You’ve finally got around to joining the gym, and you’ve committed to getting in the best shape of your life!
You’ll do whatever it takes to achieve your fitness goals; weight lifting, fitness classes, eating correctly, giving up nights out at the pub etc.
It’s your first week in the gym; the plan is to workout 5-6 times every week, the schedule is set, in two months you won’t know yourself now that you’ve got this impressive new body attached to your head!
Monday comes along, day one and the first workout went great!
“This is easy, bring on day two!”
You go to bed Monday night feeling great, looking forward to Tuesday’s session and asleep you go!
Monday’s workout was a runaway success.
Come Tuesday morning… Your entire body’s stiff, and you can barely get up out of bed!
You make it through the day, but cancel Tuesday’s workout saying “I’ll go back to tomorrow” and the come Wednesday morning your body’s in a worse state than Tuesday!!
Wednesday’s session is off too!
It’s Wednesday of week 1, and out of three days so far you’ve only been to the gym once!
Your perfect plan of 5-6 training sessions is out the window! The perfect plan you created in your mind because “This time it’s going to be different!!”
Instead of letting discouragement sink in, you adjust course and alter the plan!
Which bring us to
How often should you workout?
Should you go every day?
In today’s post, we’ll be covering everything you need to know regarding how often you should do physical activity in the gym every week!
- Properly training for your fitness goals.
- How proper recovery factors into how often you should go to the gym.
- Understanding the initial process when you’re getting back into physical activity, managing expectations, so you’re on the right track with your gym routine and lots more!
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
How often you should workout?
1. What is your goal that you really want to achieve out of the gym?
Dig deep and ask yourself why are you training, what do you want to accomplish?
People say they want to train for building strength, or weight loss, for increased muscle tone, greater endurance and the list goes on!
But Underneath that, what’s the reason for the goal you’re looking to achieve?
It could range from being able to live another 30 years so you can walk your daughter down the aisle, or maybe you want to bulk up, so you’ve more confidence with women or men, or you want to see how far you can go in achieving your physical potential!
Whatever the reason, find out your “Why” that’s hidden underneath a strength or an endurance or a weight loss goal etc. so you’re 100% in and not aimlessly going to the gym, going through the motions and hoping for the best!
2. What Is Your Exercise History, how long have you been lifting?
Is this your first time in the gym, or have you been lifting weights for years?
Most people reading this will be beginners because, as we’ll talk about later on, once you’ve been training for years and years, you develop that intuition for what your body needs and also how much you can take in a given week at any one time.
If you are just getting started, keep things simple, exercise for at least 30 minutes and build-up with perfect form, consistency is the key for you to continue moving forward long-term!
A great way to give you an initial push is to hire a certified personal trainer for a few weeks if you need to learn how to exercise properly.
3. How much spare time do you have during the week?
How many days are you willing to commit to gym sessions?
In the gym where I work, the only time some of the members get to themselves is on their lunch breaks but they get it done!
In the morning time, it’s “bring the kids” to school time, and then in the evening, it’s family time.
You might have a family or a significant other that you devote time to or maybe not.
Either way, find out how much time you have, and then if you’re honestly willing to invest that time consistently in yourself over the long-term for the payoff, you will get out of it!
Once you’ve figured your unique “Why” for wanting to train, then set up a balanced workout routine for making this goal achievable.
It’s time to begin your fitness program and then from there adapt or progress it towards your level of fitness, so you get the best return possible!
Goal Specific Training: Prepare To Engage!
Below are some general guidelines to get you started.
Always keep in mind that whatever your goal is, if you plan on training effectively week in week out,
You must also
Have a solid nutrition plan, keep well hydrated with water and have adequate rest and recovery days for your body to continue to grow and improve!
You already know this, it’s been said to death but if your training is solid, and you’ve hit a wall then check in these areas above for leaks!
1. I want General Fitness:
3-5 Workouts per week will be more than enough. Do a fitness induction that will be part of your gym membership in most health clubs and get a resistance training routine you can do 2-3 times a week.
The other sessions you can mix it up with fitness classes, swimming if that’s an option and keeping your body flexible and robust by incorporating, e.g. a yoga class once a week.
