When it comes to training in the gym, you have a lot of options on training frequency. Some say you need to train 6 times a week, and others like the minimalistic approach of 1-2 days per week.
Like most things in the fitness community, the answer for this is, it depends. What your goal is and how much time you have available are a few of the variables necessary to figure this out.
In general, however, 2-6 days per week are the most optimal number of sessions you should be doing every week.
Any more or less than those and you’re undertraining or overtraining. You need at least a day of rest and training one day per week is practically pointless.
Every single person I’ve trained one day per week didn’t make the necessary lifestyle changes outside of the gym to make progress.
On top of that, the amount of work they could do in a 1 hour period is simply not enough to counteract the other 167 hours of the week.
You need at least 2 days per week to see any meaningful progress, unfortunately. If you can’t contribute more than this per week I think it’s a good idea to question whether a fitness lifestyle is right for you. That’s just me being blunt.
If you want to learn more about how many days you should be training based on your goals, let’s continue together!
Here we go!
Because weight loss is such a hard thing to accomplish without creating a calorie deficit, you need to think about your activity levels throughout the week.
If you don’t want to drop your calories incredibly low, you need to increase your activity as the weeks go by. You can do this through strength training, cardio, or a combination of both which most people recommend.
To achieve this goal of fat loss, I recommend at least 2-5 days of weight training, and 2-5 days of cardio as well.
This is going to vary based on multiple factors:
- How much weight you have to lose. If you have a lot of weight to lose (>10% of your bodyweight), taking it slow and steady is a good idea. The faster you push it, the more likely you are to rebound to the same or higher weight in the future. Based on this, the more weight you need to lose, the less cardio you’ll have to do initially. Those that weigh more tend to lose body fat much quicker in the beginning stages after all.
- How fast or slow your metabolism is. If you have a fast metabolism, (able to lose weight on over 3000 calories a day), you probably won’t have to do much cardio at all to continue losing body fat. You can simply decrease your calories and increase your strength training to create a deficit.
- If you want to retain lean muscle tissue and strength. If you want to lose weight and retain as much muscle as possible, you need to strength train more and do less cardio. If you only workout 2 times per week and do 5 cardio sessions as well, it’s going to be much more difficult to retain your muscle tissue.
- If you need to lose weight “quickly”, more than 1% of your bodyweight per week. If you’re trying to lose weight quickly for an event or health-related reasons, I would recommend starting with the maximum amount of training sessions you can and start with 3 days of cardio per week. You’ll have to do these during your workout days obviously. Remember to always do your strength training first and then finish with cardio. Unless you’re breaking it up, cardio in the morning and strength training in the afternoon.
- How low your initial calories are to start losing weight. Most women I’ve trained had this problem, to lose weight in the beginning stages I had to lower their calories below 2000 before they saw any weight loss. If this sounds like you, odds are you’re going to have to train more and do more cardio to lose body fat. You can’t just keep decreasing your calories below 1000 to keep losing weight after all. You’re going to have to increase your activity to get your calorie deficit.
As you can see, there are a ton of different variables that factor into how much you should train to lose fat.
For most people, 3 days of strength training and 3 days of cardio to start out should be plenty. As you progress, you might notice you need to do more to keep losing weight.
As always though, I recommend losing no more than 10% of your bodyweight per fat loss phase. Any more than this and you’re going to run into issues with recovery as well as discipline.
If you have any questions let me know in the comments below! Also, how many days have you worked out in the past to lose the most body fat?
To build muscle mass, you need to increase how much volume you’re doing to put higher demands on your body. By doing this, you send the proper signals to your body for muscle growth to occur.
The main factor we need to consider is how much volume we actually need to build muscle mass. Based on previous evidence-based training by Mike Israetel, Jared Feather, Jeff Nippard, and many others; we can concur that 10-20 sets per body part per week is the range we want to be hitting to build the most muscle mass. Any less than 10 sets per week and you’ll most likely only maintain muscle unless you’re a beginner.
For most body parts, 20 sets per week is going to be the limit that most people can recover from. Your goal is to train enough and increase volume week to week finding your MRV (Maximum Recoverable Volume).
This is the most amount of training you can perform and still recover form. As long as you don’t train in excess of this number, you’re on the right path.
Based on my clients and how much work you’re going to have to do to build muscle, anything less than 3 days per week isn’t going to be enough to optimize muscle growth.
Here are a couple of the main splits I recommend for 3, 4, and 6 days per week training frequency.
- 3 Days, Full Body. If you plan on training 3 days per week, full-body training is going to be your best bet to get in all of the work. How you set this up is up to you, but in general, you want to be doing upper and lower body every day.
