“Should I train every day, is this too much – I mean I can take Sundays off?”
“Will I see changes with two sessions a week?”
These are some of the legit questions that we get asked on a daily basis around how often is ideal when it comes to training.
Now like many questions we get, there is not necessarily a clear cut answer, so our official response is “it depends”.
However, because you asked, we answer and to do this question some justice, we have to dig into things a little bit further.
So the question of “how often should I train” will vary depending upon a number of factors.
This refers to how long (think years) you’ve been training. Someone with a high training age (they’ve been training for over 5 years) will be more ready to have a higher training load than someone that is relatively new.
While related to training age, starting level takes this a step further to look at your physical capacities. Someone that has a good fitness base (be it general or specific) will generally be able to handle a higher training load than someone that how a low fitness base.
TRAINING EVENTS / OCCASIONS
A specific event or occasion that you’re training for will also dictate what training load you will adopt. Obviously a big event/occasion 6 weeks away means that we’re going to have to ramp up the training load a bit more than what we would if we had 6 months to achieve the same goals.
Depending upon your training goal (what exactly it is you want to achieve) will also have a bearing on your training load. Someone training for “health” or to improve general fitness would now have the same training load to someone that is a Physique competitor or a competitive CrossFitter.
Not all training types are created equal. Some training types can tax the body’s ability to recover greater than other sessions. While a well constructed training program will factor this in, also understand that a poorly constructed training program that doesn’t will have negative effects and ultimately impact on your training load.
Your ability to recover is another significant factor. This one element alone is a whole article in itself as there is just so much involved. Someone that is older, has terrible sleep patterns, lives on caffeine and eats crap, has high stress levels for work or family reasons and spends little to no time focussing on active recovery practices (or passive for that matter) will be require much lower training loads than someone that younger, routinely gets 8 hours of sleep, eats nutritious foods, doesn’t live in a stressful environment and is actively taking time out for recuperative practices such as yoga, tai chi, meditation, walking or even stretching.
So we’ve looked at number of factors that influence training loads, now seems like a really good time to explore the actual impact of training loads and what it means in terms of gains.
For the purpose of this discussion, we’re going to assume the training goal is fitness. Based on this, we’re going to use 2 sessions per week as our baseline and detail how much quicker you will achieve equivalent fitness improvements by upping the training load:
2/week: 0% (baseline)
3/week: 6.25% faster (+6.25% on previous level)
4/week: 17.18% faster (+10.93% on previous level)
5/week: 31.25% faster (+14.07% on previous level)
Over 5/week: 43.75% faster (12.5% on previous level)
Clearly there is a significant improvement when working out more often – so does this mean we should crush it at the gym every day?….
Well as we’ve spoken about, it depends.
It depends on all of the factors we’ve outlined above. It also depends on how much time you have available and whether training is an “outlet” or a “chore” for you. If we look at training five times a week, versus 3 times a week. It requires an extra 66% of your time, but only provides 27% faster results. This is a lot of time to sacrifice if you’re not enjoying the process.
So our recommendations are to train at a level that is going to help you achieve your goals (whether it’s two or six sessions a week as you will still make improvements), but not at the risk of injury or it being unsustainable.
Source: Beyond the Whiteboard – Working out more: Is it worth it?