This routine will give you more choices then what’s coming next because with general fitness you can mix it up.
You will benefit greatly, especially if you’re starting out.
You will be well rounded combining muscle building, cardio training, working all of the major muscle groups, hence the General in front of fitness!
2.Weight/Fat-Loss if you want to get Lean!
3-6 Workouts is more than enough for most individuals looking to lose weight and shed body fat.
Once again, begin on the low end and then gradually build up your weekly workout days from 3 up to 6.
For most people, when performing sets for a given body part, the 9-12 rep range is ideal and then as you adapt to this resistance, increase the weight you’re lifting for that rep range.
Once you’ve built up a solid base of cardiovascular fitness, I would go from steady-state cardio to more intense training such as HIIT for up to 20 minutes or Tabata where you get to work at a much higher intensity, working different energy systems in your body thus reducing your body fat%.
A sound nutrition plan is paramount with looking to reduce your body fat. As the saying goes – You can’t out-train a bad diet!
3. I’m looking to build muscle and/Or Increase My Strength:
If you’re starting out with strength training, lifting free weights three times a week is plenty and, if you squeeze in a fourth every now and then consider it a bonus.
Your body needs time to adapt to the training.
For full body strength gains, get proficient in compound movements such as the Squat, Deadlift, The Press and Bench Press as well as Chin-Ups, Pull-Ups, Dips, and so on.
When done right, you will see significant improvements in strength and muscle mass, do not rush through these movements, do them right and slowly build over-time.
Keeps the reps around 5-8 for strength training and more towards the 9-12 in the hypertrophy range we mentioned earlier.
These are general guidelines to stay in that will benefit most people, the key is to not rush through them.
When you’re a beginner, how many days a week you should go depends on how much you’ve recovered from the previous workout.
Yes, this varies from person to person but when your body needs to recover, let it heal.
Keep things balanced!
Rest days are where the progress is made, not during the workout, but when you’re days off or sleeping at night.
No matter what your training goal is, there’s a two-step process when starting out.
Part 1: The Initial Stiffness and More!
We’ve all been there, feeling that initial stiffness or Doms(delayed onset muscle soreness) when beginning to exercise again.
Whether it’s going to the gym, playing a sport, or spending the day removing hefty, copious amount of junk from your house into a skip your muscles are guaranteed to feel stiff at some level the next day!
It’s all part of the process, it’s the same for everyone, and usually, after your first workout, you could be stiff for three to four days which you may need before going back for workout number two.
The good thing is it will only happen once, twice at best once you stick to the training program you are on and stay the course.
For a lot of people, the key for those first two weeks is acknowledging that it’s not going to be pretty, it certainly won’t be perfect.
So just relax, maintain good consistency, focus on showing up and getting a little better every time!
As long as you’re showing up regularly the first two weeks, momentum will kick in, any stiffness you were getting will be gone and the weights you found hard to lift in your first week will feel easy now!
This brings us to Part 2:
Within your weights program, you’ll have training variables that all help you achieve your goal faster and safer.
These variables are Reps, Sets, Load, Tempo(the speed at which you lift and control the weight) and also the rest periods.
Most people adapt to a muscle-building program every 6-8 workouts/2-3 weeks.
Once you’ve overcome the initial stiffness from week 1, it’s critical that for every workout you do, maintain useful intensity as you push towards your limit by manipulating the variables above, so your body continues to grow!
In the 3 weeks doing the program and add in a fourth if you’re just getting started an example of this for say a Biceps Curl would be:
Week 1: 9-12 reps for 2 Sets at 8Kg’s for 90 seconds Rest Period
Week 2: 8-10 reps for 2-3 Sets at 9Kg’s for 75 seconds Rest Period
Week 3: 6-8 reps for 3-4 Sets at 9.5/10Kg’s for 60 seconds Rest Period.
As you can see with this example, you’re always gradually progressing, working your routine to death until you cannot go any further with it.
When you’ve maxed out everywhere, it’s time for a brand new training program.
Use this two-part process when starting out regardless of how many fitness days your exercising.
