If you haven’t noticed, many of my workouts are structured to give you the option to workout three to five times per week.
Granted, we also have many different workouts in The Workout Database that vary very widely in goal-set and intensity.
That being said, I know this question of “How Many Times a Week Do You Need to Workout?” is one that is asked frequently, and thoroughly analyzed.
And, the simple answer is that there is a bunch of different ways to answer the question, but each of them comes from analyzation and customization based around a specific persons needs, wants and goals when it comes to training regime, schedule and outcome.
I’m not sure if that’s simple, actually, but I guess that’s the less “in-depth” answer?…
Probably the first place to start is goal-setting.
This will determine what type of body you’re actually aiming for, and thus allow you to adapt accordingly with how often you might need to be training each week for your body to react.
Goal Setting Ahead of Time
Goal setting is one of the first things you need to do when starting your journey. That’s why each one of the Paths you can choose within The Academy are devoted to different goals and their individual methods.
In some situations it may be true that you have to workout 5 or more days a week.
For example: maybe you’re training for a movie and you’re on a time constraint like one of our celebs in The Workout Database; or maybe you need to put on a certain amount of muscle mass in a short period of time; or maybe you really just want to gain a percentage of lean mass and want to devote the extra time into it; or maybe (did I say that enough yet..?) you use working out for a different usage other than developing your bodies (which we’ll talk about more as well).
What is your goal?
Do you know what types of goals you might have to think about?
Do you want to lose weight/fat or possibly gain muscle/mass? Or maybe your goal is to be able to lift over 500 lbs on deadlift? Or do over 25 pull-ups straight? Or be able to do both!?
Either way, setting goals is crucial to be able to formulate a plan and be able to decide how many days per week you want to devote to it (or how many you feel you need to devote to it).
Think about this for a second: if you strictly want to aim for a lean physique and six pack you can probably take a much simpler route than if you want to add on 20 lbs of lean muscle mass while also aiming for a six pack and shredding fat….
It make sense though, right?
In a recent article I talked about The Secret to a Flat Stomach and Six Pack Abs. In the article I talk a ton about calories and how important it is to lower your body-fat in order to show the abs you already have.
Yeah, I said it: you already have abs….
That being said, if you stay under your caloric intake while keeping your other macro nutrients (such as protein) on track, your training could end up being much more minimal if your goal is to get a six pack/flat stomach.
Actually, you could even get a six pack and flat stomach working out as minimally as 1-3 times a week, and utilizing things like yoga, meditation and other forms of training…as long as your nutrition allows for it. This also goes for calisthenic type training as well, which I also did a really long post on (How to get better at Pull-ups, Pushups, Dips, Squats and Calisthenics). If you want to tone up more and gain a minimal amount of muscle as well, I suggest training the extra days (consider that around 3 days minimum). But, just know, it can definitely be done with amazing results and minimal days devoted to training.
But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves and make sure we stick to talking about goal-setting here.
When I gained the majority of my muscle mass I was training 5 days a week. You can see more about that on my about page, but the main point is that gaining muscle is a slow process, so the more you put into it, [generally] the faster the process will be.
So, if your goal is to gain a ton of muscle mass, especially if you want it to be clean while possibly even burning fat, I would suggest devoting more time to training. It is important to mention, though, that I have seen and known people who have only devoted the 3 days (and others who devoted 5+) and come to the same outcome of mass gain. So, it all depends, again, on how your nutrition is, and the other aspects of your regime (ex: sleep).
Training Case Study with a 60+ Year Old Fitness Guru Mark Sisson
Mark Sisson from Mark’s Daily Apple and author of The Primal Blueprint is over 60 years old (currently 63 as I’m typing this), and is in absolutely amazing shape, while training somewhat minimally.
Mark utilizes the Paleo Diet (which is what he writes about in his novel), and this hits upon the fact that nutrition is going to be vitally important when it comes to how often you need to be training.
