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How Many Days a Week Should I Workout?

By: Holly Smith, D.O. - Osteopathic Medicine, B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

How Many Days a Week Should I Workout

Trying to build the perfect workout plan can seem daunting, even just answering the question of, ‘how many days a week should I workout?'

You need to figure out the best types of exercises based on your goals, plus there are many other factors to consider to get the most out of your efforts.

This includes things like weights, reps, sets, and even how much time a day to devote to your fitness.

And of course, the most important thing to consider is that simple question again, ‘how many days a week should I workout?'

No matter what your fitness goals are, you can get in great shape with a three-day workout plan.

However, this doesn’t mean you should just lay around on your off days.

Being physically active every day is a good rule to maintain a healthy weight and keep yourself accountable for a fit lifestyle.

This could be playing outside with your kids, working around the house, or simply going for a walk after dinner.

Here's what you need to know so you can finally know YOUR answer to, ‘how many days a week should I workout?'

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See the program 38,000 guys over 40 are using to get results like these

Staying Active for General Health

When discussing general fitness, the American Heart Association recommends a total of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week.

However, they also note that you will have even more health benefits by being active at least 300 minutes, or five hours a week.

This also includes muscle-strengthening workouts at least two days per week.

This is a helpful recommendation if you want to maintain general fitness.

And being active can range from formal workouts to everyday outdoor activities with your family, like biking, running, or playing in the backyard.

But a lot of guys are looking for more guidance regarding specific fitness goals, like gaining muscle, losing weight, or a combination of both.

Luckily, there has been a good deal of research in these areas to help you create an ultimate workout plan.

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Weight Loss

The first thing that comes to mind when people think of weight loss is cardio.

But the fact is that if you really want to melt away the fat you are going to need to include both aerobic and strength training exercises.

In fact, studies have shown that increased lean body mass burns more calories at rest than fat mass.

So strength training and increasing your muscle will boost weight loss more than hours of endless cardio.

In addition, when you do only cardio without resistance training, the calories you burn can actually lead to lean muscle loss.

That is why fad diets and quick weight loss plans don’t work!

With these plans, you lose weight quickly, but without resistance training, you also lose lean body mass.

So back to the original question … how many days a week should I workout?

In following the American Heart Association guidelines, at a minimum, you should aim to workout for 150 minutes a week.

To be most effective, you should try to break this into at least three 50-minute workouts a week.

Splitting up your formal exercise into three weekly sessions has a number of benefits.

For one, research has shown that performing full-body exercises three times a week may be more beneficial for muscle growth than working out single muscle groups just once a week.

So instead of splitting up your muscle group workouts across five or six days to target each area, you can effectively build lean muscle mass in just three days.

And as already mentioned, lean muscle is essential for weight loss.

In addition, this schedule allows you to have enough rest in between sessions to avoid overtraining or increasing your risk for injuries.

Plus, a three-day workout week keeps you more accountable to your fitness goals.

See the program 38,000 guys over 40 are using to get results like these

Muscle Gain

So we know that gaining lean muscle and weight loss go hand in hand.

But how many days a week should you workout if you are only looking to gain muscle?

Research suggests that you should train each muscle two to three times a week.

Some guys with an open schedule may be able to split this up and work specific body parts each day.

For example, Monday could be back and biceps day, Tuesday is leg day, and so on.

However, most dads have a more hectic lifestyle and may only have a few days that you can devote to formal exercise.

This may mean doing two to three full-body workouts a week to hit every muscle group.

As it goes, full-body workouts have shown to be quite effective in building muscle mass when done three times weekly.

For example, a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that a training frequency of three days per week produced superior results compared to once a week.

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Three Day Workout Plan

Here is an example of a three-day workout plan.

Be sure to take 48-72 hours between these days to make sure you have enough rest in between sessions.

For example, you could schedule your formal workouts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday … whatever works best for you!

Day 1: Strength Training Full Body Workout

You can devote one of your workout days to a full-body strength training workout.

This means that you will work all of your major muscle groups but with increased rest in between each set, which makes it a little different than a circuit workout.

This allows you to lift heavier weights to increase strength while avoiding injury.

This is a sample workout that incorporates basic weightlifting moves that are the foundation for any great fitness program.

Before every workout start with a 5-10 minute warm-up to get your heart rate up and muscles primed to go.

This could be anything from an easy jog, running in place, or jumping rope.

Main Set

Bench Press

The bench press is one of the best upper body exercises to build strength.

You will work the muscles not only in the chest but also in the triceps and shoulders.

  • Lie on a bench and grab a barbell with a medium-width grip.
  • Lower the bar to your mid-chest.
  • Pause briefly, then press back up until your arms are straight.
  • Repeat for 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
  • You can also do this exercise with dumbbells instead of a barbell.

Deadlifts

This is the ultimate compound exercise that will target your back, glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

You should always start with a low weight to reduce the risk of injury.

Trying to lift too much weight with this exercise will increase your risk of injury.

  • Stand with your mid-foot under a barbell.
  • Hinge forward at your hips and grab the bar at shoulder width.
  • Bend your knees slightly until your shins touch the bar.
  • Engage your traps to take the slack out of the bar.
  • Lift the bar by using your legs and driving your hips forward.
  • Then lower back down.
  • Keep your chest up and your head in a neutral position throughout the movement.
  • Try to complete 3 sets of 6-8 reps.

Bicep Curls

To build the muscles in the arms, bicep curls are an essential exercise to round out the upper body and increase functional strength.

  • Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms hanging by your sides.
  • Curl the weights up to shoulder level while contracting your biceps.
  • Complete 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Bent Over Rows

This exercise will target the large back muscles which are essential for a strong upper body, and performing many everyday movements that require lifting or pulling.

