I hear this question all too often.
How many days a week should I train to achieve “XYZ”?
In a world of speed, constant changes, and non-stop interruptions, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks. Lack of time is the #1 reason why people fail on their goals. At least, that’s the #1 reason we constantly hear as trainers. Work, kids, significant other, daily errands, and about a hundred other things will pull you away from your training on a daily basis…if you let it.
The most successful people I work with change their mindframe about time. They change the way they view their time spent training. Changing the way they look at training and the time it consumes, becomes therapeutic more than a hassle. Taking care of yourself shouldn’t be a hassle. If it is, I suggest that you take a step back, slow down for a minute, and have a reality check. The truth is…the hour or so you spend training tends to make the other hours in the day more productive. Not only are you more productive on the days you train; the compound effect of training on a regular basis helps you achieve one million times more throughout the course of your life.
So, how many days a week should you be training for optimal results?
I’m a big fan of what we call “Minimal Effective Dosage.” A simple way to think about the Minimal Effective Dosage is to relate the concept to something easy to understand. Let me explain this concept by using a headache and Aspirin as an analogy.
Let’s say you get a headache. How do you take care of this? Aspirin could be an option, yes? Sure Aspirin can help reduce the headache, but just how much Aspirin do you need to accomplish this? Usually a couple will do the trick. Two is all you need. Taking the whole bottle will not make the headache go away any quicker. There is too much of a good thing. Take two Aspirin and you’ll clear your headache and help keep your blood pressure in check. Take the whole bottle on the other hand, and now you’re probably going to have to go to the emergency room to get your stomach pumped so you don’t die. We just took a good thing and made it a bad thing by adding more.
Training is the same way. In order to get results, we have to place a stimulus (training) on the body to demand an adaptive response (lose weight, gain muscle, etc…). We need to take the Minimal Effective Dosage approach. We don’t need to take the whole bottle of Aspirin to get the job done…we only need two. The same goes for weight loss, improving cardiovascular levels, or gaining weight. We need to put a demand on the body to elicit a response, and nothing more. If we add more and more volume to our training, we begin to hit that point of overdosing on the Aspirin. Working harder isn’t always the answer. Working smarter is our approach, and it’s pretty damn effective if you ask me.
So back to the question…how many days a week should you be training?
If you’re training to achieve a goal, you’re going to have to work for it. There’s no way around it. I’m all about training smart, but training hard and being disciplined is still an element we can’t ignore. However, every training session doesn’t have to be balls to the wall or an all out effort that leaves you lying on the floor in a pool of sweat.
If you’re trying to achieve a goal, you’re going to have to work a little harder than if you’re only trying to maintain where you are currently at. Even though you’re going to have to work a little harder to continuously make progress and minimize plateaus, you still need to keep the Minimum Effective Dosage in mind. Training harder doesn’t necessarily mean training hard 7 days a week. Training needs to be dialed in. Sleep and recovery needs to be addressed. Stress Management plays a major role in your ability to move forward, staying the same, or regressing. Nutrition should be spot on since you can never out-train a poor diet.
Your weekly training volume should look something like this:
Elite Level (5-6 Days/Week): The elite category only has a few percent of us that fall within this category. Professional athletes, bodybuilders, and models are some of the top people that come to mind when I think about elite level bodies and performance. It’s their job, or hobby, to be lean, strong, and powerful. Most of us reading this probably don’t fall within this category. Like I said earlier, only the top 1-2% will fall within this category, so this in an outlier group, not the norm.
Many of these athletes have nutritionists to help them dial things in. They have trainers and coaches there to help ensure they’re doing the right things. They have massage therapists on call for whenever they need them. Essentially, if you’re training that much (5-6 days per week), you’re really going to have to address food, nutrition, and sleep/recovery. If any one of these variables is off, so will your performance.
Professional Level (3-4 Days/Week): The professional level doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a professional athlete or anything like that. This level is where most of us will fall if we’re trying to achieve a goal, reach a certain performance level in our sports, or having a body that is impeccable. If we’re trying to achieve a goal that’s currently beyond our reach, only training once or twice a week just isn’t going to cut it. If you’re training volume is that low, it’s pretty difficult for the body to adapt to be a high performance machine. If you want high performance, you gotta work for it. 3-4 days a week of training strength, power, and conditioning will be enough to get superior results without trashing your body. This is where I try to get most of our clients. If I can get them training vigorously 3-4 days a week, fueling their bodies with healthy, nutritious foods, and getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, I can build an athlete that will perform at insane levels, or develop the abs you’ve desired to have for years. Hitting the gym 3-4 days per week is plenty for the average person looking to progress and get killer results.
Amateur Level (1-2 Days/Week): Let’s face it; if you’re only making it to the gym once or twice a week, results are going to be hard to come by. If your life’s too busy to make it to the gym 1-2 times per week, I’d recommend focusing on lifestyle choices and habits first. Getting caught up in the game of life can take its toll on you if you let it. Obviously, if you’re having trouble making it in to the gym to train, focusing on nutrition, stress management, and sleep will be a top priority. Sure…training is going to be important; however, 1-2 hours a week of vigorous activity isn’t going to produce outstanding results by itself. It’s going to take a combination of watching what goes into your mouth and watching how much stress you’re letting build up. Poor nutrition and overloaded amounts of stress will keep you away from your goals without a doubt. If you really focus on all three areas, you may be able to get away with a training volume this low; however, if you’re wanting to make progress and be better than you were yesterday, I’d recommend looking into adding an extra day or two a week to your training plan. This is a good level to maintain where you’re at. This is a terrible level to be at if you’re wanting to lose fat, build muscle, or be performing at your best.
So what level are you at?
How many days a week should your training volume be at?
If you’re not getting the results you want, feel free to check out our Jump Start package to help get you on the right track. We’ll get you training the right amount and get you on a track to success. Click here to sign up for our Jump Start package today!