How Many Days a Week Should You Work Out?

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Training

how many days a week should you workoutEverybody wants the easy way out.

Ten minute arms.

Eight minute glutes.

Six minute abs.

Ya know what nobody wants?

The truth.

That building muscle and transforming your body takes HARD FUCKING WORK.

How many great athletes or physiques have been built in just a few short, half-assed training sessions per week?

None. That’s how many.

Strength Training

The above is not meant to say that you have to lift weights every day. You shouldn’t be doing that. That won’t help you make gains any faster.

To build muscle optimally, the average busy guy would be best served by doing three hard strength training workouts per week. The reason I say three and not four is because you also have to make time for conditioning. That means at least one or two hard hill sprint, sled or bike sessions.

Conditioning is essential. You can’t skip it. It helps you get lean and in shape. Being big, strong and out of shape ain’t cool. You want be all three.

Now, if you do all that, you’ve got four hard workouts per week. That’s a lot. You need your sleep, stress and nutrition to be on point in order to recover from that. But it’s what it takes to get the job done.

If you’ve been training for a long time and have proven that you can handle that work load you may be able to get away with adding a fourth strength training session. But I’d make it an easy day. So something like pumping up the guns with moderate weights and high reps.

Some people prefer more than four strength training days per week but that’s a hell of a lot to recover from. The only way that can really work is if you are training very submaximally. But I really see no point in that nor is it remotely enjoyable.

I’d much rather do yoga or for a swim then do an easy workout. I know most Renegades share that sentiment and like to train hard.

When you’re giving it all you’ve got and putting your balls on the line, less is more. You can look great with three hard workouts and 1-2 conditioning sessions.

If it’s totally out of the question for you to squeeze in that extra day for conditioning then you can simply add some sprint, sled or bike intervals to the end of one or two workouts each week. All you need is 10-15 minutes and you’ll be good to go. Kettlebell swings also fit well into the post workout finisher category.

Another option is to do a double session on one of those lifting days if time permits. Maybe you get up 30 minutes early and go outside for some hill sprints, or hop on the Air Assault bike before work, then hit the gym on your way home, later that day. There are plenty of ways to get it in.

I’d look at your time management and priorities. There should be time scheduled into every single day for fitness. It’s as important as brushing your teeth. You only get one body.

Mobility Work

In addition to strength training and conditioning everyone needs to make time for mobility work. Your mobility generally gets worse as you get older. This is largely due to a sedentary lifestyle and years of bad habits/postures. If you don’t make the time to undue this on a daily basis you will constantly be in more and more pain.

Dedicate at least 15 minutes per day, every single day, to mobility work. This can consist of various movement drills, isometric yoga poses and smashing/flossing your unhealthy tissues with various balls, bands and rollers.

But 15 minutes is the daily minimum. If you can dedicate 30 minutes a few days per week to this you’ll be even better off.

Low Intensity Cardio

The other thing to fit into your weekly schedule is low intensity conditioning. High intensity work is great but it’s as stressful to the body as strength training. So it’s hard to recover from.

Low intensity work actually enhances your recovery between hard training sessions. So make some time at least 2-3 days per week to go for a long hike, walk, bike ride, etc. for 30 minutes.

Ideally, you want your heart rate to be at 65-70% of max (220 minus your age) during this session. I prefer to do this first thing in the morning. The added benefit is that you get exposure to sunlight.

It’s been shown that the sooner you expose yourself to natural light, after waking,  the better you will sleep. So early morning, low intensity cardio has a two major benefits.

The third is that if you do it fasted, before you eat anything, it may help aid in fat loss. That effect can be enhanced by drinking black coffee before you do it. Now, there are plenty of people who will argue that fasted cardio is no more effective than doing it later in the day. On the other side of the coin you have the fact that every ripped bodybuilder in history has done it that way.

You have to take the science, weigh it versus real world evidence, and decide for yourself. I believe it’s easier to do it first thing a great habit to form because of the added benefit of the early exposure to sunlight.


In addition to planned training sessions everyone should play.

It’s incredibly beneficial both physically and mentally to get out and actually play like we did as kids. Join a flag football league, play beach volleyball on the weekends with friends, go hiking, surfing, skiing, or take a martial art.

You need to get out and move and have some fun. If you do this not only will your fitness improve but so will your stress levels and your overall enjoyment of life.

So plan to be active and hitting it hard six days per week if you want to get in great shape.

Everyone who is in great shape does just that.

Success always leaves clues.

