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"How Many Days a Week Should I Work Out?"

One day a week? Probably not enough.

Squatting with 450 pounds
Squatting is a great exercise, but probably shouldn't be done every day of the week.

Two days a week? Can be okay in the right situation, and can lead to decent gains.

Three? Now we're talking.

Four? Very good idea!

Five? Yeah, in the right circumstances

Six? Yeesh, I don't know, man.

Seven? Do you have a life?

Eight days a week? Is not enough to show I care!

Regardless of if you get that last reference, you should get that part of the beauty of strength training is that you don't have to do it every day. An even greater part of that beauty is that doing it every day will actually lead to worse results, not better. Strength training locks you in to a consistent schedule, but doesn't demand all of your time.

The reasoning behind the 3-5 days recommendation above is simple: Your body needs time to recover. It's a scientific phenomena knows as SRA; Stress, Recovery, and Adaptation.

Typically, 3-4 days of training is a sweet spot for physical stress. 3-4 days of rest throughout the week is sufficient to recover and adapt. As we swing the pendulum in either direction, we are leaking toward "too much" in one direction and "not enough" in the other. Training requires a balance of these processes. If you're going to train 5 or more days in a week, you either must reduce the per-workout stress by quite a significant portion, or do extraordinary things to be able to recover in time. Your diet and sleep have to be essentially perfect, and your life stress needs to be low.

Even if you're a 20-year-old male, with no kids, no commitments, plenty of food and ability to sleep, training hard 7 days a week is not going to be recoverable. Even if you were to take illegal substances, you would likely not benefit from training this often. The body needs time to recover, and if you don't give it that, you will likely end up with poor results or injured.

It's been popularized in fitness culture to answer the question "How many days a week should I work out?" with the "3-5 rule" -

  • Do 3-5 exercises

  • For 3-5 reps

  • With 3-5 mins rest between

  • 3-5 times per week

  • Increasing by 3-5% each time (for a while - after a bit you will need smaller jumps)

This rule of thumb is solid, simple advice and something I can stand behind.

The longer you've been training, the more stress you'll have to add to continue to drive progress, given that you also improve the pieces of your life that lead to recovery. In general, the timeline for a person's lifting career will start with fewer days per week (2-3) and increase over time (3-4) and peak at 5, before easing back into 3-4 and eventually 2-3 again.

Now that you have the blueprint and plan, lay out your schedule and go out and get it done! If you need more help putting it all together, you can sign up for Iron Habits to get premium coaching and programming, with 24 hour feedback and guaranteed results!


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