Everybody wants the easy way out.
Ten minute arms.
Eight minute glutes.
Six minute abs.
Ya know what nobody wants?
That building muscle and transforming your body takes HARD 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.
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.
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.