How many times a week should I train?’ is a common question asked by gym goers, but the answer is more than just a number, says Australian Institute of Fitness WA Fitness Coach Kirby Larsen.
The number of times to train per week, along with training intensity really depends on what your goal is, as well as your availability and how long you have been training.
The main goal that Personal Trainers come across is fat loss. Guidelines put together by the Australian Government at the Department of Health and Ageing suggest participating in at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at a low/moderate intensity, 5-7 days a week.
These guidelines are based on goals that include improved health and fat loss, however if you go above and beyond these guidelines, you will reach your fat loss goal sooner and see better improvements in their health.
Beginners: Some precautions will need to be taken if you’re new to exercise. As a beginner, your body will not be acclimatised to the effects of exercise and may need one or two days in between sessions for the body to adapt. These rest days help to mend, strengthen and adjust your body in preparation for the next session.
For goals such as improving fitness the American College of Sports Medicine recommend a frequency of 3-4 times a week at high intensities. This can be achieved via both aerobic and anaerobic types of cardiovascular training so long as it is continued for between 20-40 minutes at high intensities.
The recommendations are at 3-4 days to allow your body to adapt and fully recover before completing another session. Recovery is very important to reduce the risk of injury, which may come from training too hard too quickly and over stressing the body.
Improving Muscle Strength
For goals concerning muscle strength and hypertrophy you need to change the training stimulus from cardiovascular to strength or resistance training. How long you have been training is also very important to consider when strength training.
Beginners: You will require a larger number of rest days in between sessions to allow your body to get use to the stimulus and repair their muscles before loading them up again.
As you become more familiar with resistance training and sessions become easier, you are then able to overload and progress them to higher intensities, increasing their stimulus.
Progressions can be made to eventually training 2-3 times per week, as a base line, lifting heavy to very heavy weights and performing up to 8 sets or until failure. If reps are in the lower ranges, 8 reps and below you can make this harder again by increasing the number of sets performed.
When you become advanced in strength training you can then participate in resistance training most days of the week so long as your body has been able to slowly adapt to the stressful stimulus and the appropriate rest is given. Prescribing split programming to stress different muscle groups on subsequent days is one way of achieving strength gains while giving the appropriate rest to the fatigued muscle groups.
The Magic Number
So in conclusion, there is no magic number, no magic system, no one size fits all. By getting out there, being active, and getting the assistance of a Personal Trainer you will receive your health and fitness gains.