Always Be Flexible
We’ve talked about how often you should go to the gym above, but I also mentioned that these are general guidelines.
When you’re getting started, for a lot of the population just going twice a week consistently for 6 weeks then progressing to three sessions a week come week 7 will be plenty for burning calories.
There’s no magic number, it will be different for everyone, and regardless of your goal, the most important thing is consistency over time.
Some weeks you will have more energy than others.
If you get four workouts in one week but only two the week after that’s fine, just keep showing up and giving it everything you’ve got for each session.
You never stand still, you’re either going up, or you’re going down so whatever way your body is feeling, go with the flow and adapt accordingly.
Compare your weekly sessions to a savings account. An individual workout doesn’t feel like much, but the compound interest you get overtime adds up.
What I’m getting at is if your goal is to train 5-6 days a week for general fitness, but physically, you can only manage 3-4 max, that’s fine.
As the weeks go by, all of those sessions add up anyway to get you where you want to be.
When you’ve got some momentum and a good few weeks under your belt, find what actually works best for you.
If I’m doing strength training using the compound lifts on low reps of 1-5 then three and max four days a week is enough for me. I need recovery days.
I only learned this through testing, I used to think I was a wimp if I didn’t train heavy six days a week!
Maybe I am lol, but three to four works best for me, so I’m getting the best return possible and for every individual that’s all that counts!
Find out through testing experience what works best for you and your body.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Below are some of the asked about questions when people begin working out but if you have a question that we’ve left out let us know in the comment box below ASAP!
1. How long should my workouts be?
45 Minutes to an hour is more than enough time for you to get a great workout in will keep you ticking over for the rest of the day.
Take your time warming up, ten minutes if done correctly is plenty.
Use the next 40 minutes of controlled rage as your main phase, going all out or at least doing enough to maintain what you’ve already built up.
The last ten minutes are for a gradual cool down with some light stretching and breathing exercises to bring your heart rate back down.
2. Why should I take a day off after two straight days of training?
Not everyone needs to, but for most individuals, you cannot maintain a high level of intensity without proper rest and recovery.
You don’t build muscle when working out, it’s on your rest days and when your sleeping that your muscles recover and grow so eventually you will need a rest day.
Over a week doing two days on then one day off then two days on then two days off is an effective routine for you to continue to grow while getting adequate rest at the same time.
That being said, also switch your muscle building days around if you can only make it on certain days.
E.g. If you can only do three in a row, then two off, then one on is better than only three days that week if you can handle four without overdoing it!
You can also have active rest days where you going to the gym but, moving at a light intensity doing something like a Yoga or Tai-Chi class, Self-Myofascial release or a few laps of the pool to name but a few.
3. Do I need to incorporate supplementation into my workouts?
Quality supplements definitely move things forward, but only after you’ve got your sleep, nutrition and hydration in order first.
They never replace these variables ever, but they do compliment them!
Focus on getting your weight training in order, build up your experience, figure out how many times a week you should be going to the gym first.
Once you’re on top of that and have everything else in order, then begin trying out supplementation.
A protein shake is great after a workout because the nutrients get into your muscles quicker, but a good turkey or beef salad will be more than enough too plus it usually tastes better as well.
4. How important is sleep? Can I get by on only 5-6 hours a night?
Sleep is everything, as we talked about in question 2 above you need adequate rest for your body to grow so unless you’ve got a newborn child in the house that’s awake all night make sure you’re getting eight hours quality sleep!
If you don’t, you’re more likely to get an injury and even if you don’t, for most people, eventually, burnout will happen.
Time to wrap up!
Now, Get Moving!
Well, there you have it!
Once you have your goal crystal clear in your mind, then get moving but start off slow and build up.
Take your time, remember the two-step process above, it’s all experience and trial and error as you continue to move forward.
Take your workouts one at a time, relax, slowly build and gradually progress!
Get to know your body, its strengths but also finding that fine line for you between doing the right amount of lifting for progress and overdoing it to the point that no progress is made!
Now you’ve no excuses to keep stalling, taking action is everything!
Cheers, and enjoy your gym every day you go!