I feel bad for people who are slaves to their workouts. Trekking to the gym 7 days a week for the sake of “gains.”
Unless you’re competing in some type of sport or under the guidance of a professional coach, there’s really no reason for this. In fact, it’s counter-productive.
If you’re an average guy or gal trying to get into better shape, 2-3 workouts per week is all you need. In fact, recently I’ve been doing just two workouts per week.
Your body recovers while you rest, not while you’re working out. If you are beating your body down 7 days per week, when do you expect it to recover?
This approach might start off well, but it’ll eventually lead to disappointment and injury.
When it comes to health & fitness, I’m a big fan of approaches that are sustainable over a long period of time. Working out hard 5-7 days per week is not sustainable for anyone.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have “recovery” workouts on your off days such as yoga, stretching, walking, etc. Those are all great activities.
What I’m talking about here is strength training – lifting weights (or your bodyweight) or some other difficult workout like HIIT training.
When you’re only working out 2 or 3 days per week, it usually means you need to be doing full body workouts – hitting all major muscles in a single workout.
Otherwise, if you do split training you likely won’t get the necessary volume in to elicit gains.
Full body workouts work extremely well for beginner and intermediate trainees. If you’re just starting out, this is where I recommend you start.
This idea of lower frequency training isn’t new. Paul “Coach” Wade recommends lower frequency training in his book Convict Conditioning (although I believe his may be a bit too low).
Studies have also shown lower frequency training to be effective. This study found similar improvements in lean mass and strength in subjects who did full body workouts 3 times per week vs. once per week.
The study group was small, but still an interesting result.
Other studies have found similar results.
The bottom line is that you don’t need to kill yourself to get in shape. Go hard, but not too often. Give your body time to recover.
You’ll get in better shape, be healthier, AND have more time for life outside of the gym.
It’s a win-win.