When putting together your workout routine, the first major component you need to figure out is your exercise frequency. As in, how often and how many times should you workout per week?
Now, I’ll admit… that’s a pretty broad question. After all, terms like “exercise frequency” and “workout frequency” can have a ton of different meanings.
But for us though, here’s the 3 specific exercise frequencies that we need to care about most:
- Overall Exercise Frequency: How often and how many times will we do any form of exercise (weight training, cardio, etc.) per week?
- Weight Training Frequency: How often and how many times will we weight train per week?
- Muscle Group/Body Part Frequency: How often and how many times will we train each muscle group or body part per week?
The main exercise frequency missing from that list is cardio frequency, but seeing as this is a guide to putting together the best weight training workout routine possible, cardio is a topic we’ll get to in depth at some other time (don’t worry, a cardio-specific guide is already on my to-do list).
For now, let’s focus on those 3 extremely important frequencies.
Overall Exercise Frequency
So, the first thing we need to decide on is how many times we will workout per week total. This would include weight training workouts, cardio workouts, whatever. It’s our overall exercise frequency.
Now, this is the one that can vary the most because it depends on many factors specific to you and your goal (example: a fat person with the primary goal of losing fat may have 4 cardio workouts per week, while a skinny person with the primary goal of building muscle may do no cardio whatsoever).
Because of this, it’s impossible to say exactly how often/how many times everyone should be working out per week total.
However, there is 1 general rule I can pretty much definitively set in terms of everyone’s overall exercise frequency.
And that rule is: take at least 1 full day off per week from all forms of exercise.
That means, AT THE VERY MOST, you should be exercising 6 times per week total (and again, this includes weight training, cardio, and any other form of exercise).
I’m setting this rule because I am pretty confident that there is no one reading this that needs to be or would benefit from working out 7 days a week.
In fact, I’d say that there are many people reading this who should set their maximum total exercise frequency at between 3-5 times per week depending on their goal.
Why? Because it’s not only NOT necessary for reaching your goal… it’s almost always counterproductive.
Weight Training Frequency
While too many individual factors come into play for me to get super specific about overall exercise frequency, weight training frequency is the opposite. I can get pretty damn specific here.
If it isn’t obvious enough, weight training frequency in this case will refer to how often and how many times we weight train per week.
My recommendation is: the majority of the population should weight train 3-4 times per week, and never more than 2 consecutive days in a row.
Some people can get away with 5 (although few truly need it), and some people can get by with 2. However, for most of the people, most of the time, you’ll get your best results with either 3 or 4 total weight training workouts per week.
This is based on the fact that the majority of the most highly proven and intelligently designed workout programs in existence are all built around doing 3 or 4 weight training workouts per week.
The same goes for having no more than 2 weight training workouts on back-to-back days.
These recommendations appear to create the sweet spot in terms of allowing for optimal recovery, and when recovery is at its best, your results will be at their best too.
Muscle Group/Body Part Frequency
And last but definitely not least, we have muscle group/body part frequency.
Out of all the different exercise frequencies, how often and how many times you should train each muscle group or body part per week is by FAR the most discussed, argued, thought about, screwed up, and potentially confusing one of them all.
That’s why I think the best way to fully explain it all is by taking a look at the pros and cons of each of the 3 most common muscle group/body part frequencies.
Those 3 frequencies are:
- Training each muscle group/body part once per week.
- Training each muscle group/body part twice per week.
- Training each muscle group/body part three times per week.
Now let’s break them down one-by-one and see exactly which frequency will work best for you. First up…
(This article is part of a completely free and awesome guide to creating the absolute best workout routine possible for your exact goal. Check it out: The Ultimate Weight Training Workout Routine)