Less can be more when it comes to strength training…

The writer doing calf presses on the leg press machine

According to gym lore, you should train at least three times a week if you want to gain muscle or build strength. However, most gym goers commit to four or five workouts per week as they’re following split routines. That’s why that Monday is National chest training day all around the world. However, for most people is this optimal? If you’re not a bodybuilder, do you really need to train that often to get results if you just want to drop weight or build overall muscle?

Judging by the non-changing physi-ques of many regular gym goers, it seems like the standard training frequency advice isn’t working and it makes no sense to keep on following the same, unproductive path.

The writer doing calf presses on the leg press machine

If you are not making the progress you think you deserve, take a fresh look at training frequency and consider changing the number of days you train per week. In many cases, less means more as the intensity of each session is higher.

ONCE A WEEK

Once a week training is far from ideal, but it’s better than nothing – just! Training once a week can produce strength gains and increases in muscle size, but they’ll be very slow because recovery between sessions is too long and you will experience some detraining between workouts. With such infrequent training, you are limited to whole body workouts.

Training just once a week means you can probably break the one hour rule that dictates your workouts should be over and done in 60-minutes or less to avoid overtraining. After all, you’ve got six days of recovery to look forward to! If possible, try to supplement once-weekly gym workouts with bodyweight workouts at home.

TWICE A WEEK

Training twice a week is very effective for those who have limited time, need to include meaningful amounts of cardio in their schedules, or just want to train as little as possible. If you can only train twice a week, you should stick to full body workouts. For variety, construct two similar, different workouts and alternate them. You COULD follow an upper/lower split, but training frequency per muscle group is probably too low to be considered optimal.

THREE-TIMES A WEEK

Three training sessions a week increases your workout options. Whole body workouts are still preferable, especially if your goal is weight loss or overall muscle gain, but you could also adopt a simple split routine. Three days a week is an ideal training frequency for many people. It’s enough training to see good results but, with more rest days than training sessions, it’s user-friendly, promotes recovery, and is flexible.

FOUR-TIMES A WEEK

Four training sessions per week requires an increase in commitment to exercise – both in terms of time spent training and the need for proper recovery. With more training days than rest days, it would be easy to sabotage progress with an improper diet or not enough sleep. For most people, four-times a week is the highest sustainable workout frequency.

FIVE-TIMES A WEEK 

For most people, five training days per week is a pipe dream. It’s a significant commitment regarding both training time and the need for recovery. If you are young, have a sedentary job, low life stresses, and above average recovery abilities, five-times a week training may work but, for many, it’s a workout too far and may lead to overtraining. Body part splits are your most effective training option, each main muscle group being worked once or twice a week.

SIX-TIMES A WEEK

Very few natural exercisers could survive training six-times a week for long. However, if you have awesome recovery abilities or a life that is free from stress and strain, it could work for short periods. With so many days to train, your options are almost endless, but you need to decrease the intensity of each session.

Contrary to popular belief, when it comes to strength training, more is not always better. In fact, fewer training sessions per week are sometimes better than more. The balance between training and rest is crucial, and if you out-train your ability to recover, your progress will soon grind to a halt. When planning your next training cycle, consider reducing rather than increasing training frequency. Who knows, you might discover that you get better results from doing less and not more.

Males and females with any fitness goals who need personal training or meal plans I can help! Serious inquiries only. Email now to emmersoncampbell@gmail.com.

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