Putting it All Together

Here’s what you should be doing each week:

  • 3 strength training workouts of 30-45 minutes
  • 1-2 hard conditioning workouts of 10-20 minutes
  • 2-3 low intensity cardio sessions of 30 minutes
  • 5-7 mobility/soft tissue/yoga sessions of 15-30 minutes
  • 1-2 play sessions

That may look like a lot but it’s actually quite doable and pretty easy to fit in.

Remember, you have to prioritize your health and fitness. Nothing else is more important.

What if I Can Only Train 2-3 Days Per Week?

Again, you’ve gotta get your priorities and time management straight. If something is important to you then you make the time.

And if fitness isn’t important to you we have zero in common and I can’t relate.

That being said…

If you can only make it to the gym 2-3 times a week due to an insane  schedule it’s not the end of the world. You can still make progress. Just know that it will never be optimal.

Don’t delude yourself or fall for some marketing bullshit.

Getting in shape takes time and effort. Most people won’t make the time nor put in the effort. Don’t be one of the 95%. Be one of the 5%.

But like I said, 2-3 days is better than zero and you can still make some gains.

One thing to remember is that a workout doesn’t have to last an hour for it to be worthwhile. Often times when I’m incredibly busy I train at home and my workouts don’t last longer than thirty minutes. So there’s always that option.

All you need at home is a pair of rings. Throw in a kettlebell or two with that and you’re set.

Two can work, but obviously, doing something active 5-6 days will be much, much better if you’re looking to make a dramatic physical transformation.

The human body is built to move; not sit around on the couch.

Remember what Jack LaLanne said- to rest is to rust.

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22 Responses to How Many Days a Week Should You Work Out?

  1. Niel Rishoi April 22, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    When I was younger (much younger) I adopted Steve Reeves’ workout plan: 3 full body workouts 3 times a week. It worked for awhile, meaning a few years, but I did this for much too long, and the sessions themselves for too long a duration – 2+ hours. My body adapted and quit growing. Now I’m up to 6 days a week – 3 days on, one day off, 3 days, etc. Best gains (and fat losses!) ever are happening NOW. Less than hour each time, with the variations throughout the week – farmer’s walks, an unplanned deadlifting session…anything to keep things fresh. I love working out now better than any other time in my life: experience teaches you (hopefully), and what was once a pastime is now, firmly, a lifetime commitment, a part of life like eating, sleeping – that I could never do without.

  2. Trevor-FoundatioNutrition April 22, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    Love the article! As mentioned I have always found the key is finding out what works for you…Assuming you have the correct diet and amount of rest-you will see huge gains with either philosophy….I am a big fan of changing my training up every few months…For example, doing a split routine for maybe 3 months 5 days a week and then for a month do the 3 day a week plan…Love the results and it keeps your body guessing!

  3. Nick April 22, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    I try to train 6-7 a week. As you said, as long as you aren’t working to failure, and aren’t working the same things every single day, working out every day keeps the habit going. Jack Lalane probably never took a day off from exercise in his life. Worked pretty good for him.

    • sid April 22, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

      do you mean full -body workouts like squat deadlift and bench press 6x/week not going to failure? could it be possible if i just go to school each morning and dont train.Secondly do you suggest instead of sprints i go play football for 2 hrs or bust my ass off on my bike instead of sprints after my weight training workouts? apart from that very helpful article thanks…regards and looking forward for ur reply

  4. Michael Hodge April 22, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Hey Jay, how would you recommend adding more training days to uncaged?


  5. Vleit April 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    I actually made great gains using the big beyond belief routine. When you looked past the marketing hype the actual 4 day routine was sound hitting the body 3 times per week. I still hit body parts 2-3 times over 8 days if you include sled or prowler and am leaner than I ever was using high intensity hit routines

  6. Raymond April 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    That’s an excellent guideline. I worked out too frequently (5-6 per week) at the start possibly like most but after I dropped back to the 3 times per week I did get better results and in less time.
    However after a few years I’m back to 4 times per week and that seems to be the sweet sopt for me.