In Mark’s book he talks about how you only need to train 3 days a week, with one day devoted to sprints (generally a 20 or so minute workout, getting your heart rate really accelerated), and the others simply devoted to calisthenics, yoga, or training of your choice (which he admits was also at one point heavy weight lifting one day per week as well).
This is all contingent on his nutrition allowing for it. I’ve said it a million times before and I’ll repeat it here: you can’t outrun your nutrition; you can’t out-train your nutrition; nutrition is more than half the battle!
So, take a look at Mark, and read a little more about his training here if you’d like. If he could look this Superhero Jacked on minimal training, at 63 years old nonetheless, I’m sure you can as well!
I mean, seriously, the guy has the physique of Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool…
What should you take from this?
If your goal is something towards losing body-fat and getting shredded, than maybe you should think about nutrition (which we’ll talk about in the next section) as being an extremely important factor in your journey.
As we know, body-fat percentage plays a huge role on having visual abs and also being vascular and shredded (aka Superhero Jacked)!
This is just a way to prove to you that something like this is attainable with minimal training effort. Don’t get me wrong, Mark has trained a lot, and believes heavily in fitness, but it’s important to realize that you can adjust to your lifestyle and train accordingly.
Training Volume is also Extremely Contingent on Nutrition
I don’t know if you know this, but training and nutrition are BOTH things that impact your health and physique…
Unfortunately, I have a lot of people come to Superhero Jacked with the idea that training is the only important part of their fitness journey.
While it’s extremely important, and does a lot for us, nutrition is still one of the biggest portions of whether or not we’ll be able to gain or lose weight (or even maintain it for that matter as well).
That’s one of the reasons we decided to incorporate different Nutrition Classes within The Academy as well (Vikings, Hunter Gatherers, Samurais, Monks). We preach sustainability at SHJ and within The Academy, so finding what specifically works for each individual is extremely important (hence the 10 different training paths as well).
Insert Intermittent Fasting
One of the biggest nutritional pillars that we utilize at Superhero Jacked is intermittent fasting. I recently wrote The Official SHJ Guide to Intermittent Fasting to break it down that much further for people.
So, that would likely be the best place to start, but knowing that this is a main portion of our diets (that has led to numerous SuperHumans transforming) is a great thing to have in your back pocket.
This is also a tool that Terry Crews has referred to as his “fountain of youth”, and what Hugh Jackman had programmed for him by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in order to get in shape for his role as Wolverine!
Also, adding on top the other nutritional pillars we talk about at SHJ is a way to make your diet more sustainable and easier for yourself.
Let’s talk about calories…!
We know that in order to lose weight we are going to need to be under our caloric intake. That is why a lot of people try counting their macronutrients on a daily basis as the main portion of their diet. That’s also an option for us in our Nutrition Pillars, for example.
That being said, we’ve also looked at some different calorie examples [when it comes to burning calories] in order to adjust our body-fat in our flat stomach/six pack article. I talked about how jumping rope burns calories much more efficiently than doing hundreds of crunches, which in turn might result in people wanting to adjust some of the ways they train if their goal is to get a six pack. (Ex: losing weight and body-fat via calorie burn workouts is more important than doing 500 crunches a day, thinking that it will strengthen your core and lead to significant six-pack definition)
Now we’re going to look at something similar here:
Instead of running an hour to burn 500 calories, we could simply skip that hour at the gym and eat 500 calories less during our day. Also, instead of burning the 250 calories in our hour training session, we could opt to eat 250 calories less (or a couple beers, or donuts) throughout our day.
The point being: we could dispose of dietary calories that we intake in our diet (aka get rid of extra calories from eating) in order to burn body-fat as opposed to the need for extra training.
But, knowing that nutrition is more than half the battle is extremely vital to everyone’s transformations, so that’s why I needed to make it clear using Mark Sisson as a case study, and by devoting a section to nutrition and intermittent fasting.
And, now for an alternative look at training with another case study!
