Professional athletes exercise a lot, between 10 and 14 workouts per week.
This is more than one workout a day, and most days they work out twice. But for normal people who do not train for international competitions, but just want to get fit or keep fit, such a hectic training plan is superfluous. Most of us can settle for a lot less training – but how much less?
Are two training sessions a week enough? Three? And what if someone can only cram one workout into their weekly schedule, is it even effective?
Exercise frequency does not stand alone and is influenced by other factors: What is the purpose of the exercise? How intensely do you want to train? Do you have a history of injuries?
The type of exercise or sport you practice also affects how often you need to practice to get the best results.
Exercise creates stress and strain on some body systems, making you feel tired, but it can also make the body stronger, depending on the type of stress that exercise creates. For example, resistance training (such as weight training) helps the body build muscle strength, but is less conducive to cardiopulmonary endurance because it focuses on the skeletal muscles rather than the heart.
But rest is required to see the specific benefits of each workout. You will have a hard time seeing physiological improvement from exercising if you don’t get enough rest. Even if we do not take breaks from regular and frequent training to recover from physical stress, the improvement will not be permanent. Therefore, the body should be given time to rest between workouts … but not too much time.
In short: the key to improving physical fitness is regular exercise that strikes the right balance between training frequency and the time needed to recover.
Sounds easy, but this is where it gets complicated. Some body systems take longer to recover than others. For example, activities that put a strain on the body’s nervous system, such as sprinting, HIIT training, or very heavy weight training, require more recovery time than lower-intensity activities like light running, which mainly involves the heart and lungs.
This means that the number of your weekly workouts and the differences between them can be higher or lower than you think reasonable and should also be determined based on the nature of your activity and the movements you perform during it.
In endurance sports (cross-country skiing, cycling, etc.), regular training with low intensity is more effective, as the body learns to use its oxygen supply more efficiently. Over time, you will find that your workouts become easier, which means that your endurance has improved.
Professional athletes in these disciplines set up their training program in a similar way: Around 80% of their training is done with low intensity, while the more intensive training is meticulously planned so that there is a rest period of at least 48 hours between the two types of training. This ensures that your body has enough time to recover and also reduces the risk of injury.
More training = more muscle building. If your goal is to increase muscle strength and mass, you will benefit from additional workouts every week. Remember: rest, relaxation, and nutrition are also critical factors in your success.
The general recommendation is to do muscle strengthening exercises at least twice a week to improve muscle and bone health. However, if your goal is to increase muscle mass and size, it is recommended that you split up your workout so that you work on a different muscle group each day. This way you are constantly challenging your muscles and at the same time each muscle group has enough time to rest and recover.
And how about one workout a week? It can be really beneficial too. In such a situation, we recommend training with exercises that activate the whole body and combine several muscle groups at the same time, such as squats, lunges and more.
Note: The “pop ’til you drop” approach (multiple and strenuous reps until the trainee is unable to do another rep) has proven ineffective and will not build effective muscle.
Swimming, tennis, martial arts and more are considered qualified disciplines. These are sports where technique and refinement are really important. The prevailing belief is that these disciplines require frequent, focused and consistent training. The danger with such frequently repeated training is an increased risk of stress injuries.
Vary the training intensity during these activities and make sure that you also have rest days in between.
Extremely strenuous activities like sprints or repetitive wrist movements while swinging a tennis racket affect the peripheral and central nervous systems, which are important for improving skill and technique.
However, the required intensity requires a short training session. To avoid injury, only do these activities for a small portion of your workout, but do it consistently to improve without injuring yourself. The secret in these sports is to train smarter, not harder.
health and fitness
For the average person trying to get in shape, it’s not the quantity but the quality of the workout that matters. For example, HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, has been shown to be very effective in improving health and fitness. These workouts include very strenuous exercises that are performed for short periods of time and short breaks.
A recent study found that performing four to seven vigorous exercises for one minute each with 75-second breaks in between, at a frequency of 3 times a week, improved physical and mental health. For people who don’t exercise regularly, even 30 minutes of exercise during the week can be beneficial and show noticeable changes.
The number of your weekly workouts will depend on all sorts of factors, one of which is your free time, and some workouts will be realistic for you, but be aware of the purpose and intensity of the workout.
The general recommendation is to vary sports throughout the week with rest days in between.
The bottom line: the most effective exercise program is one that you enjoy doing and stick with for a long time.