’m going to be straight up and tell you there is no blanket right or wrong answer to this question – and be wary of people trying to tell you otherwise. It’s a question I get asked almost daily! But the truth is, there is so much variability when trying to create an optimal training program and it all comes down to what works for YOU.
More training isn’t necessarily better than less training. More volume and frequency doesn’t directly translate into more gains and better results.
An individual’s optimal training volume and frequency (just like many processes related to health and fitness) is a trial and error experience. And just like trying to work out what nutritional plan is best suited to you, your optimal training load (volume & frequency) isn’t necessarily what looks great on paper. Rather, it’s about what’s sustainable long-term – a plan that must take into account sufficient rest days and undulates intensity so you’re able to continue training week after week without feeling exhausted and burnt out.
So where do you start when mapping out your training program?
When and how long to schedule
- Always account for the unavoidable variables that allow/inhibit your training availability (like work schedule, child-related duties etc.). This way you can map out exactly how much time (realistically) is available in order to optimise your training load.
- Acknowledging that the vast majority of people have pretty sedentary jobs, my recommendation is to aim for some level of exercise everyday. That doesn’t mean going balls to the wall hard every damn day, but means you should look at your weekly schedule (written down on paper is always easiest) and block out a time each day that you can commit to a workout.
- Now, you’ve got to be realistic with the length of time your setting aside for training – don’t block out 2 hours each day if you know it’s going to be too hard to stick to for longer than 2 weeks! 45 minutes is usually is a good middle ground to start with.
Training type weekly rotation
- Look to start with a mixture of hard (more intense) and easy (less intense) workouts.
- “Hard” referring to workouts that involve heavy loads and lower reps/set, focusing on bigger compound movements (squats & deadlifts etc) and generally leave you feeling pretty cooked by the time you’re finished.
- “Easy” referring to workouts that involve lighter loads, higher reps/set and exercises with more of a unilateral focus (split squats & single-arm rows etc), which will maximise stimulus but won’t leave you feeling beaten up.
- Mental stimulation plays a huge role in long-term training sustainability and I recommend incorporating some sort of cardio-based workouts into your weekly routine. If you’re able to work in some circuit classes (which I refer to as task-oriented cardio) as well as some days of conventional cardio training (walking may be sufficient for a lot of people new to weights-based exercise), you’ll have a plethora of workout options that’ll ensure your training program never becomes stale and boring.
My recommendation GUIDELINES
- Depending on the specifics of your goals, a great place to start (when looking to implement exercise everyday) is 3-4 HARD workouts/week with 3-4 EASY workouts/week.
- Regularly programmed days of complete rest are a vital component in any quality training program, to allow the body to adequately recover from what should be some pretty demanding workouts. Aim for at least 1 rest day per week and feel free to throw in additional rest days sporadically when needed.
- However, rest days are not an excuse to be completely inactive - the time slot you’ve allocated into your schedule to workout should be where you head outside and at the very least go for a long walk to aim at getting your step count up for the day.
- Stick to this structure for 4 weeks and look to tweak and modify both the hard/easy ratio as well as the workouts themselves depending how your body (and mind) are feeling.
Remember, there is no blanket right or wrong answer to the perfect training load, simply what’s best suited to you – sustainability is key!