If you’re a bodybuilder, the answer to how often you should workout is going to depend on what your goals are. If you want to build muscle and strength, then 3-5 days per week is plenty.
However, if your goal is weight loss or general fitness improvement, then exercise less frequently (2-3 times per week) with higher intensity workouts like HIIT training.
If you’re a bodybuilder who wants to make your muscles grow bigger and stronger as quickly as possible, then three-five days per week is the way to go! This will help you pack on mass and develop that lean look we all love so much.
1. Rely On Compound Movements
Compound movements like squats, deadlifts, and pull-ups all require high amounts of muscle mass to be working in unison.
Additionally, compound movements also allow us to typically add higher amounts of metabolic stress to the body (loads) which has been shown to increase muscle hypertrophy and growth.
2.Incorporate Active Recovery
When you hit the gym six out of seven days, not every gym session should be a high-impact, high-intensity experience. “Your workouts don’t always have to be stressful on your body to see results,” says Tripp, adding that lighter days are important too.
That’s because taking an active recovery day — think: yoga, hiking, or mobility training — is like pressing a reset button for your body. “It’s actually the time between your hard efforts where adaptation takes place,” Tripp says
He recommends planning at least one full rest and/or recovery day a week, which will help your body absorb the training stress and ultimately, improve your fitness level.
3.Don’t Skip On Rest Periods
While you are on a time crunch, you need to realize that allowing yourself to rest and recover between sets has been shown to increase your ability to move weight, perform higher quality repetitions, and maximize growth.
Keeping the rest period too short will diminish your ability to move moderate to heavy loads for adequate rep ranges, maintain proper positioning, and could derail your ability to place stress on the muscles.
Make sure the muscle is fatiguing out, rather than your cardiovascular systems or other body parts. If you find that your huffing and puffing in leg presses and give out, rather than your quads screaming at you, then you need to rest longer.
4.Vary Your Workouts
“Doing the same cycle of workouts at the same intensity won’t lead to long-term fitness gains,” Tripp says. That’s because your body will eventually adapt to the stress. And when that happens, your progress slows, and you’re likely to hit a plateau and become burned out.
To continue making gains, variation is key. Switching things up with cross-training — varying strength, cardio and HIIT sessions — adds balance to your week and keeps things interesting, Tripp says. What’s more, a little variety in your weekly workouts also increases weight loss and lowers your odds of an injury, according to the American Council on Exercise.
Tips for preventing soreness
To prevent DOMS, cool down after exercising. Unlike a warmup, during a cooldown, you’re gradually bringing your heart rate down and adjusting your body back to a resting state.
Start with a gentle walk or easy spin on a stationary bike for 5 to 10 minutes. Stretching for the next 5 to 10 minutes can also help clear out lactic acid from the body. Lactic acid builds up when you exercise and can cause a burning feeling in your muscles. Clearing it out will allow you to bounce back sooner when you next work out.
You can also use a foam roller to release any tension after exercise.
In the days following your muscle soreness, these recovery workouts may help prevent or reduce soreness:
- stretching or resistance band exercises
- walking or easy hiking
- swimming laps
- easy cycling
If you’re starting a new fitness routine or trying a new type of exercise for the first time, it’s important to go slow at first. Gradually increasing the intensity and frequency of exercise will help prevent soreness. And remember to always get your doctor’s approval before starting a new exercise routine.
Depending on your fitness level and how sore you are, you can usually resume workouts within a few days to a week following recovery. Work with a certified fitness professional to create an exercise regimen that’s safe and effective for you.
5.Focus On Quality, Not Quantity
While volume is an important factor in muscle growth, it’s important to remember that more is not always better. First and foremost, your goal should be to produce as much muscle soreness and fatigue, in as few sets as possible (while adhering to rep ranges). You can do this by controlling the loads, during them in the full range of motion, and putting your best effort into every set.
Many people make the mistake of doing too much, with every set and rep being suboptimal, lacking focus and intensity. Focus on doing things correctly instead of doing a bunch of suboptimal reps.
In general, if you cannot feel a muscle working and fatiguing out after 2-3 sets, there is a good chance you are not controlling the weight, doing the full range of motion, or not training with a load that is challenging enough (assuming you are training within the 5-25 rep range). For best results, perform reps of 8-15.
What are the benefits?
If you’re slightly sore, an “active” recovery may be beneficial. It may feel good too:
- stretch out sore muscles
- do light resistance exercises, such as core strengthening workouts
- do low-intensity cardio, such as walking or swimming
You can also focus on muscle groups that you didn’t work previously. For example, add in an arm weight workout the day after a run.
In addition to feeling good, light recovery exercise may offer other health benefits. Mobility, or full-range, exercises like walking or easy cycling lead to more blood pumping through the muscles. This increase in blood flow may help you recover from soreness sooner. That is, as long as you aren’t overloading or challenging the muscles more.
Recovery exercises may even offer the same benefits as getting a massage. One studyTrusted Source compared soreness in a group of participants 48 hours after they performed upper trapezius muscle exercises.
