s much better to learn the right way to do early on, than it is to relearn once you’ve adopted poor movement patterns.

Beginners generally aren’t using a lot of weight in a more objective sense. Doing sets of higher repetitions (e.g. 8-12 per set) helps you internalize the movement and stimulate muscle and strength gains without approaching your 1 rep maximum weight.

I would say wait a long time before testing your 1-rep max but most people don’t listen. I’m included in that group. Testing isn’t training. It doesn’t really make you stronger. Training is training. That makes you stronger, so spend most of your gym time doing that. Besides, when you’re a beginner, your 1 RM isn’t likely to be all that impressive anyway.

A beginner can make great strides doing a full-body workout 3 days per week. A full-body workout will include a compound exercises that work the legs, the upper body push muscles, and the upper body pull muscles. Taking a day off between sessions will allow your body adequate time to recover.

You really could do this for the first several months of your training life.

At some point your training needs will change. This is where you can get creative with your programming. Over time, you’ll need higher weights to stimulate the muscles to keep getting stronger. This greater stimulus also means you’ll need increased recovery time.

It’s now a great time to switch to a split workout. A popular and effective split is to do upper body exercises in one session and lower body exercises in another. One example week looks like: Monday – upper body, Tuesday – lower body, Wednesday – off, Thursday – upper body, Friday – lower body, Saturday and Sunday – both off. There’s nothing magical about those particular days, you fit the days to your schedule. If you’d rather workout Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, that’s cool.

This has you training four days a week in a way that allows you to work hard yet with enough time for recovery. Your Monday and Thursday sessions can be identical or you can slightly alter them. It’s tough to do deadlifts and squats in the same workout, so perhaps it makes sense for you to do one on Monday and the other on Thursday. You can do the same thing with upper body lifts.

If you still prefer training 3 days a week, you can keep that model with only a slight change. One way I like to structure this is an A, B model, where one represents your upper body training and the other is your lower body training.

One week it’ll be Monday – A, Wednesday – B, Friday – A. The following week you reverse it, Monday – B, Wednesday – A, and Friday – B. Alternating the weeks like this will keep you getting stronger and perhaps stave off feeling bored.

The pertinent question is how do you know when it’s time to change? There’s no one size fits all response. When your progress really starts to stall, that’s a good indicator. I don’t mean you hit a plateau for a week or two. Sometimes that just happens. When you first start you can increase the weights sometimes literally each workout. Your rate of improvement is fastest at the beginning and tapers as you get stronger.

One popular workout schedule out there is the “Bro Split”, where you have a designated day for each major body part. The theory is you beat the hell out focus on 1 or 2 body parts per workout. It often looks something like: Monday – chest, Tuesday – back, Wednesday – legs, Thursday – shoulders and calves, Friday – biceps and triceps.

The upside is you can really work on developing body parts you feel are lagging. One of the downsides is you’re only hitting each muscle group once a week. This works for some people but I don’t think it’s optimal for most people. If you’re planning on being on stage, then making sure your calves are as peaked as possible may make sense.

If your training is about you getting stronger overall, and feeling better and healthier for life in general, I don’t think doing a bro split is going to get you the best results. I mention it because it’s an option, and ultimately, you choose your own path.

Most of us just want to be a little healthier, look a little better, and move through life a little easier. There’s no question a three-day routine can help you accomplish that, provided you put in the effort and give it some time.

Fitness and Time

You don’t have to get ready if you stay ready

Fitness and Time

If you’re wondering how fitness can fit into your life, there’s something I really think you should consider: Time.

We all think there’s too little of it, right? Too many things to get done in the day and too few hours to do them. You may believe you don’t have time to fit working out in your schedule.

It’s true there is no way to create more time. None of us knows how much we have left. Being fit can’t guarantee to give you more time. But it can definitely add more value to however much more life you have. It may be 6 months or it may be 50 years.

How Do You Want To Age?

Think about the quality of life you want for those years.

Being fit can definitely impact that in a positive way.

Fitness is an investment in yourself. Definitely for the present version of you, but more importantly it’s about the future version of you. You put in now and reap the rewards later.

Like any investment, there’s an upfront cost. Since it’s upfront it’s much easier to see than the rewards, which come later. You may have to wake up an hour earlier and sweat some. At first, it probably won’t be the most fun you’ve ever had. Likely you won’t see the payoff right away.

A few weeks in, or perhaps it’s a couple months, you’ll notice the quality of your life is already getting better. You’re less tired and lethargic during the day. You sleep better. Walking a flight of stairs is easier. You can keep up with your kids better. The groceries feel lighter. Your clothes fit better. You feel more confident. You’ll be better able to work. Even sex is better.

In short, being fit makes you more able to squeeze in more into each day.

In order to keep seeing the returns, you do still have to keep exercising. But guess what? You have the power of habit on your side now. Working out is part of your routine at this point. It requires less mental energy to get up and get started. Even better, maintaining being fit is a lot easier than getting there in the first place. I bet you even enjoy your training sessions.

We don’t stop moving because we age, we age because we stop moving. Yeah, it’s a cliche but I think there’s a lot of truth to it. If you’ve ever been in shape for a while and then let your fitness slide, you know how this works. I don’t mean you went on vacation or you took off from the gym for a couple weeks. I mean a real backslide. Maybe you built up to a 405 lb. squat. Or running 5 miles was a breeze. And now you’re ready for a nap after walking up a flight of stairs. You’ve experienced what it is to feel “man, that used to be really easy and now it’s really difficult.” It’s embarrassing to admit, but I’ve done this myself a few times.

This guy stays ready

One of my favorite sayings is, You don’t have to get ready if you stay ready. You pay the upfront cost, which is when you’re putting in the time and effort to get your fitness going. Once that happens, you can maintain for a long time, meaning you can enjoy the rewards for years to come. Whether that’s just having an easier time playing with your kids or hauling groceries, or if it’s still being able to move around unassisted as you get old, it’s worth it.

Maintaining fitness is easier than obtaining it in the first place. If you’ve let yourself go a little bit, it’s time to get back on your game. You got this!

Thanks for reading. Any questions or comments? You can leave those below, I’m happy to read them.