Regardless of where you are in your fitness journey, you may have wondered how often you should be working out. Is it better to skip the gym a few days each week? Or will you reap more benefits from an every-day commitment?
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Everyone's different. But if you want to work out six days a week, you need to consider a few things. For one, how your body manages stress. "Training stress boils down to volume and intensity (i.e., how much and how hard you train)," says Geoff Tripp, CSCS, certified personal trainer and head of fitness at Trainiac, who recommends a mix of hard, medium and easy workouts each week to optimize results and reduce risk of injury.
Your ideal weekly training volume also depends on how long you've been exercising consistently, Tripp says. Generally, the longer your workout history, the more stress your body can handle. Conversely, a newcomer will likely need time to build a fitness base and should be careful about doing too much too soon, Tripp says.
But if you're ready to commit to six sweat sessions in a week, the following tried-and-true tips — along with an exercise plan designed by Tripp — will help you heed your body's signs (always listen to what it's telling you!) and train safely and efficiently.
1. 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.
2. 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 injury, according to the American Council on Exercise.
Read more: 10 Signs Your Workout Isn't Working
3. 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.
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.