Some participants received a 10-minute massage following the workout. Others performed exercises with a resistance band. Researchers concluded that both recoveries were equally effective in temporarily helping with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), but more research is needed.
6.Push Hard On The Last Few Sets
Fatigue training is not always necessary, however, it can be a very important catalyst for muscle growth.
I tend to recommend a lifter performs the first two sets with a load that allows them to perform all the prescribed repetitions, and still be able to perform 2-3 good reps (reps in the tank).
The latter sets then, I have them go to technical failure, which means they stop when their form breaks down, which often occurs before they mentally want to stop. The goal is to do good reps to failure, not to break yourself. This makes the load selection key.
What are the risks?
Gentle recovery exercises can be beneficial. But overtraining can be harmful and even dangerous for your health.
If you experience the following symptoms, it’s important to take time off from exercise and allow your body to rest. Let your doctor know about any of the following:
- increased resting heart rate
- depression or mood changes
- increased amount of colds or other illness
- overuse injuries
- muscle or joint pain
- constant fatigue
- decreased appetite
- worsening of athletic performance or little improvement, even after rest
7.Alternate Your Target Muscles
How often you should exercise and which muscle groups you should train all depend on your individual fitness goals. That said, concentrating on the same set of muscles during every workout isn’t a smart strategy.
For instance, six days of upper-body strength training is a recipe for too much stress and possible injury, Tripp says. Managing training stress on your muscles is essential. That’s why, after a heavy strength session, Tripp recommends at least 24 to 48 hours of recovery — so the body can repair tissues — before taxing those same muscles again.
To train safely and effectively, your best bet is to alternate target muscle groups. So if you’re doing upper body on Monday, make Tuesday your leg day. This gives your guns ample time to recuperate and grow stronger.
Many people will rush through (or skip) warm up drills.
Not only does this make you more susceptible to injury (that will certainly derail your goals), it also doesn’t allow you to warm up so that you can get after it out of the gates.
Take the 10 minutes to warm up and do the movement prep drills for that specific day, and then jump into the workout.
This will help decrease injury risks and increase your performance (and increasing performance means you can train harder).
9.Control The Weight
Controlling the movement throughout the entire range of motion is essential for increasing muscle mass and keeping loading on the muscles.
Performing movements with controlled eccentric phases, such as lowering the barbell to the chest in a bench press on a 2 second count, can do wonders for maximizing muscle growth and decreasing injury risks.
When performing a movement, think about visualizing the muscles being used, getting stretched under the load of the weight, and feeling the tension develop in the muscles.
10. Lifting Heavy Isn’t The Priority, But You Still Need To Lift Heavy-Ish!
Up to this point, you have heard me preach about making sure you control the reps, don’t use momentum, perform them in the full range of motion, and not be concerned with how heavy you lift.
That said, you 100% still need to train with challenging loads. Lifting too light of loads will give you a “workout”, but for some muscle groups will not be the best at maximizing muscle growth.
For this reason, I suggest you perform rep ranges of 8-10 reps on some days, and then on others 12-15, or even 15-20. On the higher rep sets, you should be hitting failure, or very close to it within those ranges using weights that are HEAVY for that range.
If you use a weight that you “could” get more than 25-30 if you really had too, then it is most likely too light.
Workout Plan for Exercising 6 Days a Week
This sample one-week plan by Tripp is designed to give you a balance of hard, medium and light days as well as to maximize your fitness gains through a variety of strength, cardio and HIIT workouts.
- Sunday: Rest Day. Spend this doing very light activities like walking, stretching or foam rolling or a total break from exercise.
- Monday: Upper-Body Strength and Core. Combine upper-body movements (both push and pull) that use free weights, your body-weight and/or weight machines with some ab work. Total time should be 30 to 60 minutes.
- Tuesday: Lower-Body Cardio. Do 30 to 60 minutes of lower-body cardio like the elliptical, running or cycling at a moderate intensity.
- Wednesday: Full-Body HIIT. This 30-minute full-body workout should be more strength and endurance based, with a high number of reps and light to moderate resistance.
- Thursday: Easy Cardio. Take a 30-minute brisk walk, easy bike ride or light jog.
- Friday: Lower-Body Strength and Core. Combine lower-body movements (both push and pull) that use free weights, your body-weight and/or weight machines with some ab work. Total time should be 30 to 60 minutes.
- Saturday: Active Recovery. Take an easy yoga class or do some light cardio, take a brisk walk or do a mobility circuit. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes.
In most cases, gentle recovery exercises like walking or swimming are safe if you’re sore after working out. They may even be beneficial and help you recover faster. But it’s important to rest if you’re experiencing symptoms of fatigue or are in pain.
See a doctor if you believe you’re injured, or if the soreness doesn’t go away after a few days.
Even professional athletes take days off. Working rest and recovery days into your regular exercise routine will allow you to perform better the next time you hit the gym.