By Lee Boyce, CPT Men's Fitness
The science behind fitness and health is wild, crazy and ever changing. One minute a study supports a particular claim, then next it's the worst thing you could humanly do to or for yourself. Sometimes you'll even find the same questions looming around the industry with mixed reviews, perspectives and findings. In efforts to calm the madness, each week here at MensFitness.com we'll scour the Internet, tap into forums and ask our friends on Facebook and Twitter about what question in fitness we can get some firm answers to.
This week, we explain how much you should be working out.
Q: How often should I train per week for different goals?
A: Whether you want to put on size, cut down and get lean, add strength, or just maintain, the amount of times per week that you train can be a direct correlate to your results. As a general baseline, if you’re looking for any sort of results, I’d strongly recommend that you don’t spend any less than three days per week in the weight room. You won’t be accomplishing anything by training less than this, and your weekly training volume will simply be too low, which won’t have lasting effects on strength, muscle volume, or caloric burn. But let’s get more specific.
When training for fat loss and cutting, focus on doing 3 to 4 workouts per week. Fat loss workout programs often involve total body training, large movements, and a lot of energy expenditure to kick start the metabolism. That’s a lot of effort, and can run your energy stores thin if you don’t give yourself adequate recovery time. Put a day of complete rest or light cardio in between each weight training workout, and you’ll make good gains.
When training for size, look to increase your total weekly volume. In this case, our muscles have a “quota” they need to hit weekly so that they each receive a sufficient amount of training to promote growth. Usually the protocol used is a muscle group isolation split, which often calls for 4 to 5 workouts per week. My favourite split is Day 1 – Back, Day 2 – Chest, Day 3 – Legs, Day 4 – Shoulders, Day 5 (optional) – arms.
When training for strength, remember to focus on the big 3 movements. Squatting, deadlifting, and bench pressing target the most major patterns of the whole body. 4 days per week can do the trick when adding in a day for isolations, weak links and specifics. Strength training requires a lot of heavy sets, and heavy sets can have a greater impact on fatiguing the nervous system. That said, recovery time is vital.
Of course, interval training, cardio sessions, and a proper diet all have effects on results, especially regarding bulking and cutting. We do have to remember not to go overboard. Some common signs of overtraining are lowered strength, lowered body temperature, poor sleep quality, increase in body fat/water retention, and susceptibility to illness such as colds, flu, and digestive problems. It’s all about balance, and rest is just as important to your results as pumping iron.