I believe it goes with out saying many of us would think that quality is far better than quantity. But is that necessarily true? Whether it’s true or not, they both exist for a reason.
I’m often asked if people should workout 4…5…6…even 7 times a week. I’d like to think I”m smart enough to know that training every single day of the week isn’t necessarily a good thing. However, it CAN be done. Heck, Arnold trained everyday of the week. He’s awesome right?!!? Well, let’s get some Carpe Diem up in here and go H.A.M (Hard Asuh Motherf*cka) on some weights, son!
Well, it’s not so simple.
When training 7 day’s/week there’s a ton of planning involved. You also have to make sure that the plan is a realistic path to your results. Here’s an example that I would have a regular person for general health goals if they were wanting to train every day of the week:
Monday: Shoulder work
Abdominal Strength Work
Thursday: Glute/Hamstring development
Direct Core Stability
Med Ball Work
Saturday: Upper Body (Chest development)
Abdominal Strength Work
Sunday: Low intensity Steady State Cardio
As you can see it is possible to train every single day. Granted this was just one way of doing it, one might question if it’s possible to keep this up and for how long?? Most likely, unless you’re an actor or someone who gets paid to look good or really have nothing else better to do, you’re going to burn out. I joke about how at The Athlete Factory, we don’t use machines. We make them.
It’s really more of a state of mind- clearly we’re not machines. Focusing on high frequency- high volume training is something that would be best for short term results. Over a period of time doing a lot of something for a while can have adverse effects. That’s why it’s good to cycle off of any training period to allow for the body to take a break to reset (like spring break vacation during college).
If anyone did come my way asking about the most you could train per week, I would say 6 days/week giving yourself at least 1 day of rest during the week. A great article from breakingmuscle.com, finds a solution to the “7 days a week training dilemma. Pretty much illustrating that having that one day of rest is non-negotiable. Recovery is essential when it comes to your goals no matter what they are, even to the brain. The brain is like a hybrid engine; it uses rest and food for energy. Even if you don’t rest, you can only eat so much. Hell, it takes energy just to eat too!!!
There’s a lot of people who would argue that eating 5-6 times/day is best for weight loss by increasing our metabolism (calorie burning at rest). There’s tons of support to show that. In fact, it makes sense. Most people over eat their calories with fewer meals because we likely spread out our meals throughout the day. Depending on what we’re doing, we could be expending a lot of calories; allowing hunger to set in and we begin binge eating to subdue that hunger. This is simply just one method of eating of course.
At the end of the day, it’s important to note that one must possess planning skills, have social support, time management skills to make high-frequency training and high frequency eating happen. There’s very little room for error when you strive for quantity. Otherwise, it wouldn’t work the way you want it to.
We hear it all the time:
“QUALITY Results… Spend QUALITY Time…Get QUALITY Sleep…Eat QUALITY Food…”
Hey, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck….that’s one talented duck. There is some anecdotal and scientific information, that quality carries you a long way. When quantity is no where to be found, quality has your back. When we talk about training, there are a few things that come to mind- time, energy and purpose.
To many it’s a commodity. It’s the one thing that we all struggle with, no matter how hard we try to manage. Ranging from kids getting sick, late coming from work to finish a project, or driving in traffic getting from one side of town to the other in Bloomington-Normal in the snow. Shit happens. What do you do when you’re running low on time? You make the best of what ya got.
For example- You have a client that’s late. You only have 15 minutes before the next appointment. No time to warm up or anything (which is a huge part in training and should never be skipped). They have pre-existing back and shoulder issues before they came to see me and still plague them today, although, they’re much better since starting. What do you do? Work on some mobility, a few select stabilization exercises, some cardio stuff to provide a “training effect.” BOOM. You were able to use the best of our time by working on things that mattered and could make them feel better. In 15 minutes.
When time is not in your favor, make the best of it. Most people would say “eff-it”. However, you’re much better off doing SOMETHING that you know would benefit and be worthy of your time to drive all the way to the gym.
