Consistency is the key to progress. Therefore, you must put enough hours into your gym sessions to reach your fitness or weight loss goals. But, how often should you go to the gym? Are three times a week enough?
Here’s a guide on how often you should go to the gym and all you need to know about exercise frequency to get the most out of your physical activity.
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So, How Often Should You Go to the Gym?
There’s no gold standard on how often you should go to the gym. This belief is especially true if you have to account for other exercise parameters, like volume, intensity, and the fact that every person is different.
How often you go to the gym depends on your body, schedule, and fitness goals. Even if you want to work out five or six times a week, your body may feel like crap at the end of the week.
- For general fitness: 4-5 days per week
But generally, I would suggest going to the gym four to five days a week if you want to keep in shape or for general fitness.
- For muscle gains or building strength: 3-4 days per week
If your goal is muscle tone and building strength, try three to four days a week. If you do full-body exercises, try not to focus consecutively on the same muscle groups. A 2016 study even showed that training each muscle group twice a week can lead to better gains in lean muscle mass.
Protein is essential for building muscle. Check out my review of one of the best pre-or post-workout protein supplements: The Muscle Milk Pro Series 50.
- For weight loss: 5-6 days per week
If your goal is to lose weight, going to the gym five to six days a week is okay. It keeps you in the habit of working out and staying active while giving your body enough time to recover.
With this goal, it’s essential to calculate the calories and how many extras you want to burn. Cardiovascular exercise burns more calories. Weight training also helps you become fitter and healthier.
Regular rest days are necessary if you’re lifting weights
Dedicate two adequate rest days, wherein you do less intense movement than your normal workout routine.
Also, remember that the ideal workout frequency is about the number of hours you work in the gym and what you do during that training. For instance, you may train four times a week and allot two days for leg training. Or you may be doing a full-body split three times a week, meaning you’re targeting your leg muscles thrice weekly.
While the first workout plan has a higher overall exercise frequency, it is the second plan (full-body split) that gives your legs a higher workout frequency. That’s remarkably a week versus twice.
To maintain good health, even if you aren’t working out, engage in at least half an hour of physical activity daily.
How to Find Your Ideal Workout Frequency
Your ideal workout frequency depends on several factors, including your fitness goal, age and experience, and lifestyle preferences.
Each individual has responsibilities, whether taking care of a family, working full-time, attending school, or some combination. A professional builder may be able to spend more time in a gym than a busy working parent, but both types of people can find their ideal workout frequency.
Here are some questions to help you find your ideal workout frequency:
What do you want to achieve?
You can do that by finding out your “why.” Go beyond the reasons of wanting to lose weight, increase muscle tone, improve endurance, or build strength. For instance, it could be that you want to be more confident with women or men, to live longer so you can spend more time with your family, to bulk up, or to push yourself to achieve something you’d be proud of.
What’s your exercise history?
Have you been lifting weights for years, or is it your first time in the gym? Keep things simple if you’re just getting started. It could be 30 minutes of workout in the gym. Focus on your form and be consistent to move forward.
How much free time do you have per week?
All of us must do things that we cannot skip. So, how many gym sessions are you willing to do? Some people commit to their fitness goals even if the only time they have is during their lunch breaks.
Gauging your workout intensity based on how you feel
Moderate workout intensity
Your workout intensity is at a moderate level when:
- Your breathing quickens, yet you’re not out of breath.
- After about ten minutes of workout, you develop a light sweat.
- You can’t sing but can comfortably talk.
Vigorous workout intensity
Your workout intensity is at a vigorous level when:
- Your breathing is rapid and deep.
- You develop a sweat after a few minutes of exercise.
- You can’t carry a conversation without gasping for breath.
You’re pushing yourself too hard, too often.
Beware of overexerting yourself. If you’re in pain, can’t exercise as long as you’d planned, or are short of breath, your workout intensity may already be higher than your fitness level. Stop for a bit and build intensity gradually.
Whatever your fitness goal (adding bulk, weight loss, a healthier routine), take your time to exercise the right way.
What Type of Exercise Should You Do?
We recommend some kind of exercise for everyone to be healthy. According to the CDC, adults should participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity (swimming or brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous physical exercise (aerobic dancing or running) weekly or an equivalent combination of the two.
Additionally, you can achieve more health benefits if you increase your excise time to 300 minutes or moderate aerobic activity per week. Active rest days, such as some walking, can still be considered cardiovascular exercise – just more gentle on your body.
This exercise involves your body weight or gym equipment to build strength, endurance, and muscle mass. For strength training, your gym routine should target all major muscle groups at least twice a week.
Consider weight machines or free weights. Use your body weight, like heavy gardening or rock climbing, if you’re not in the gym. You may also try lunges, planks, or squats. Aim to do a single set of each workout using a heavy resistance or weight level to tire your muscles by about 12 to 15 repetitions.
People Also Ask (FAQs About Exercise Frequency)
Is three times a week in a gym enough?
Yes, three times a week in a gym is enough to maintain good health. Many adults choose to work out more than that, but there’s no need to feel guilty for working out only three days a week.
The three-time-a-week schedule is already good if you’re working out all your muscle groups within those days. But if losing weight is your goal, you may have to exercise more consistently. Just slowly work your way up to four or five days per week.
Is going to the gym four times a week enough?
Yes, going to the gym four times a week is good, especially if you want to gain muscle or increase strength for athletic competition. If you stick to your workout routine and combine it with a proper diet, this number of days is enough for muscle building.
Why do I feel so stiff when working out?
If you felt the initial stiffness when starting to exercise again, it is because of your muscle fibers. These expand and contract when you move your muscles. Gentle recovery exercises, such as swimming and walking, are safe in most cases if you have stiff muscles after working out.
How long should my workouts in the gym be?
At least 45 minutes to an hour of workout per gym day is enough for a great workout. That time will keep you ticking for the rest of the day. It’s vital to also warm up for at least ten minutes before you start exercises.
Do I need more sleep when working out?
Yes, you need more sleep when working out to restore your body’s energy supply. Sleep also allows your muscle tissue to recover between workouts.
Why is knowing the right exercise frequency important?
Knowing the right exercise frequency and intensity is important because they affect the overall results of your exercise routine. Adjustment to these two factors depends on your fitness goals too.
Choose Quality Over Quantity
Knowing how often you should go to the gym is the key to optimizing any workout program for your goals, body, and brain.
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to knowing how many days you should spend in the gym. Ultimately, what matters most when it comes to exercise is quality over quantity. The quality of your workout and diet regimen is more important than the number of days you go to the gym.
I hope the guide above has helped you find the perfect formula for exercise frequency to make the most out of your training.
If you find this page helpful, you might want to read our other tips and reviews at ExpertFitness.org.
Nathan Lloyd, MSc
LICENSED PERSONAL TRAINER
I’m a personal trainer, based in Boulder, Colorado.
I service clients physically in the Boulder area, mainly in the ONE Boulder Fitness Gym, but am also available for online consulting and coaching.
If you’re interested in my personal coaching programs, please contact me via the contact page.