Training Case Study with Man of Steel Henry Cavill
When Henry Cavill was casted as Man of Steel he knew he would need to bulk up for his role. Coming off of the movie Immortals where Cavill strutted a lean physique, he wanted to add on lean muscle mass to portray Superman.
Cavill was also on a time restraint. But, he knew what needed to be done, and he had his goal set forth.
Remember back when we talked about goal setting…?
For this reason, when researching Henry Cavill’s training for Man of Steel we found that his intensity and training volume far surpassed that of the normal training style. This also went for other celebrities such as Tom Hardy when he trained for Bane, with both of these guys training twice a day.
Another thing we know about Henry is that he had to intake over 5000-6000 calories a day in order to tack on the muscle mass that he did, AND get at least 8-10 hours of sleep per night in order to recover from his intense training.
What should you take from this?
If your goal is something towards the effect of gaining tons of lean muscle mass, than maybe you should not only think about nutrition, but also devote the extra time to your training schedule.
We’ve seen multiple actors devote a ton of time to training (guys like Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron), in order to bulk up – and it’s generally because tacking on lean muscle takes a lot of hard work, and sometimes can be easier and more simple than trying to just lose body-fat on its own.
Training Doesn’t Have to be a Chore
If you don’t want to train 5 days a week…don’t…
It’s as simple as that!
You know your goals, and you know what is sustainable, so decide how much time and effort you want to or are capable of putting into your training, and then do it.
Training doesn’t have to be a chore, though.
A lot of people love training. Working out is used for a lot more than just changing our physiques. It can be used for our overall health, to help us get better sleep (which is also hugely important for our transformations), and even as a meditative stress reliever.
I know for myself, getting in a training session is extremely relaxing and a nice get away from my work or even a sometimes hectic day. That doesn’t always mean the gym or lifting weights, but also involves calisthenics type training, yoga, outdoor activity, and more.
Training can be fun…
Sometimes people immediately think working out has to take place in a gym environment.
This isn’t exactly true.
I’ve been using our Bonus Nightwing Path (aka Minimalist Path) in The Academy, and training a hundred percent from home and utilizing calisthenics and nutrition to get the job done.
And it’s been working great by the way!
We also see tons of celebrities (lots of women as well) utilize outdoor activities such as hiking, fun sports (tennis, basketball, beach sports, etc.), cycling and other things in order to get in body active.
Chef Dave even adopted some of my own word-usage and got me hooked on calling these days “Cagers”.
Yeah, that’s how much we love activity days at SHJ.
Final Thoughts about Training Volume
I don’t want to leave a cliffhanger ending to this article, so I’ll do my best to more specifically answer the question: “How Many Times a Week do you REALLY have to Workout!?”
I gave you the less in depth answer right when we started, and now that we analyzed it a bit more, and even did some case study analyzation, I feel comfortable giving you actual daily counts for specific goals.
But, the real answer is that it depends on your goal.
That’s not fair though, right?
It’s okay, I’ll tell you more, I promise.
If your goal is to tone and lose body-fat while getting a six pack and shredded I suggest making your minimal training schedule around 3 days a week.
I suggest the 3 days due to the health benefits and also to allow you to tone up and even avoid injury. We are setting out to be SuperHumans, of course.
If your goal is to gain lean muscle mass while possibly even burning body-fat I suggest making your minimal training schedule over 3 days a week (generally 5) and also increasing your training volume.
I suggest the increase in volume and intensity because it generally takes more work to gain lean muscle mass, and you will in turn have to devote more time and energy.
It’s also extremely important (as I’ve mentioned, and I feel I’ve made pretty clear) to remember that nutrition is absolutely vital regardless of your goal and training schedule.
Even if your goal requires less training and you decide to up it to more days than I’ve recommended, that does not mean you’re going to be able to slack more on your diet. It just doesn’t really work that way.
So, find your flow, have fun, and train effectively and smart. We have TONS of workouts in The Workout Database at this point, and The Academy offers Training Paths that are specifically set forth for each individual goal.
Sustainability is key.