If all 24 hour news networks can have “Breaking News” scrolling across their screens, then this applies.
Most internet fitness gurus are purposely misleading you, because they’re trying to sell you something. They want you to feel bad about yourself, so that you dedicate your whole life to the gym, so that they put more of your money in their pocket.
The truth is that you only need to train enough to get stronger. When your body is getting stronger it is growing, and growth is synonymous with progress.
So how many times a week is it actually necessary to hit the gym?
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t actually take much time to gain strength. In fact, three days a week is enough for most people.
I bet you thought you needed to be in the gym 6-7 days a week to see any real gains in strength or size.
Grow. If you aren’t moving forward the world is passing you by.
What is your requirement?
Your requirement is to get stronger. If you aren’t getting stronger in one way or another, you are getting weaker. That’s a fact of life.
Getting stronger doesn’t mean deadlifting 3 times your body weight. That’s just an idealized standard.
Getting stronger simply means being able to do a little more than you used to. Maybe that means one more body weight squat, or 1 lb added to your bench press. Those are both positively trending markers.
You can consider strength gains as your measure in the fight against death. In order to live the most healthy life possible you don’t need to add 30 lbs to your lifts overnight, you just need to add a fraction of a lb each day.
Bodybuilders and competitive strength athletes have no edge over everyone else just because they’re strong. If strength worked like that all the oldest people would be the strongest and biggest, that is clearly not how the world works.
Frequency is a function of volume.
A recent meta-analysis came to the conclusion that the frequency of your workout sessions only really matters if it affects how much weight you move over the course of the week (your total volume).
12 sets of 10 reps of bench press at 100 lbs on Monday and then nothing else the rest of the week is the same as doing 2 sets of 10 reps of bench press at 100 lbs each day Monday to Saturday.
They are both 12,000 lbs moved. That 12,000 lbs is the main predictor of how much stronger you get.
Of course, these two scenarios are extreme ends of the spectrum. There are plenty of much more reasonable ways to break up all of this work.
Not to mention, it would be difficult to ensure that you don’t get too tired to get all the required reps if you try to fit it all in one workout. That’s why we break up our workouts across the whole week.
If you have 4 hours to train one day a week, this might be a good option for you. Most normal people can only carve out 45-90 minutes 3-4 times a week. Luckily that’s plenty of time to get in our total volume.
That’s right, my fine reader, you should choose the frequency of your workouts based on your schedule and then fit in the total volume you require however you see fit.
Just get stronger.
The amount of volume you require is obviously unique to you, and what you are currently doing. As a general rule of thumb:
You want to be training just enough to be getting stronger. No more, no less, this is your minimum effective dose. If you aren’t getting stronger, add more volume, that could mean more weight on the bar, another rep on the last set, more reps on all the sets, or a whole additional set. It depends on you.
If you are working out 2 times a week and getting stronger, in the way in which you want to be getting stronger, then keep training that way until you aren’t getting stronger anymore. Once you plateau start adding volume. Once those 2 workouts start to get too long for you to bear, add a third day.
I’m sure you see how you could continue progressing like this indefinitely.
By simply doing a little more than you were previously doing, you will see gains in strength and performance.
This is why 3 days is enough. You can fit a lot of work into three 60-90 minute gym sessions. Remember to look at the total volume you are doing each week, that’s the real predictor of progress.
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