One of our members had a great question on how many days a week should someone be training. Along with that came the question when are the best days to fit your training in. The answers will always depend on your goals, but we'll go over a couple of the different ideas and options down below.
Let’s start with the low end for how much physical exercise we should get each day. The Mayo Clinics recommends 75-150min each week, depending on intensity. They also recommend spreading out the activity over the course of an entire week vs 1 day. So with these time frames in mind here are my suggestions on how to split that time up during a 7 day period:
Five, 30min Resistance Training sessions
Three, 30min Resistance Training sessions + Two, 30min Cardio or Interval training Session
Two, 30min Resistance Training sessions + Two, 30min Cardio and One, 30min Interval training sessions
Five, 30min Low Intensity Cardio sessions (for true beginners and/or habit development)
For people looking to make a genuine and impactful change to their health, I’m going to recommend a minimum of 3 hours a week dedicated to resistance training. So moving ahead we’ll discuss some different workout splits that have worked really well with both my small group program and private clients. Remember … if it’s not something you can stick too for at least a year, it probably won’t work!
So we’re talking about three hours a week here. This schedule is my go to for anyone who needs their weekends 100% open to do whatever needs getting done. Another benefit here is that you get a full day off between your first two workouts and then two full days before you're back at it. Here’s a few options/ ideas:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
Wednesday, Friday, Sunday
Now, if we're going to bump that up, like a lot of people like to do, we're looking at four hours a week of a resistance training or maybe adding another activity for that fourth hour
My favorite way to go there is 2 Days ON, 1 Day OFF, 2 Days ON, 2 Days OFF
Monday and Tuesday ON, Wednesday OFF, Thursday and Friday ON, Sat and Sunday OFF
This schedule still leaves your weekends open for prior commitments, travel, or any other pursuits.
All right, let's bump it up again to five hours a week. This is usually on the extreme end of training time spent in the gym, which only a few of my clients end up doing. This amount of resistance training requires a much more meticulous split assignment of movement patterns and body parts. I would reserve this schedule for people who have over 3 years worth of PROPER strength training and are already past their first stage of “Newbie Gains”. The most used version of this schedule looks something like this:
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday ON, Thursday OFF, Friday and Saturday ON, Sunday OFF
The first OFF day should have 30-60min of recovery protocols built in to maintain long term health. You can do the same thing again on the second OFF day, or you could treat it as a 100% pure rest day.
Another reason you would use a schedule like this is to prepare for an event that takes place over the course of a weekend. By having training sessions at the end of a long week, you can train your body to respond under fatigue. When your event weekend rolls around after you’ve tapered your training properly, you’ve given your physiology a huge advantage. You could even shift things over one day to replicate having an OFF day Friday, followed by two ON days.
After that, once we begin getting into six plus hours a week, it would do you better to start splitting those sessions up into an AM and PM workout. The main goal would be to start limiting your sessions to 45min or less and having 6-12 hours between them, while targeting different energy systems. This is getting into more advanced training that would need another blog post to better articulate, so we’ll leave it at that for today.
Only train as much as you can recover from. Active recovery days can help with that.
Recognize where you’re at on your fitness journey and train appropriately.
There is absolutely a point of diminishing returns. Make sure you don’t reach it by listening to your body
Set up a schedule that is realistic to start with AND THEN look to add more. A huge mistake we see (and you may have experienced in the past) is trying to do too much too fast!
Aim for the long term gains!