  7. David April 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    Well, very interesting article, though I find I can only train effectively with a heavy full body session only once a week. Admittedly, I train to failure, and look to progress in weight or reps each session, though I keep these sessions to 45 mins or less.
    I am prone to DOMS anyway, and while DOMS will subside after 3 to 4 days, a full week is needed to ensure I progress for the next session. This has been the case whether my lifestyle outside the gym had been beach bum to busy with a stressful job, or with 3xweek running sessions in-between or not. While I am in intermediate to advanced lifter, I have always wondered how I could be more effective, and envied those who can lift more frequently. You’d probably say – don’t train to failure, but that’s what I also enjoy about training – go heavy or go home : )

  8. Craig L. April 22, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    While I am of the opinion that weight training should be limited to no more than 5 days per week, I try to get in some from of physically beneficial activity each and every day – even if it’s just 10 or 15 minutes of jumping rope before my wife and daughters get up in the morning on the days I am taking a break from weight training. Over time this makes a huge difference in your body fat levels and overall physical conditioning.

  9. K.Gopal Rao April 23, 2012 at 5:31 am #

    At 72, I’ve been doing, for the last 10 yrs or so, 5 workouts a week, of which 3 bodywt and two resistance, about 50 min each. This in the mornings, and again 5 evenings a week some cardio (power walking @ my level, i.e. 3.5 mph for 1.5 miles in 26 min). Fat loss results not too good (maybe I eat too much), but fitness feeling level ok. How essential is it to switch from 3bodywt+2 res workouts weekly, to 5 mixed bodywt & res? Some advice on this would be appreciated.

  10. Tyler English April 23, 2012 at 7:43 am #

    Great stuff brotha! Being a Pro Bodybuilder I’ve struggled in the past with overtraining. I’ve found my best strength and hypertrophy success with 3 and 4 times per week training programs in my offseason. Of course as I embark on my 2012 season I’ll work periods of 5 and 6 day training splits back into my program, but will increase the mobility and recovery work too. Thanks for the knowledge.

  11. David - The Natural Health Service April 24, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    Having always found it difficult to make any progress I used to read a lot of Stuart McRobert’s articles, and he often advocated full body workouts twice per week. However I never found that to work too well, and found three times per week to be better. I’ve tried four times on a two way split, but did not get on well with that either. But that may be because I trained too heavy. So three times per week for me, but I may try four again, but not pushing so hard, and see how it goes.

  12. dave October 23, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    im 41 + train one body muscle per day x 4 days a wk. 3 off. im doing 5 sets of 10 reps. im on 30g protein + 50g cards. every 4 hrs 4 x per day. recently cut down my carbs intake. is this the best way to train for maximum muscle growth + strength. is my diet rite? thanks

  13. Jacob Hunt November 15, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    i am a Highschool football player and i was wondering what can i do to increase my max weight? And just overall become a better power lifter

  14. Darren December 3, 2012 at 7:07 am #

    Jason, I am 330 pounds at approx 35% body fat and have recently begun Craig Ballantyne’s Turbulence Training program. A lot of his programs for out of shape weenies like me are geared towards either 3 or 4 days per week weight training. In addition to being a fat bastard I lack a fair bit of muscle and strength. Would it be worthwhile dedicating 2 days per week to strength training or would it be more advisable to wait until my fitness is more advanced than it is at present?

  15. Brad January 20, 2013 at 1:48 am #

    Good article and good ‘ guide line ‘ , the only issue I have is it all depends on ones age and condition . When I was younger I would train 5, 6 days a week and because of my youthful hormones could continue this schedule for quite a few weeks. Now that I’m older I do best on infrequent training , 3 days the most , and actually am stronger and more muscular , its all individualized.

  16. Dan April 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    If you listen to Mike Metzner you should only workout once every nine days lol

  17. JBrigga May 27, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    My focus is to burn fat. so all my workouts generally target the full body rather than specific body sections for that day, and I target about 5-6 workouts a week. I also find exercises that activate or engage more muscle groups simultaneously to be super effective. I also include at least one cardio session in the week (but all my workouts incorporates some form of cardio element when i shorten my rest periods).

  18. Francis June 3, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    I train just 2-3 days a week, but I am mostly fine with that. As I have a pretty active lifestyle otherwise so this suits me, however not sure if this would work for everyone.

  19. Muhammad Abubakar June 5, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    How I will get muscle and what should I have to eat to get big biceps and all muscles.

  20. Elie February 2, 2015 at 5:58 am #

    Have you ever heard if kinobody by Greg O Galleger? His programs consist if 3 45 minute workouts per week training mostly in the 5-7 rep range 3 sets per exercise, one or maybe two exercises per muscle group. I must say I was skeptical at first as most programs have at least 4 days per week but have seen incredible gains with it as I’ve added inches to my arms shoulders and chest in 2 months. He has a jaw dropping physique which he claims he claims was bouilt working out 3 hrs per week and after the results I got I gotta believe it.