How Many Days Should You Be Training For Your Goals?
“Training everyday is not good for you!”
“If you aren’t getting the results you want just train more!”
“2 days per week is all you need to train when you are looking to gain strength and add muscle.”
“You should train different muscles each day of the week!”
You may have heard someone say one, or all of these statements before. So which one is right? Which one is wrong? And which one is more ridiculous than The Weekends haircut…like what the?
So really, the overall question is how often should you train to achieve the goals you are looking for?
As with most answers in the health, fitness and performance world it depends! But that answer kinda sucks, so I’m going to give you my best answer.
The short answer…you should be training 3-4 days per week if you want to achieve optimal health, fitness and performance.
But I’m all about the detailed answers, because the more info you have the better decision you can make!
With that, lets look at a couple different scenarios and then discuss how many days per week would be optimal for each.
Your goals include overall enhancement of health and strength.
If your goal is to simply be healthier (either improve or maintain healthy markers such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure, resting heart rate, etc.) and add a little strength you can do this with 2-3 training sessions per week.
These sessions can be of moderate to high intensity and should involve resistance training and some conditioning. This way you will stimulate strength improvements, build some high quality tissue (MUSCLE) and tap into your cardiovascular system to help improve your overall conditioning and cardiovascular health.
On the other 4-5 days of the week you still need stay active, and it would behoove you to work on correcting or maintaining quality movement patterns such as squatting, lunging, hinging as well as upper body pushing and pulling.
You can achieve this by going for brisk walks, hiking, biking, swimming, etc. as well as throwing in some low level bodyweight movements, like you would for a quality warm up.
Of course nutrition should also be on point if you want to optimally improve your health while gaining some strength and muscle…this takes articles upon articles to understand, but if you look around on The Athletic Way a bit you will find tons of info!
Your goals include strength improvement, muscle gain and fat loss
If you are looking for optimal strength and muscle gain, as well as fat loss, I suggest training 3-5 times per week, with 3-4 of these sessions being higher intensity and 1-2 being moderate intensity.
This may be 3 full body resistance training sessions per week with 1-2 higher intensity conditioning sessions such as sprints, interval work on the bike or row machine, sled pushes or a bodyweight circuit.
Or this could be 2 lower body sessions, 2 upper body sessions and then 1-2 conditioning sessions.
These two types of training splits will help to maximally stimulate the system throughout the week which will help to improve strength and muscle mass. The addition of the higher intensity conditioning sessions will help to burn more calories and incinerate more fat without compromising muscle…as long as recovery and nutrition are also on point of course!
Again here, the other days of the week should still have a focus of staying physically active with walking, hiking, biking, etc…try to get out and enjoy some nature, take the dog for a walk or go for a little jaunt with the significant other.
Your goals include maximizing performance for sport
Training for optimal performance is very similar to training for optimal strength improvement, muscle gain and fat loss.
So as in the previous case, I would suggest training 3-5 times per week. The difference comes in that competitive athletes have competitions and seasons that they must work with and around.
When an athlete is in an off season, 3-4 higher intensity sessions with 1-2 moderate intensity sessions is suggested. This may come in the form of 3 high intensity resistance training days with 1-2 higher intensity conditioning sessions, which would also involve speed and agility work.
Then during a season or competitive period of the year, training sessions may have more of a maintenance and restorative focus. The training can still be intense, but the volume would be lower. This could still be 3 resistance training sessions per week, with lower volume, and then the other 1-2 sessions would be lower intensity conditioning and recovery work to help the system recuperate.
Overall though, if you are a competitive athlete looking to maximize performance I encourage that you continue resistance training all year round, manipulating the focus and intensity of the sessions.
How Often Should You Train?
With the information above you can determine how many days per week you should be training to reach your goals.
Frequency is one of the most important keys to truly achieving the level of health and fitness that most of us are in search of.
Many of us do not train enough during the week, or in the right capacity and intensity (which a qualified coach can help you with). And then there are some of us that train too many days at a high intensity. Both scenarios will prevent you from achieving the body, health and performance you want.
So the next time you are wondering if you are training enough (or too much) to reach your goals, well, I guess you don’t need to wonder, because now you know 🙂