Training

How often should you go to the gym?

By November 10, 2010 19 Comments

Sounds like a pretty open-ended question doesn’t it?

I’m going to try and answer it without coming across all wishy-washy and fluffy like a huge wishy-washy, fluffy thing.

A lot of articles you’ll read on the subject will answer the question like a politician. They’ll skate around the ACTUAL question without ever actually answering it.

The answer is… <drum-roll>

It depends on your goals.

Not what you wanted to hear right?

Well, I can show you a bunch of ‘goals’ then I can add a day range to those. Happy? Good.

#1 Fat loss

When you’re considering a fat-loss approach, keep in mind that your diet is 80% of the issue. It’s much easier to improve the things you are eating, than use cardio/weight training to burn through the excess (rather than approaching it the other way round). You can run, sprint, walk and lift weights until the cows come home but if you don’t alter what’s going into your pie-hole, your results will be less than inspiring.

Ok, so in terms of days you should be training, I’d say no less than 4, and no more than 6. You’re body will need some serious rest if you are going to hammer it from all angles with cardio and weights.

Note: Ladies, I know you are probably just thinking treadmill, treadmill, treadmill, but to be honest, the best female physiques (and im not talking scary female bodybuilder ones) can ONLY be found on women that do BOTH cardio and weight training period. Weights won’t make you a monster. Trust me on that ;)

#2 Muscle size and strength

If it’s muscle or strength you are after, I’d recommend no less than 4 days a week for optimal results. That’s not to say 3 days won’t work, it’ll just take you a lot longer to get the results you’re after (in my own personal experience that is. This may differ for you, so see the bit about ‘finding your sweet spot’ below). For example, 4-5 days works for me, but that may not work for you.

#3 General fitness

By this I mean, are you just looking for good cardio vascular health, to be able to play with your kids and to look pretty reasonable when the swimming trunks are donned at the beach. This is where 3 days a week is probably enough. I say probably, because you’ll need to be a lot more careful with what you eat the less you burn calories with exercise.

Finding your own sweet spot

This is trial and error, and there is no right answer. Don’t be conned into thinking there is. We are all different and adapt to training volume and intensity differently. I have seen guys and girls with REALLY low BF levels who only train 3 days a week. They probably eat a lot less, have very active jobs or results are due to other genetic factors.

If you’re sick…

Don’t train at all. Stay at home and rest. If I see you in my gym coughing and spluttering you might find yourself leaving with more than just a cold.

Yes that was a threat :) <— smiley face.

Editor’s Note: What’s your sweet spot. How often do you train? Comment below.

Clint Nielsen

Author Clint Nielsen

Clint is a dad and husband trying to stay in shape. He's also a highly opinionated fitness enthusiast and author of Reveal The Steel. Follow him on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+

More posts by Clint Nielsen

Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • Cassie says:

    My sweet spot is 4 – 5 days a week. I often find myself only getting in 3 days though because of work or social arrangements and that is when I get a massive hit of the guilts and think that i’m going to turn into an elephant. Any less than 4 days and i hate myself. Any more than that and I feel amazing.

    • Work is annoying isn’t? Always getting in the way of everything ;)
      Just remember that if you miss a day, you can always make up for it next time.
      One day won’t hurt in the grand scheme of things.

  • Raymond says:

    Good point to raise I think we aren’t sure what works … funny its not what works for me but what I like to do ( even if it compromises my results) but I like to weight train and do cardio on each alternate days so acutally I train every day but differently. I prossibly overtrain but don’t care.
    Raymond

  • Bryan says:

    Great Article,

    I like to work out three times a week in the mornings. Find it get me ready for the day and the week.

    Bryan C @ Turbo Fitness Secrets

    • Morning workouts, for me, are especially important for this reason.
      I feel like I can take on the day if ive trained before work.
      It definitely gets your body and mind ready for the onslaught of your ‘workday’

  • Bryan Pope says:

    My sweet spot is 5 days a week. Typically it is weight training, weight training, cardio, weight training, weight training. Depending on when I wake up in the morning is what ends up being my workout for the day. Which is sad because I was doing so much better when I did my workouts at night. I agree with Cassie though, any less than 4 and I feel like “fat becomes me”.

  • I feel ok doing 3 … really satisfied with 4… awesome when i hit 5…
    I do:
    – 45mins-1hr of low intensity cardio (fat burn)
    – 15 mins high intensity cardio
    – 20 mins weights

    • For me, I’d flip the time spent on low-intensity cardio with the weights maybe on alternate days — this would be even more important during say, a strength/size phase where the low-intensity stuff can largely be left out of the equation.

  • Laura says:

    After reading this post, I realise I still haven’t gotten my balance quite right. I do a 45 minute pilate class (the reformer machine variety) five days a week. And do about an hour a week on the cross trainer. I think I need to step up the cardio.

    • More cardio isn’t always required—especially in terms of fat-loss or ‘maintenance’. Depends on your goals of course. Are you look to trim down or just maintain?

  • Laura says:

    Ps. Is that image of the uber-muscle man real?

  • Its true that it depends on the person, I find the sweet spot to be 5 days as I think the days off are as important specially a weekend day off where you can just enjoy life… but it depends on goals.. so at the end of the day I’m not really saying anything other than I agree… hahah

    • I like to take a full week off every now and then too.
      You come back so much stronger by giving your muscles and CNS time to repair, grow and recover from a 4-5 day a week training regimen.

  • Hi again! Ive published a link to this article on http://www.quakefitness.com

    Quake Fitness – Connecting Fitness and Health Blogs

  • Tony says:

    This post answers a question that I have found difficult to
    find an answer to. It seems that some personal trainers only
    recommend days that a client can pay to train with them as the
    “best” frequency :). I’ve found that an upper-lower split over 4 to
    5 days works well.

  • roadking01@huffpost says:

    I’m 59 and haven’t work out in about 25 years. I joined a gym a few weeks ago and have been going every other day and I am Sore. I only use the resistance machines trying to sculpt a little. I’m not overweight. Am I doing the right thing? I work upper, lower and cardio at the same time. I am also disabled due to back and hip and have a lot of joint pain. Thanks.

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