What’s funny about people, is that at the end of the hour and find them with a puzzled look on their face and ask “is that it??” as if to say,”I could do more.” I chuckle sometimes because I’m thinking to myself, you don’t remember when you were gasping for air- asking for water breaks every 5 minutes?? At the same time, there are folks that visibly look ran down before they even walked into the gym. It’s important recognize your energy levels and make the right call to see if it’s best to push when ya got it, or dial back when you don’t. This is called “assessing the situation.”
You don’t want to beat a horse when it’s down (at least not at The Athlete Factory). It’s just cruel and unnecessary (unless you’re going to buy beef AKA horse meat from Aldi’s), but I digress.
I get it though. There are people that want to go H.A.M. in the gym every single day because if you’re not workin’ hard, you’re hardly workin’ at all! I hate to tell ya, but that kind of attitude will run you into the ground and probably cause injury later on. Then your results will be off into the distant future.
For examaple- Being sick sucks. Normally for a solid hour, a client might hit the weights with a METCON (metabolic conditioner) to finish the workout for body composition purposes. A typically day would look like this:
A-Back Squat 5×5
A2-Banded Goodmornings 4×10
B- Split Squat 4×8/leg
B2- GHD 3×12
C- Hip Bridges 3×10
C2- Kettlebell Swings 2×20
METCON-Sled Push x 5 minutes
This would be a “Squat Day” with a lot of volume. Quite a bit for someone who feels like ass. So, after talking it though and recognizing where they were at physically and energetically- the workout day would probably look a lot like this:
A-Goblet Squats 3×8
A2-Banded Goodmornings 2×10
B- Split Squat 4×6/leg
B2- GHD 3×8
C- Hip Bridges 2×15
The volume isn’t as heavy; because they just didn’t have it on this day they, it’d be best that they work on what they need to do without running them into the ground.
I firmly believe that exercising with a purpose is what truly gets you results. Lots of people like to workout; going through the motions, going when they feel like it, not really having any emphasis on their workouts, watching Maury while playing on their hamster wheels. Training however, is something more than just a “workout”; it’s exercise with a purpose. It’s what drives you to come in to the gym everyday. It’s what keeps you motivated to stick with the routine until it doesn’t work anymore; then you find another one to keep it going.
Imagine- paying for a gym membership that you only use for a good 3-4 months out of the year; spending on average $40-$80/month. That’s $360-$920 a year down the drain. Then you go and cancel your membership only to desperately find another one months down the line, or none at all? Why? Because you haven’t really had something to work towards.
I’m reading a book called “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.” It’s a fantastic book about finding different ways to make change happen for doctors, CEOs, coaches, nurses, even gym goers; focusing on your “rational brain” and your “emotional brain.” People like to think that they need to go to the gym 3-6 days a week to exercise or get results (rational brain), yet can’t stick with it because it gets too boring or don’t have a real reason to help them stick with being in the gym every week (emotional brain).
Before I begin training with my clients, I spend a good amount of time helping them figure out what they want to train for and why they feel they need to. If people don’t feel they need to train, over time they’re going to stop. This is why you need a purpose to exercise. It’s like brushing your teeth before you go to work; you do it because you know it’s the right thing to do. Frankly, you’d be rude not to. So you make it a habit, almost to the point where you don’t even think about it. That’s where exercise works at it’s best: consistency and with purpose.
So which is better??
The answer…..it depends on the person’s level of goals. There are certainly some people that require more exposure (quantity) to movements and things that will help them better. For people like myself, it’s more about quality movement and not so much about frequency. However, I am open-minded to believe that quality and quantity can be one in the same.
For beginners, frequency (quantity) is crucial in an individuals training experience. The more exposure to movements- the better to allow a habit to set in. That exposure will create a capacity that will make way for better quality movements over time. As an experienced lifter myself, frequency becomes less necessary; my body has learned movements over time to where it’s more important to get in more quality training (i.e. 75-90 minute sessions to 45-60 minute sessions; 8-10 exercises to 4-6 exercises).
End of the day no matter what your goals are, you CAN benefit from both. That’s the fun of it all. However it’s important to know when change occurs, one becomes more of a priority than the other. The sooner you find out when that is, the better your training and results will be. I leave you with a quote:
“Quality training is what I do now; before it was a combination of both quality and quantity. Now I’m not trying to be a world-class athlete, I don’t need to train at that level. It’s about being fit, fit for life.”