“How Many Times Per Week Should I Go to the Gym?”
To understand gym frequency is to understand the concept of a double edged sword. On one side, we have a blade that will yield development, the positive adaptations our bodies make when we challenge it with load, pace, and volume. We get leaner, stronger, add muscle, burn fat, and become more able. This is what the overwhelming majority of folks receive. Yet, on the other side is an opposing blade that will yield negative destruction for the minority who choose to swing it recklessly. The overuse side of the sword that places chronic tax on the body, the overdose of stress on our systems, the degradation of our connective tissue and joints from too much frequency.
The best way to have overwhelming long term success with an S&C program is to understand the duality of those opposing sides, and how to make sure we’re always accessing the correct side of the blade.
Sweet Spot: 3-4 Classes
Please understand this: Our program is not designed for your every day attendance in mind. Sure, you could attend everyday and the manner in which we program would technically allow you to do so, but it not recommended because it’s simply not needed to get where you want to be. We don’t do bodybuilding splits. Meaning, Monday is not leg day. Tuesday is not chest day, etc. We also don’t do isolated cardio like a treadmill or a boot camp gym. Everyday is human body day and while there is always a bias in that particular day, there is no part of your body that experiences complete rest from one day to the next. The reason our training is so damn effective is the same reason that you can possibly overdo it.
There are no machines here. No leg press, no lat pulldown. Every movement we do asks that your entire body play a role. Every single one, making the following factors at play when it comes to adaptation and recovery:
- Joints, Tendons, Connective Tissue — They need rest and recovery just as muscles, sometimes more.
- Muscle Repair — Muscle only grows when it’s recovering. Let it.
- CNS Recovery — Strength days are difficult to recover from. If you train daily then you don’t allow those strength gains to occur because you hammer your body with more volume when it’s in recovery mode.
- Fat Burn — Overtraining can elevate cortisol, make you catabolic and actually work against your ability to burn fat. Especially if you are underfed, and many folks who overdo the gym often “underdo” their intake. You know your friend who crushes cardio all the time and still looks the same? Yeah…
Attending three to four classes per week is the best way to ensure that you continue to progress and develop without running the risk of overuse injuries.
Excessive: +5 Classes
Coming to the gym sore is one thing. Coming to the gym sore as your permanent resting state is another. We’ve written before about how you don’t need to slam an entire bottle of tequila to cop a buzz. The law of diminishing returns will kick in and you will get less from the results that you put forth when the stimulus is overdosed. In fact, any overdose of any stimulus worsens how you feel and we can never forget that fitness is a stimulus. We challenge our body, we push it beyond its current physical limits so that it can temporarily break down and rebuild with a new capacity. Whether or not that stimulus nets out to be a favorable stress (eustress) or negative stress (distress) depends entirely upon which side of the blade you’re using.
That is what fitness is, and when you take your training to more than five days per week you begin to cross the line from positive eustress into potential negative distress.
No one is free of this dichotomy. A runner can quickly go from the developmental side of the blade to the destructive side of the blade. Shin splints. Stress fractures. The better alternative to pounding the gym everyday is to develop more healthy habits as part of your day. Train yourself to take 10,000 steps in a day. Clean up your diet. Disassociate from seeing the gym as the Clark Kent to poor lifestyle choices.
If you insist on daily attendance, then you must be smart. There are days where you will likely be better served by progressions or alternative movements, by going lighter, may throttling back. Listen to your back if it’s sore. Listen to your knee if it’s cranky. If your performance begins to suffer, we have a newsflash for you. It ain’t the programming. It’s your recovery and lack thereof. This is very common for beginners once they exit out of the novice stage. Reason being, there is something called “The Beginner Phenomenon”, where gains happen rapidly and steadily your first year. This is because the stimulus is all brand new. However, once you adapt, the progress slows. That’s physiology, and the answer isn’t more. It’s less. A greater focus on recovery.
Minimum Effective Dose: 2 Classes
Believe it or not two days per week will provide you with profound results assuming that your diet, the real driving force in health change is where it needs to be. Nutrition will always be the biggest variable to change and if you’re pairing sound diet with two focused days in the gym where you work hard, challenge yourself, and maximize your time spent in the gym then you’re going to say major positive change.
147 saw a REE-diculous amount of results in six weeks from January to Mid February just by focusing on what goes in your mouth. Nutrition rules all.
Some of our longest tenured members of over eight years train here just twice per week and have made some of the most impressive progress of all. There is a lot to be said for the tortoise approach over the hare, and at two days you ensure that you are staying healthy, not overworking and allowing yourself more deliberate progress that tends to stick around.
Try to settle into a routine of about three to four days per week, going on long walks or maybe a run on off days, and make sure to take one to two days where you do absolutely nothing. Fitness is a marathon, not a sprint and if you make it such you’ll burn out before the race ends.
Respect the process of recovery and the fact that adaptation only occurs during it.