Updated: Jan 15, 2022
When it comes to weight training, the frequency of your training really does matter. Whether you choose to lift 3, 4, 5, 6 or even 7 days a week in the gym is going to have an impact on the way that you train and the gains you get out of your hard work in the gym.
I often hear many people asking: "how many days a week should I be lifting weights?"
Or "can you lift weights everyday?"
In this post, I'll be taking a closer look at the benefits of training more or less frequently, and helping you draw a conclusion as to your ideal training frequency in the gym.
You should be lifting at a frequency that fits your schedule, and one that you enjoy doing. Whatever works for you and is easy for you to stay consistent with is going to be you best bet when it comes to picking the right training frequency.
Let's take a look a what this all means and how you can determine the best one for yourself!
First of All: What Even is Exercise Frequency?
Exercise frequency is the number of times that you train throughout the week. It's the number of workout sessions that you go through during your weekly schedule.
For example, if you went into the gym every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, your exercise frequency would be 3x/week.
When you take a look at your exercise frequency, you need to keep in mind that you're likely going to be working different muscles and different movement patterns each session.
If you were to run a full-body split 4 days a week, you would have be hitting the chest muscles 4 days a week. However, compare this to a Push, Pull, Legs split that has you training in the gym 6 days a week, but only hitting the muscles of the chest twice a week.
This is definitely something to think about, and something to take into consideration when you're picking the right training frequency for yourself.
And your ideal training frequency is going to depend on several factors such as your experience level, recovery ability, preferences, schedule and more.
But don't worry, we'll get into all of that down below.
Benefits of Lower Training Frequency
The main benefit of a lower training frequency is that it allows for more recovery time throughout the week.
If you're only training in the gym 3-4 days a week, you're going to have a lot of days off, and a lot of time to recover from your workouts.
This generally means that lower training frequency leads to a higher intensity level for each individual workout session.
For everyone, the more often you train, the lower the intensity or workout volume you're going to be able to perform for each session.
This is because of our limited ability to recover between workouts. And if you're constantly going all out in your sessions, but scheduling yourself to train in the gym 6 days a week, you're going to quickly burn out or realize that you're not training very optimally.
However, training less often is going to allow you to push harder each session.
This may mean that lower training frequencies could appeal to those who really like to push themselves to maximal efforts and often.
You've usually got 2 days in between workout sessions, and therefore have the freedom to train very, very intensely that you wouldn't have if you chose to run a higher training frequency.
And also, since you've got more recovery time throughout the week or more days off, you're able to put aside more of your time into doing the things that you love, or things that might be more important to you than working out (such as time with the family or your job).
Training less frequently also means that you're less likely to head into the gym still feeling sore from the previous workout.
Usually, you're going to have 1-2 days in between your sessions to recover. Most of the time this is enough to get rid of the muscle tightness and soreness from previous sessions.
This makes lower training frequencies more suitable for beginners, who may not have been able to fit a new workout program into their schedules yet, or may not be able to recover from workouts very quickly and efficiently yet.
For example, our Beginner's Foundational Strength and Hypertrophy training program utilizes a 3x/week full-body split to help lifters learn proper form and really grasp the concept of lifting without committing too much into the gym to start with.
And of course, it makes sense for anyone who runs a very tight schedule and doesn't have too much time to spare to run a lower training frequency.
A low training frequency is usually done hitting more muscle groups each session. For example, training 3x/week really only allows for lifters to run a full-body split. Anything else would result in a suboptimal training frequency for each muscle group.
A study conducted by Brad Schoenfeld concluded that: "the current body of evidence indicates that frequencies of training twice a week promote superior hypertrophic outcomes to once a week. It can therefore be inferred that the major muscle groups should be trained at least twice a week to maximize muscle growth".
And so in order to lifters to meet this training frequency requirement, a full-body split is really the only viable option (however an Upper/Lower split does work well for training 4x/week too).
Key Takeaways: A lower training frequency allows for more recovery time throughout the week, and also the freedom to train closer to maximal efforts in each individual session as you've got more time to rest. A low training frequency also allows for less time committed to the gym and more time to do things that you love, or things that are more important to you such as spending time with friends and family.
Benefits of Higher Training Frequency
Training with a higher frequency (5-6x/week) does have its benefits too.
Usually, training more often means that you're able to accumulate more total workout volume throughout the week and can also run more specific training splits.
You won't be able to train as intensely in each session (due to recovery costs), but can accumulate more total volume throughout the week.
This means that generally, higher training frequencies are going to be more suitable for intermediate-advanced lifters who require more workout volume to get the results that they want and to continue making progress.
You'll also find that you feel less sore after each workout due to not training as intensely. You won't feel as limited performing your everyday tasks due to muscle tightness.
With a higher training frequency you may also find that you have more opportunities to practice your technique and experiment with new things.
For example, if you're going to try and add a new exercise into your training program, you're going to want to have more time to commit to it so that you can learn proper form and really master the exercise quicker.
And, of course, if you simply enjoy training in the gym and look forward to it everyday, you get to do it more often if you run a higher frequency training split.
