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Training Frequency: How Much to Exercise a Week?

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

TL;DR: Exercising 3-5 times per week with 12-16 sets per workout for 45 minutes to an hour in duration is optimal.

Training frequency is an important factor to consider when planning out your workouts.


Working out too often can cause overtraining, workout out too little can cause a lack of muscle growth - it is a fine balance.



Table of Contents:


training frequency

What Is Training Frequency?

Training frequency is how often you workout, it's normally per week.


It's actually more important than you may think, since rest day's are the time you actually grow and repair your muscles that have been worked!


In this article, I'll also discuss workout duration and how many sets you should do per workout.



How Much Should You Exercise Per Week

Most people exercise 3-5 times a week, and this makes the most sense.


Since most people usually run a 5 day split, such as; chest, arms, back, legs & abs or a push/pull split such as; push, pull, legs & abs. However, sometimes you may want to change up your training frequency.


Because of a phenomenon called the diminishing return of results, a training frequency of 5 times a week or more is probably almost as effective as 3 or 4 times a week.


This is also backed up by research which suggests that a workout frequency of 3-5 times a week is optimal, as long as all muscle groups are worked and volume is equated, which means the same amount of volume is achieved as if you was working out 5 times a week.


Anything beyond a training frequency of 3-5 times a week is most likely going to suffer from diminishing returns of results, so in my recommendation, 4 times a week is probably your best bet if you are someone with a busy schedule.


You will be able to work most, if not, all of your muscle groups on a 4-day-per-week workout schedule.



What Is Overtraining?

Overtraining, the term defining physical or CNS exhaustion from working out & exercising too much.


This can be caused by excessively long workouts, usually over 45 minutes to an hour is when overtraining begins to become a risk, and cortisol raises. (1)


Working out too many days in a row without rest days is also a major cause of overtraining.


How Long Your Workouts Should Be

I recommend around 45 minutes to 1 hour is an optimal workout duration. Training for longer than this duration could increase the risk of overtraining.


If you are training a larger muscle group, such as the legs, chest, back, etc; you should aim for a slightly longer workout than if you're training a smaller muscle group, such as the arms, neck, abs, etc.


This brings us onto the next point, how many sets per workout.



How Many Sets Per Workout

Below is a table of the recommended amount of sets you should do per muscle group.


Muscle Group

Number of Sets

Duration of Workout

Arms

up to 12

up to 45 minutes

Shoulders

up to 12

up to 45 minutes

Neck

up to 8

up to 30 minutes

Chest

up to 16

up to 1 hour

Back

up to 16

up to 1 hour

Glutes & Legs

up to 16

up to 1 hour

Abs

up to 14

45 minutes to 1 hour

Overall you should aim for between 8 and 16 sets per workout, for smaller muscle groups you should use lets sets and for larger muscle groups you should aim for higher sets.


A good starting point for combining muscle groups in the same workout is around 12 sets and 16-18 at the most.



Summary

It is recommended to workout 3-5 times per week, each workout should be around 45 minutes in duration. You should incorporate between 12 and 16 sets at the most into each workout.


Key Points:

  • Keep workouts around 45 minutes to an hour in length

  • 12-16 sets per workout at the most

  • A workout frequency of 4 days per week is usually the sweet spot

  • 3-5 days a week is usually a good number to stick to


 

Written by Billy White

billy white

Billy White is a qualified Kinesiologist and Personal Trainer. He is an aspiring bodybuilder, fitness enthusiast, and health and fitness researcher.

He has multiple years of experience within the fitness, bodybuilding and health space. He is committed to providing the highest-quality information.

 

References

This section contains links to research, studies, and sources of information for this article, as well as authors, contributors, etc. All sources, along with the article and facts, are subjected to a series of quality, reliability, and relevance checks.

Real Muscle primarily uses high-quality sources, such as peer-reviewed publications, to back up the information in our articles. To understand more about how we fact-check and keep our information accurate, dependable, and trustworthy, read more about us.

This evidence-based analysis on training frequency and overtraining features 1 reference, listed below.

1. Hill EE, Zack E, Battaglini C, Viru M, Viru A, Hackney AC. Exercise and circulating cortisol levels: the intensity threshold effect. J Endocrinol Invest. (2008, Jul) ✔

Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.

 

The information provided in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a physician or other competent professional before following advice or taking any supplement. See our terms and conditions.



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