Workout Frequency: More is Better or Quality over Quantity?
The “more is better” mentality is common among people looking to get in shape. Most fitness professionals now agree that “quality over quantity” is the correct way to think about getting in shape. 90-minute workouts, 6 days a week is not the end-all route to fitness success. Recovery, hormones, nutrition, and other related characteristics all play a part in the “getting in shape” process. If these issues are not addressed, failure is likely.
In general, I feel that anyone at any fitness level can achieve fantastic results by working out hard only 3-4 days per week. Beyond that, there is a risk of not recovering and overtraining. As long as the individual stays active on off-days, he or she can spend more time with family and friends, and less time in the gym. Going to the gym 3-4 days per week also protects from overwhelming oneself, which guards against the prospect of quitting. Workout frequency can always be increased or decreased over the course of the year, but generally speaking 3-4 days a week is the optimal number.
Example-training year for the common fitness enthusiast:
9 months of the year: aim to get 2-3 hard workouts in a week. On off-days try to do some mobility work, foam rolling, or Yoga to keep the body feeling good. Engaging in a sport, riding a bike, or taking a long walk a couple times a week is also a good option. There are many options for off-days, it’s just important to stay moving and enjoy it.
2 months of the year: training volume can be bumped up to 4 demanding workouts a week. Make sure to practice proper recovery methods during this time. Get the right amount of sleep, take fish oil, BCAA’s, greens, and foam roll, to name a few.
1 month of the year: it’s possible to bump it up to 5 tough workouts a week. This depends on training age (how long you have been seriously lifting weights, running long distances, etc.), age, occupation, stress level, and nutrition.
If all of these are not in check, do not bump up training volume. Instead, stick with 3-4 days per week.
What we recommend at SOF
For our clients and members, we recommend training 3-4 days per week for most of the year. Very rarely do we have them training 5-days a week. Unless one of my members is under the age of 40, understands proper nutrition, and has been working out hard for a number of years, 4 times a week is where I draw the line. Otherwise, there is a risk of not recovering properly. This means fat loss, strength gains, and muscle growth comes to a staggering halt.
“If you are working out hard 3-4 days per week and are still not losing body fat, you need a new diet, not a new training program.”
The 3-4 days per week method works great for our clients and members at SOF. We prescribe 2-3 semi-private or private training sessions per week (strength training dominate) and 1-2 conditioning classes per week (metabolic conditioning dominate), depending on their goals and schedule.
I would never recommend doing only conditioning classes. The metabolic conditioning sessions that our team conducts are great, but it won’t produce the strength and muscle growth that is needed to produce the best fat loss and metabolic boost the body is craving.
If someone is looking to really push the envelope and increase their strength training, I bump them up to 3 semi-private and/or private training sessions per week. I would also recommend just one conditioning class a week (maybe 2 if they are able to recover properly).
Sometimes Just Enough is Good Enough
Don’t overwhelm yourself with a demanding workout schedule. More is not always better. Instead, seek to stay consistent over the long-haul. Don’t use the shotgun approach, when it comes to working out.