How many days a week should you train?
One common question people who are new to training ask is: How many times a week do I NEED to be training?
Can I get away with doing only 2 sessions a week?
What if I’m already doing a lot of sports, can I just go once a week?
I read that you need to go at least 3 times a week to get results?
The short answer is if you can, 3 times a week is usually the best for most people, if you want to get and maintain progress.
The long answer is the same as always: it depends on you.
There are a lot of variables at play here, and what works for me, or person A and person B might not work for you. For example factors like age, active history and what you do for a living are important baseline considerations.
The sessions themselves are also important. Are you going to be pushing really hard and having intense sessions? Are you someone who is more pre-disposed to short duration exercise or endurance? What are your goals?
Fundamentally it comes down to you as an individual. As your mum probably told you, you’re unique, and only you can really find out what you respond to and what training volume you can cope with.
This is just one important reason that if you’re in this for long-term, sustainable results you can’t rely on a personal trainer the whole time, because you need to really think about what you’re doing and adjust accordingly.
Personally I’ve tried quite a few combinations over the years to try and find what my best rhythm is, in terms of sessions per week.
Right now I’m at 4, occasionally slipping to 3 if I have a busy week or am travelling.
This works for me right now primarily because of two reasons.
a) My body is used to training so it is well adapted to being taxed 4 times a week without over training.
b) I currently have a sedentary job, which means I have a lot of spare energy and recovery time to use at the gym.
In fact a few years ago when I had a much more active job the 4 day a week split didn’t work for me, and I actively noticed my performance dipping, simply because I was doing too much and my body wasn’t getting enough recovery.
I used to have more late nights at that time of my life, which also contributed.
So how many times a week should you be training?
The most important thing to consider is that you see training for what it is.
Whether it is purely for bodybuilding to just as a supplement to improve your strength and fitness when playing tennis it is there to positively enhance you.
Grinding out a session when you’re exhausted is not doing that. Just because it is on your planner, or your coach tells you to do it, doesn’t mean it HAS to be done, because carried out in the wrong circumstances it is detrimental to your progress, not helpful.
Far too often these days the idea of recovery and the use of training as the pursuit of a greater goal (like weight loss, strength, mobility or improvement for another activity) is ignored. Strategically moving or missing sessions because you’re tired is ‘wimping out’ and not living up the creed of ‘balls to the wall, 24/7’.
Thanks very much, Crossfit.
In reality the best answer to the question is: be flexible.
If you’re a beginner start with 3 sessions a week to get into good habits, but don’t fix them in stone on certain days. Fit them around your schedule. Try and leave a rest day between sessions and see how it feels after a few months.
If you find yourself feeling good, continue or up the intensity. If you have time you can throw in another session. If not, or you are rushing because you don’t have enough time then scale back to 2 and see it that feels better.
But always make sure you give yourself some flexibility. For me I like to look at my training around 7-8 days ahead and work out how to fit the sessions around my schedule.
If that means I have to work out 3 days in a row because I’ll be away for the latter half of the week then I try and get it done. But if after the second session I’m super sore I’ll cancel the third, because I know I’m not going to get any real work done in that one, and it’s more beneficially in the long run to allow myself to recover.
The week after that I might throw in an extra session to make up for it if it feels right, or I might not.
Old me would never have allowed it. But that was the naive, wrapped-up-in-go! go! go! propaganda me, who believed that pro sportepeople would never take drugs, working out 7 days a week would get you to your goals quicker and that company ad departments never told lies and actually cared about the welfare of their customers.
If all else fails, just listen to your own body. Everything else is just a guideline.