Are you hitting the gym enough? 

Workout frequency: How often should you workout

One of the biggest questions when it comes to training is how often you should workout. So many people think that the more you workout, the more in shape you will be, but is that really the case? Whether for resistance training, or cardio, or another type of training, you’re not alone in wondering how often you should be hitting the gym. This is a common question and one we get from people on a regular basis, so let’s dissect it.

The simple answer to the question of how often you should be lifting is that you must workout with enough frequency to engage the adaptive ability of the body, but not so much that you overtrain. However, you must also consider your schedule, skill level, physical abilities, and other situational factors. At the same time, your goal(s) play a deciding factor as well.

Considering Adaptive Ability in Training

The body is a machine that will adapt to external stimuli such as resistance training, cardiovascular exercise, and mobility work. Changes occur within the body on a physiological level, through alteration in nervous system function, motor unit engagement, muscle formation, cardio-respiratory improvements, and improved energy production, among others.

For adaptation to occur, the body must receive enough stimuli over time. If you engage in a hard workout, you likely will force the start of adaptation. However, if that is the only workout you do, then changes in ability, body composition, etc. will never occur. Conversely, if you engage in 36 workouts, but always work below the stimuli level needed for adaptation, then changes in ability, body composition, etc. will never occur. For example, if you can bench press 200 pounds for ten reps, but always bench 100 pounds for ten reps, you will never give your body the proper stimuli to grow stronger, build muscular endurance, etc. Indeed, in this scenario, you would likely lose ability.

That being said, you need to force your body to adapt. You cannot grow without breaking out of your comfort zone and really pushing yourself in whatever you are doing. However, if you push too much too often, this leads to overtraining, and can result in injury.

What About Overtraining?

While too little stimulus will not lead to changes in ability, body composition, etc., too much can have the same effect. When a person engages in physical activity, he or she places strain on bones, joints, the cardiovascular system, heart and other organs, and, of course, muscles. If these bodily tissues undergo high levels of strain without proper recovery for too long, degradation of ability can occur. Think about a cut on your arm, if you keep digging at it, it will never heal. The same idea applies to adaptation. If you keep working out hard and never give the body time to heal properly, then you will not see forward progress, and you actually may see regression.

To avoid overtraining, a person must have a proper training plan, proper nutrition plan, enough rest, good stress management, and an overall focused approach on working hard and recovering well.

Situational Factors That Affect How Often You Train

There are some things that are somewhat out of your control when it comes to finding how often you should lift. Let’s take a look at what they are/

  • Schedule: Imagine that you can achieve your best results working out five days per week, but your schedule only allows for three days—then you can only workout three days. It would be ideal to work out for five, but your training frequency is partially dictated by your schedule. At the same time, imagine your schedule permits working out five days per week, but your body can only recover from three days per week. In this case you should only workout for three days per week until your body can handle more, and then increase frequency.
  • Motivation: Not every day is going to be a day that you are motivated to go to the gym and train, and this can affect how often you should train. Training too much can wear you out, so it is good to find a training frequency that allows you to take a break, both physically and mentally. Now, you need to consider that discipline should override motivation, so don’t get lazy.
  • Current Physical Ability: You might be limited in your capabilities, meaning if you are dealing with a broken limb, or bad joints, you may have to adjust your training schedule based on that. 

Your Training Goals

If you have a simple goal, you may be able to work out fewer days per week. For example, if you can run a half-mile and want to be able to run a mile within one month, then you can train 2-3 days per week and reach this goal with relative ease. However, if you want to run a 5K or longer in the same time frame, you may need to commit five days per week to training. This is simplistic, of course, and there are other things to consider, such as workout duration, but you get the idea.

The same goes with other sports that you need to train for. If you are training for a powerlifting meet, you do not want to be training every single day, nor do you want to be training too little. Bodybuilding is also another sport that you have to find a good frequency for, as for sports like these you absolutely need a good amount of time to recover and allow the body to grow back bigger and stronger.

So, How Often Should You Workout?

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, how often should you actually workout and train? Well, if you’re a beginner, we recommend starting with 2-3 days per week. If you’re someone who has been working out for a while, maybe a year or less, you should have an idea of what you can handle regarding frequency. If you don’t, you’re not planning correctly and you are only shorting yourself when it comes to gains.

You need to take some time, look at your schedule and other things we mentioned, and then determine what frequency you can handle. If you can’t do this, then you should hire a coach or trainer. If you consider yourself an advanced trainee, meaning you’ve been working out for years or longer, then you shouldn’t even need to read this; you should already know. These ideas apply across the board, to strength training, cardio, etc. for men, women, runners, athletes, and everyone else.

How Do We and Other Coaches or Trainers Approach Frequency?

There is no one answer to this question. For example, we work out five (Grace) to seven (Nathan) days per week, but we have our clients workout 2-6 days per week, based partially on the points mentioned above. Coach Dave Spitz has his athletes work out 3-9 times per week. Mat Fraser stated in a bodybuilding.com video that he works out almost every day, sometimes multiple times per day. The approach is different based on the coach and the athlete.

Regardless of the approach used by the trainer, each coach looks at the goals and situational factors of the client to create a program that fits his or her needs. Knowing how to do this comes from education and experience. If you’re not a trained coach, then the best approach for you is to work with a trainer or coach, or to find a free or purchase program from an individual or from sites such as demetzonlinepersonaltraining.com, catalystathletics.com, bodybuilding.com, halhigdon.com, trainheroic.com, or www.jtsstrength.com.

DeMetz Online Personal Training

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Demetz Personal Training About Nathan Demetz Personal TrainerNathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, Utah State University, and the ISSA College of Exercise Science.

Nathan has 20 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.

To work with Nathan directly on your personal training goals, contact him today!

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