Lots of us enjoy going to the gym everyday. Lots of us enjoy working out and often, it's one of the most enjoyable parts of our day.
And if you're going to run a higher frequency training split you're able to enjoy training more often.
In terms of training splits, you've got lots of options when it comes to training with a high frequency.
You can choose to run a traditional split such as a Push, Pull, Legs split, an Arnold split, a high frequency full-body split, or a combination of anything really.
Learn more: What's the best workout split?
Key Takeaways: A higher frequency training split is going to allow lifters to accumulate more total volume throughout the week and also commit more time into the gym, which makes it easier to learn new things and master what they're doing. Lifters also get more time to work out throughout the week (if it's something that they enjoy doing).
How to Pick the Right Training Frequency For You
Picking the right training frequency for you comes down to several important factors. We'll go over what these are and how you can take them into account and make the best decision for yourself.
We'll get into what these factors are and help you pick one depending on how these factors apply to you.
This is one of the most important factors for you to be thinking about. Ultimately, the training frequency, split and program that you enjoy doing and can stick to is going to be the most ideal for you to be running.
If you're running a training program that you can't stay committed to, and you find it tough to get into the gym each day, you'll have no motivation and your training won't be as good. You won't get good results.
So pick the one that you prefer to run. If you prefer to train just 3 days a week, that's absolutely fine. If you want to get in the gym 6 days a week, that's fine too.
This is also very important. You have to pick something that's going to work for you and your schedule. There's no point picking to get in the gym 6 days a week if your schedule can't possible fit that in.
So work around your schedule. Take a look at your work, take a look at your family time, sleep schedule and then pick a number of days that you can fit into the gym without causing yourself too much hassle or too much stress.
For example, trying to rush and fit in a gym session right before work might cause you too much stress and trouble. If it's really the ONLY time you could train, then you'd want to reduce it down to as little days as possible during the week to give yourself some time to breathe.
The more often you train the more sleep you're going to need to recover. If you're running on just 6 hours a night (or less), it might not bee too practical to try and get into the gym 6 days a week.
You simply don't have enough time to recover between workouts and it's going to be tough for you to get into the gym and train hard frequently if you're not getting enough sleep.
Generally, you should be looking to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
But if you find that you can't fit this into your schedule, then you may have to pick a slightly lower training frequency so that you can actually recover enough and train efficiently.
The goals that you have in fitness are important as well.
For example, if you're trying to lose weight, and you rely on doing cardio/weightlifting to burn some extra calories each day and reach a caloric deficit, you're going to want to get into the gym pretty frequently. Probably 5-6 days a week.
However if you're trying to build muscle, then you can pick whatever one you want and pick the one that works for you better.
If you're training for something like strength gain and want to lift as much weight as possible, then it might make sense for you to get in the gym as often as possible, provided you're able to recover from all your intense workouts.
Strength is a skill. And as with any skill in life you'll get better at it by practicing it more and more. So you'll want to get in the gym as often as possible, provided you're still able to recover and put in a good effort each session.
You'll have to weigh everything and pick a training frequency that works for you and your workout goals.
Food and Nutrition
The amount of food and nutrition that you can get into your body also plays a huge role in determining the most optimal training frequency for you.
This factor is quite similar to sleep. The more often and more intensely you train, the more food and energy you're going to need to get through the week smoothly.
However, if you're not able to fit in more than 2-3 meals a day but are planning to get into the gym 6 days a week, you're setting yourself up for stress and a lot of fatigue throughout the week.
You need to ensure that the training frequency you choose to run is something that you can handle in terms of your food and nutrition. The more you train, the more food/energy you're going to need.
Like we mentioned earlier, certain training frequencies do suit certain experience levels a little more.
For example if you're more of a beginner and aren't yet able to recover from intense workouts very quickly, you're likely going to have to stick to a less frequent training split to allow for enough recovery time in between sessions.
However if you're more of an intermediate or advanced lifter, then you'll likely need a little more volume to keep making gains and therefore need a slightly higher training frequency in order to avoid excessively long workouts.
Generally, split by training experience these are going to be the most optimal guidelines for you:
Beginners: 2-3x/week (probably full body)
Intermediates: 3-5x/week (full body or split)
Advanced: 4-6x/week (full body or split)
Still Not Sure?
If you're still unsure of the most optimal training frequency for you, the best way to find out is simply going to be testing everything.
Depending on your training experience, you can test and trial all the possible training frequencies that suit you!
For example, if you're an intermediate lifter you could try experimenting with training 3x/week, 4x/week and also 5x/week if you're able to do all three. Then you can simple pick the one that you enjoy running the most and experienced the most gains with.
If you would like some help with this you can contact us and we'll see how we can help you out!
Picking the right training frequency for you doesn't have to be as confusing as some people make it out to be.
You have to know the benefits of your options, weigh everything and keep all those factors that we mentioned above in mind when you come to decide on a training frequency.
I hope you've enjoyed reading through this article and have found it helpful!
If you did remember to share it with your friends so that we can reach more people and help more reach their fitness goals!