- 3 Days, Push/Pull/Legs. If using a full-body split isn’t your cup of tea, you can use a push/pull/legs split instead. With this split, you’ll do a day of pushing exercises (chest, shoulders, triceps), a day of pulling exercises (rhomboids, lats, biceps, traps), and legs (quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves). By doing this, it allows you to push those major muscle groups and get a huge growth response.
- 4 Days, Upper/Lower x2. If training 4 days per week, I definitely recommend an Upper/Lower split. Using this, you train upper body 2 times per week and lower body 2 times per week as well. This gives you more frequency and the perfect amount of rest between upper and lower body sessions.
- 4 Days, Full Body. This is another interesting split I was using just recently. You break it up by having a push, pull, and leg movement every workout with isolations thrown in for smaller muscle groups. A sample day for me looked like this. 3 sets of Squat superset with Barbell Curls. 3 sets of Bench Press superset with Barbell Rows. Very easy setup to use and a lot of fun as well!
- 6 Days, Push/Pull/Legs x2. This is the exact same split as the 3-day Push/Pull/Leg option except it allows you to do less volume per workout. The best part about this is that you can push very hard one day with lower reps (6-10), and the second day do higher reps (10-20) to hit all major muscle fibers in the body. Of course, the main issue with this is how much time you can contribute to training in the gym every week.
As you can see, there are a lot of different options to train for muscle growth. You want to train 1-3 reps away from failure on each set and add sets so you’re capping out at 20 sets per body part after a few weeks.
After that, you can determine if you hit your MRV based on how your performance is as shown in this article, Top 25 Tips & Tricks On How To Build Muscle For Life!
Because building muscle requires more work than any other type of training, less than 3 days per week is not recommended. The amount of work necessary at 2 days per week is definitely hard to get in without fatigue affecting your performance.
If you have any questions on this section for building muscle, definitely let me know in the comments below!
How many days per week have you trained in the past to build the most muscle?
Building muscular strength is a very taxing endeavor on the CNS (Central Nervous System). To build strength quickly, reps in the 4-8 range are going to require a lot of rest to recover from.
On top of that, being fatigued isn’t recommended for strength development. That’s why I recommend training 2, 3, or 4 days per week max! Because of how building strength works, you don’t have to do anywhere as many sets to push your strength levels to new heights!
When I was training to Overhead Press 185, Bench over 300, Squat 400, and Deadlift 500 for the first time, I was only training 4 times per week. Because of that, I’m absolutely going to recommend that for the top end of our strength frequency!
Any more than 4 days just isn’t necessary in my experience. The more rest you get the more strength you’ll build. Some of the strongest lifters in the world like Eric Lilliebridge only Squat heavy once every 2 weeks due to how hard it is to recover from.
Mind you, he’s Squatted over 1,000 lbs in competition numerous times!
Here’s how I recommend setting up your workouts for optimal strength development.
2 Days Per Week (Full Body)
|Day 1||Day 2|
|Bench Press||Overhead Press|
|Single Leg/Core||Single Leg/Core|
3 Days Per Week (Full Body)
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3|
|Single Leg/Core||Single Leg/Core||Single Leg/Core|
4 Days Per Week (Full Body)
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4|
|Squat||Bench Press||Deadlift||Overhead Press|
|Core/Single Leg||Core/Single Leg||Core/Single Leg||Core/Single Leg|
As you can see, there’s a ton of ways to set this up based on how much time you have available. If you can only train 2 times per week, you can push the barbell movements harder and still use the Push/Pull/Single Leg/Core categories to build muscle/strength in the gaps those movements don’t hit.
If you can train 4 days per week, you can back off on the barbell movements a bit to improve performance without training too hard.
No matter what your goal is, you can make it happen with just a couple days of strength workouts per week. This is why strength training is so fun because you don’t have to live in the gym luckily!
What kind of split have you used to build the most strength in your training lifetime? Let me know in the comments below!
With that, we have solid training recommendations no matter who you are and what your goal is!
If you want to lose fat, odds are you’re going to have to train or do some kind of cardio almost every day of the week. Unless you have an extremely blessed metabolism or drop your calories super low.
The goal is going to determine how many days per week you need to be in the gym. Muscle building is more fatiguing per session so you definitely need to break it up into at least 3-6 days of training per week.
And finally, for strength, you can afford to do less overall work then training for fat loss or muscle growth. Strength training is a very demanding process and requires more rest than any other type of training.
Make sure you are doing the right amount of work to fit the job. You don’t always need to train over 9,000 times per week. When in doubt, train as much as you can RECOVER from. As long as you do this, you won’t have to worry if you’re training hard enough.
Until next time,