How often should I work out?
As a personal trainer I get this question a lot and the answer isn’t always the same. There’s no secret combination of workout days that works for everyone so the real question is “what are your goals?” If someone wants to be a marathon runner and another person wants to be a bodybuilder then the frequency of training will be different for both people.
When starting to design a program defining your goals will be the first step in deciding how often you need to be in the gym.
My expertise is in powerlifting, muscle building and fat loss so for this post I will be focusing on those three programs and what frequency of training I have found that works best.
Let’s start with powerlifting. First off I have coached multiple people to and through their first powerlifting competition and of those clients most of them were women, one was a 12 year old girl! When you think of powerlifting it would be a mistake to think it’s a “guy” sport. There are many women competing and most of them are much stronger than myself! Designing a program for powerlifting can be a bit overwhelming at first and a quick google search will prove that because there is so much content out there but I am here to help. I have looked at many different programs for powerlifting and have found some similarities that are important.
- Rest days should not be overlooked.
- Form and technique are of utmost importance.
- Focus on the big lifts and NOT accessory work.
Rest Days – The first thing that comes to mind when I think of rest days are boxing movies like “Rocky.” You see Sylvester Stallone training non-stop. He’s in the gym and then he’s running and then he’s back in the gym and next thing you know he’s in the ring. There isn’t a scene of Rocky lying in bed or stretching… It’s all action all the time. The truth is rest is very important and needs to be built into your workout program from the beginning. When you lift weights you create microscopic tears in your muscles which need time to heal. Just like a cut or scratch you need to give it time to heal and if you keep scratching at it, it will take longer to heal. You might be in the gym four days a week but you will be training different parts of your body giving the other parts time to rest. Here’s an example of what one of my clients training week might look like:
Monday – Squat, Leg Press, Hip Extensions
Tuesday – REST
Wednesday – Bench Press, Military Press, Floor Press
Thursday – REST
Friday – Dead Lift, Split Squat, Hyper Extensions
Saturday – REST
Sunday – REST
Form and Technique – Before we can go any further it’s time to “check yourself before you wreck yourself!” Proper form and technique when weight training will ensure that you can do it for many years to come. Every person is built differently so naturally everyone’s form will be different. It would be in your best interest to spend some time and even a little money to make sure your using proper form. You can hire a personal trainer to teach you or you can video tape yourself working out so you can watch the videos to see what your form looks like. A good rule to follow when lifting it to always be in control of the weight, don’t use quick jerking movements, instead control the weight with smooth reps. Also start slow, select a weight to start that you could easily lift for 12 – 15 reps and slowly increase the weight over time.
Focus on the big lifts – This is really more of a personal preference for me however I think I make some good points here. Utilizing your time in the gym is very important especially if you’re a busy adult who doesn’t have a lot of time in the first place. For this purpose I focus on three main lifts and sprinkle in supplementary lifts as needed for different goals. My three main lifts are Squat, Bench and Dead Lift. When you do the squat and dead lift you are using so many muscles that it’s more of a whole body workout. The bench press isn’t as important but for power lifting it’s one of the main lifts, plus it’s a good break between squats and dead lifts. By focusing on these three lifts you can see great results in less time. Here’s an example of how I build a program around these movements.
First I decide how many days a week I will be training. I’ll make a workout for two different weeks one for training three days and another for four days. Also you can use the same exact workout program for 4-8 weeks, it’s a myth that you need to switch your workouts up constantly to create muscle confusion. Your muscles don’t know the difference and you actually get better results if you stick with the same workout for weeks at a time.
3 Days a week:
Day 1 – Goblet Squat, Step ups, Leg Press, Planks
Day 2 – OFF
Day 3 – Bench Press, Lateral Raises, Shoulder Press, Floor Press
Day 4 – OFF
Day 5 – Dead Lift, Lat Pull-down, Stiff Leg RDL, Seated Row
Day 6 – OFF
Day 7 – OFF
4 Days a week:
Day 1 – Back Squat, Tricep DB Press, Plank
Day 2 – Shoulder Press, Split Squat, Bent Row
Day 3 – OFF
Day 4 – Bench Press, Goblet Squat, Skull Crushers
Day 5 – Dead Lift, Lateral Raises, Glute Bridges
Day 6 – OFF
Day 7 – OFF
The workouts are broken down into different days but the movements are very similar and the sets are the same. Whether I’m going 3 days a week or 4 it’s still 12 exercises total for the week. As far as supplementary exercises those can be added as needed. If I waned to add some bicep curls or cardio I can as long as it doesn’t interfere with my scheduled training. It would be safe to add in a few extra reps on day 5 because I have two days to rest after and I could do some light cardio on off days as well.
Summary – Get plenty of rest, keep an eye on your form and focus on the big lifts. The human body is amazing and should be a priority in everyone’s life. Remember to make time to rest that precious body of yours and do what you enjoy! Strength training is very important and I believe everyone should lift, however, if your passion is something else I believe you should also enjoy what you’re doing. If you hate it you’ll quit.
And as always remember – Stay Motivated!