Ask Your Trainer: How Many Days Should I Train?

This week’s Ask a Trainer question is one we get often, from all levels of clients mostly because the answer will change over time. Here’s Callie to explain how many days you want to be training and why.

We get a lot of clients asking this question when they first start a training program, but we also get this in later stages as peoples’ goals change.

The first caveat to this question is that MORE is NOT better. The first and most important piece to your training schedule needs to be intensity. You could train every single day but if your intensity is not on point, you won’t see results.

This also speaks to the point about how LONG you should train. You could get an incredible training session in in 15 minutes and a really crappy one in in 90 minutes. Some people may think the longer the session, the better results.

It’s in fact the opposite (unless you’re doing something like yoga or mobility and stretching, that’s totally cool to spend a longer period of relaxed time). During a short training session, if your intensity and focus is high, you can get more work done than you would in that drawn out 60-90 minute session because the odds are good that you’re resting a lot more during the long session and doing unnecessary stuff like checking your phone between sets, etc…

Back to the question though, how many days should you train?

If you are looking for general fat loss and conditioning then the answer is simple.

  • 3 days per week of full body strength based training
  • 1-2 days of intense conditioning (I’ve said this before, it’s what is intense for YOU)- approximately 20 minutes per session
  • 1 day of yoga is optional for recovery and mental focus

If you are trying to gain more muscle and strength:

  • 3-4 days per week of full body strength training with an emphasis on the compound lifts (ie: squat, dead lift, press, chin ups)
  • 1 additional optional day of strength to bring up lagging body parts (15-20 minute session)
  • 1 day of intense conditioning, NOT cardio (anything longer than 30 minutes is unnecessary for muscle building folks)
  • 1 day of yoga is optional for recovery and mental focus

If you are just starting out and haven’t trained before, or it’s been a while:

  • 2 days per week of full body strength training focus (add that third day after a few weeks if your body feels like it’s recovering)
  • 2 days of conditioning (if you are doing sprints, use about 60% intensity and longer rest breaks)
  • 1 day of yoga is optional for recovery and mental focus

Regardless of your goals you want to make sure you are incorporating recovery into the weekly cycle. Most people are not over-training, they are under-recovering. That means you need to put emphasis on the things you are doing outside of the gym.

Are you getting enough sleep? (7 hours minimum)

Are you drinking enough water? (focus on getting 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water per day)

Are you eating enough protein? (a minimum for each day should be 1 gram per pound of your lean body weight)

Are you using your foam roller and stretching for just 5 minutes a day?

All of these things are extremely important. If you are training hard but not sleeping and you’re not taking care of the things I mentioned above, you will not see results. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to gain muscle, looking to lose fat or just wanting to feel strong and energized each day. You’re shooting yourself in the foot if all you are focusing on is the duration of each training session and trying to get more and more days of workouts in.

Get 4 solid, intense and focused sessions each week and focus on the mobility, hydration, sleep and nutrition intake and you’ll see far superior gains than if you trained 7 days per week and burned yourself into the ground.

I’ll be back with more tips on how to improve these lifestyle variables in some upcoming blog posts.

Until then, if you have any more questions for the Ask Your Trainer segment just leave a comment on this post and we’ll add you into the list.

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