How often you need to train to optimise your results
We follow a simple rule for all our athletes – Less is more and more is less. For us it’s all about efficiency, what is the least amount of work for the maximum results. There are a multitude of factors that will impact your strength and conditioning program.
Here’s what you should consider;
- Goals – what do you want to achieve in your training?
- Lifestyle – what do you do outside of sport?
- Priorities – where does training sit on your priorities list?
- Stress – what other things in your life cause stress (work, uni, kids, eating habits)?
- Sports – How much sport specific training are you doing?
- Training phase – What phase of training are you in (Off-season, pre-season, in-season)?
Once you have concrete answers to these questions we can start to see what the best training plan is going to be.
The goal is at the top of the list because we can modify and manipulate the training plan to suit the other factors while working towards our goal. In reality we can train for anything if we are willing to put the time and effort in. However, how much time and effort you commit to something can determine how quickly those results appear.
Body composition (fat loss)
2-5 x week
The amount of training you do is actually going to be more determined by your eating habits. To reduce body fat (without the loss of muscle mass) we need to create a subtle caloric deficit. If your doing that really well with your eating habits then training becomes an additional benefit (helps promote more fat loss and muscle retention). As you become leaner a caloric deficit is harder to achieve through eating alone (you still need to eating to survive and going too low on calories can be very detrimental to your health and performance). Although, you can increase your deficit by increasing your caloric output (training) without having to change the input (eating). Our advice is work on your eating habits first and use training to compliment the good eating habits, as progress stalls increase output (train more). Start with 2 x week and build over time (this can be over years) up to 4-5 x week, or if you hit your goals only doing 3 x week stay there (use a balance of strength/hypertrophy and conditioning).
1-4 x week
Firstly you need to decide what you are getting stronger for and where you want to be stronger. If you’re a team sport athlete you need to get stronger for your sport (make sport the priority and work around that). Therefore, your phase of training will determine how much strength training you should be doing, for example – You can training 3-4 x week in the off-season (build a base), 2-3 x week during pre-season (build resilience) and 1-2 x week in-season (maintenance). If you’re a strength sport athlete your training essentially is your sport so your training frequency might stay the same all year round yet the intensity and volumes (sets, reps, load) will change depending on how far away you are from a meet/competition. In most cases 3-4 x week for beginner strength athletes and as they become more advanced (elite level 5+ year of very consistent training) 5-6 x week.
Hypertrophy (muscle gain)
3-5 x week
Essentially the same as strength yet frequency does seem to be more important if your goal is muscle mass. Muscles need frequent stimulation to create overload and be forced into growth, too little stimulation will yield little results, although you can over stimulate as well with too much training. Ultimately this will come down to your training age/tolerance, 3 x week is a great start for beginners but as you progress you’ll likely need to go to 4 x week and advanced trainers (5+ years of very consistent training) may need to go to 5-6 x week.
3-5 x week
Ideally we are complimenting the first 3 goals with some type of conditioning. Conditioning is great for body composition goals as it help promote fat loss and extra caloric expenditure e.g. short high intensity intervals at the end of strength workouts (5-10 minutes, 3 x week), circuit training (15-30 minutes, 3 x week), low intensity cardio for recovery (5 x week). Conditioning should also be part of a good strength program although the emphasis will change depending on the training phase e.g. off-season lower intensity volume work 2 x week, pre-season sport specific 3 x week, in-season recovery/maintenance 1-2 x week. Conditioning also should be a small part of hypertrophy training to assist recovery. Conditioning can also be the primary goal, especially in preparation for sports that are more conditioning based (AFL, Basketball, Soccer, Rugby) and of course conditioning can be a sport itself (marathons, triathlons, swimming). In this case conditioning might be completed 3-6 x week and strength/power training actually becomes the complemental training.
1-2 x week
Power and speed training is very taxing on the body and requires lots of recovery. Therefore, if the goal is to become a more powerful and faster athlete quality is better than quantity, 1-2 x week is more than enough. The other goals can all assist in improving power and speed so long as they are done in the right amount. Strength training can definitely improve speed and power (strength = more force production, power = force x time), 2-3 x week is enough to not interrupt the power and speed training. Being leaner can make it easier to move faster, less body fat = more muscle = more force potential. Having some conditioning can help you recovery faster from the high intensity speed training, 1-2 x week low intensity recovery conditioning is best.
As you can see there is no simple answer to this question and it quickly becomes an art to put the science altogether to get the most out of your training.