If you feel any pull in the low back, use a lower weight or skip this exercise and do pull-ups instead.

While you want to push yourself to gain fitness, this does not mean pushing yourself into an injury.

  • Hold a barbell with your palms facing down and bend your knees slightly.
  • Hinge forward at the waist while keeping your back straight until it is almost parallel to the floor.
  • The barbell should hang directly in front of you.
  • Lift the barbell up towards your torso.
  • Keep the elbows close to the body.
  • At the top, squeeze the back muscles and hold for a brief pause.
  • Then lower back down.
  • Aim for 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

Squats

Squats are an excellent functional exercise that builds leg and core strength.

The squat movement is used in many daily activities as well, making it an essential exercise to include in any workout program.

This exercise can also be done with a barbell, but utilizing dumbbells will help decrease your risk of lower back injuries.

Also, when doing this exercise, make sure that your knees don’t track over your toes as this places stress on the knees and can lead to joint pain.

  • Stand up straight while holding a dumbbell in each hand with your legs about hip-width apart and your toes pointed slightly outward.
  • Bend the knees and continue down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Then push your heels into the ground and stand back up.
  • Repeat for 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

Overhead Shoulder Press

This shoulder exercise will round out the muscles in the arm and give you a strong upper body.

  • Stand upright and hold a dumbbell in each hand at the shoulders.
  • Push the weights above the head and pause at the top of the motion.
  • Return the dumbbells to the shoulders.
  • Repeat for 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

After you finish cool down with some static stretches that focus on the muscle groups you just targeted.

This 40-minute full-body workout is great for strength training and optimizes your time with a superset workout plan!

Day 2: High-Intensity Interval Training Day

It’s important to perform cardio not only to lose weight but to improve your overall fitness as well.

Aerobic activities like jogging, swimming, or biking are great options.

But it is also fun to mix things up with some high-intensity intervals as well.

This allows you to get in a great workout in a shorter period of time while still burning massive calories and building strength.

For each exercise, perform the movement with as many reps as possible for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.

Burpees

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Squat down and place your hands on the floor.
  • Kick back into a push-up position.
  • Do one push-up.
  • Jump your legs back to a squat and jump up, throwing your hands above your head.
  • Land and repeat.
  • You can perform these with or without a push-up.
  • As your fitness increases, try adding in the push-up.

Squat Jumps

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Hinge at the hips to push your butt back and lower down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Explode off the floor and jump as high as you can.
  • Allow your knees to bend 45 degrees when you land, and then immediately drop back down into a squat, and jump again.

Flutter Kicks

  • Lie on your back and extend your legs up to a 45-degree angle.
  • Keep your arms straight and in line with the floor, palms facing down.
  • Lift your upper body off the ground.
  • While keeping your legs straight, begin alternating each leg up and down in a flutter motion.
  • Try to maintain this motion for the entire 30 seconds.

Push-Ups

  • Start in a plank position, with your shoulders over your wrists and legs out behind you.
  • Contract your abdominal muscles and keep your back straight.
  • As you lower and exhale, bend your elbows outward to the sides.
  • If you cannot do these on your feet you can start on your knees.
  • Eventually, you will be able to perform the standard push-ups as your strength increases.

After completing this circuit, rest for a full minute.

Then repeat two more times though.

This HIIT bodyweight workout can be done at home with NO equipment!

Day 3: Full Body Resistance Day

This weight lifting circuit will allow you to build strength and add a little cardio at the same time by minimizing the rest periods.

Using dumbbells for compound exercises will make the workouts effective, efficient, and will help decrease the risk of injury.

Warm-up with dynamic stretching similar to day one.

Main Set

Dumbbell Squats to Overhead Press

  • Stand with a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height.
  • Your palms should be facing each other and the elbows pointed forward.
  • Squat down, pause briefly, then stand back up.
  • Then press the weights overhead.
  • Bring the weights back down to shoulder height and repeat.
  • Aim for 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

Bent Over Rows to Tricep Kickbacks

  • Stand upright, hinge forward, and bend your knees slightly while holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Lift the dumbbells straight up to chest level, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top.
  • Then kick back your arms behind you by squeezing your triceps.
  • Next, bend your elbows to return the weights to your chest.
  • Lower the weights by extending your arms to return to the starting position.
  • Complete for a total of 10 reps for 3 sets.

Dumbbell Lunges to Curls

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-distance apart.
  • Take a large step forward with one foot and lower your body toward the floor into a lunge.
  • Both legs should be bent at a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the lunge.
  • Bring weights in towards shoulders to complete a bicep curl, then push off the front foot and return to a standing position.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Continue until you have completed 6-8 reps on each leg.

Dumbbell Bench Press

  • Lie on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Lower to your mid-chest.
  • Pause briefly, then press back up until your arms are straight.
  • Repeat for 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

Hanging Leg Raises

  • Hang from a chin-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width.
  • Raise your legs until your torso makes a 90-degree angle with the legs.
  • Lower your legs slowly to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

See the program 38,000 guys over 40 are using to get results like these

Holly Smith D.O. - Osteopathic Medicine, B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Holly is board-certified in nephrology and internal medicine, has a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, and is a certified personal trainer with NASM-PES certification.

Holly is a keen runner, triathlete, and fitness and nutrition enthusiast. She has completed four full ironmans, twelve marathons, countless half ironmans, Olympic distance triathlons, half marathons, and numerous other road races.

Holly joined the Fit Father Project in May 2019 as a regular writer, contributing articles on health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition.

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on answering the question, ‘how many days a week should I workout?'

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