Monday, June 27, 2011

How many days a week should you lift???

Over the years I've experimented with a variety of different training splits.  I've tried the traditional single body part split, you know- where you train one body part per day Monday through Friday (typical Muscle & Fitness routine).   I've done the upper body / lower body split, which was a four day program, basically upper body on Monday and Thursday and Lower body on Tuesday and Friday.

Recently, I was using a 3 day split, a total body routine each training day with a different emphasis on the BIG movements each session.  I've never tried lifting 2 days a week but in the near future it is something that I will probably consider so that I can do more sled / sprint training / med ball training.  During the winter or spring would be a great time to set up a 2 day lifting routine in South Florida because the weather is usually perfect for outdoor activity.

One conclusion I have come to is there is NO perfect program.  Sure, every program can work, but there is not one specific program that is the "holy grail" of strength training.  Of course your specific goal will come in to play when deciding which type of program to use and regardless of your goals they can be achieved lifting 2, 3, 4, or 5 days a week. 

Rather than the frequency of your training sessions (days per week) you should look into the type of exercises you are doing, the amount of set and reps, tempo of movements, and rest time between sets/exercises.  The majority of people I encounter want to build muscle, get leaner, and gain strength all at the same time.  Some choose to lift weights 2 days a week and some would rather train with weight 5 days a week.  Most of the time the exercises performed during the training sessions along with the amount of work done during that training session will not get someone closer to their goal.  When too many things are trying to be achieved at the same time the results will be mediocre at best.   It is very common to get stuck in a rut with training and continue the same Monday through Friday routine- we are creatures of habit. 

So, how many days a week should you lift?  I wish I had the "correct" answer.  The best advice I can give is to switch from what you are doing now if you are not progressing to your goal and  you've been on the same program for more than 6 weeks.  I would not advise anyone except for a potential bodybuilder or figure competitor to lift more than 4 days a week.  I think for most people a 3 day a week lifting routine would be optimal.  However, once your goals plateau or you get bored and complacent, switching to a 4 day routine would probably be a positive change.

The most important thing is not to develop program ADD, jumping from program and training split every two weeks.  When it is all said and done, exercise selection and intensity are more important than just about everything regarding the training environment.  If you are avoiding "full" squats and resorting to the leg extension as your main lower body exercise, you don't need to worry about training frequency, you should reevaluate your whole approach to proper lifting and conditioning.

I've been looking for the "perfect" program for the past 20 years, if anybody has any suggestions I'd be glad to give them a shot.  Since I just switched up my current training routine, my motivation and mindset have become more positive, that alone is worth the change....


Anonymous said...

Dan Gable of wrestling fame said "If it is important, do it every day. If not, don't do it at all". That could mean cutting out all the bullshit isolation stuff that eats into recovery without adding much to the actual lifts.


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Damon Brobst CSCS said...

I agree! I've learned the hard way that 23 different isolation shoulder exercises in a routine is just plain stupid. Jim Wendler and Dan John provide awesome information on practical lifting information, and they're both strong as hell. I just wish I picked up some of their info and put down that "Flex" magazine a long time ago.