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How Many Days Per Week Should I Train? - Tucson Personal Training Group Fitness Blog

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How Many Days Per Week Should I Train? - Tucson Personal Training Group Fitness Blog

By: Jerry Trubman, Owner & Founder

I’ve been pretty quiet about this, but about 8 months ago Marie and I decided to take on a new hobby… rock climbing. I started to become intrigued by it about a year prior to that when we made friends with a couple who were really into it. I was very impressed at their general strength levels and how quickly they were able to get the hang of our strength training programs. For most, there is a steep learning curve to figuring out the things we do in our facility… but not for them.

Also, our newest intern that we are currently grooming to teach at our facility is a high-level climber as well as a climbing coach. Similar to our other friends, he is an absolute joy to work with, and he took to the principles of our training system much faster than most people I’ve seen.

I must confess, I’m not a full convert just yet. I climb once per week… and I absolutely suck at it. I can summarize my overall experience of it in one word: Humbling.

For those unfamiliar with climbing, Marie and I go to a bouldering gym. Bouldering basically means no ropes and shorter, more powerful, moves… called ‘problems’. The difficulty of a boulder problem is rated on a “V” scale: “VB” (for beginner), V1, V2, V3, etc. up to V10 (the highest at our gym, although I understand that outdoor bouldering can go even higher).

My first time at the gym, V0s were very challenging, and V1 was completely outside of my ability. VB’s were the only problems I could consistently solve. The worst part was that after about 20-30 minutes of activity, my hands were completely spent. Forget about opening a pickle jar, after a bouldering session I could hardly open the door to get into my truck… but I was hooked. I enjoyed being a beginner at something again.

This was also very helpful to me as a coach, because I got to feel on my own body what new students feel when they come to our facility. It’s a love/hate feeling: You hate to not be good at something, but you love the fact that you’re growing in a new skill.

I’ve always had issues with my grip in the gym, and never had the discipline to do a lot of specific grip work, but climbing wasn’t boring like grip work… it was fun! This is the kind of ‘grip training’ I can enjoy. I never realized just how bad my grip was until I started to see the benefits of what climbing was doing for my deadlift. Long story short, my max deadlift has jumped 35 pounds in the last year. As a point of reference, I haven’t added any weight to my max deadlift in 3 years. Having my old max feel light in my hands was an incredible feeling! Mind you, I’m still only climbing V1’s, occasionally a V2, and if I’m really having a good day, a V3 will happen.

I know so far this story has little to do with the subject line, but hear me out. In the first 2-3 months of climbing I had some beginner’s luck. I went from V0’s to V2’s. We climb once per week on Sundays and have been at it for almost a year now… but I’m still climbing V2’s on a good day. Sometimes Marie and I get frustrated that we aren’t advancing like we would hope, but this is EXACTLY what inspired today’s post. I’m going to give myself the same advice I give to others on the subject of how often someone should train.

As we proceed here, let’s be clear that we are talking about ‘training’, not casual exercise. You should move your body every day. Walking, although wonderful, is not training.

So, here are my thoughts on training frequency:

1 time per week: This is what I would consider ‘maintenance’ and it’s the reason that, even though Marie and I have been climbing consistently for almost a year, we’re not getting much better. You could choose to train this often if you are happy with your current strength level, current composition, etc. If you’ve ever said something along the lines of, “I go see my trainer once a week, but I don’t seem to be losing any weight of getting any stronger.” This could be the reason why. You simply are not dedicating the time that it takes to make any improvements past a beginner level.

To be clear, I’m not saying this is bad or a complete waste of time. If you’re in a season where you just can’t make this more of a priority, it is still a 100% improvement over zero times per week… just don’t expect any progress beyond the beginner stage.

Marie and I have a heavy training schedule with our other priorities. Once per week is all we can dedicate to climbing right now. Of course, we could choose to change this in the future, but right now it’s just not possible. Do we enjoy climbing? Yes! It’s fun and I love that I’m finally doing something to fix my sissy grip! I just can’t expect to be solving V10 problems in the next year unless I dedicate significantly more time to the practice.

2-3 times per week: This, in my opinion, is the sweet spot. It’s frequent enough to where you can start to see measurable improvements in a fairly short amount of time, yet is there is enough rest time in between training sessions that allows you to challenge yourself a bit and still have a day of recovery before going at it again.

This training frequency also allows beginners to work fairly hard without quickly burning out. Think of the stereotypical New Year’s resolution guy/gal that goes from 0 times per week to 5 times per week on January 1st… then in February there’s crickets chirping at the gym.

4-5 times per week: Ok, now you’re serious! This is the point where you’ve gone from casual exerciser to serious trainee. The most important part of this level is to understand how to cycle your training. You simply can’t go ‘beast mode’ 5 times per week for very long before your progress stalls out (and sometimes even goes backwards).

Now, this doesn’t mean that if you train 5 times per week you have to just be a sissy in every session! Far from it. I’ve heard it said that you cannot ‘over-train’, you can only ‘under-recover’. I tend to agree.

6-7 times per week: If you train this often, you’re probably too advanced to read a post like this, so I’ll keep it short. This is an athlete who may be doing more than one training session per day and still has a day or two off per week. Proper cycling of training density here is critical, and proper cycling of macronutrients to facilitate the recovery process is fairly important here as well. Although I don’t make a habit of working with this part of the population, I do occasionally get hired to do program design for them. They are fun people to work with, but I couldn’t imagine making a career out of it.

I don’t often share my own training with others, but people do ask what my split looks like, and I like to think of myself as an open book, so here you go: I do train 7 days per week, but the intensity is probably not what you’d expect. I change little details here and there, but the big picture stays pretty consistent. With that said, here is what I’m currently working on:

Monday: Kettlebell/bodyweight full-body workout. Grease-the-groove type, about a 50-60% effort. Training time: 45 minutes.

Tuesday: Cardio/speed: Ten 100m sprints on the rower or similar. Never more than 1000 total meters in the workout. Training time: 30 minutes

Wednesday: Barbell day: low-rep high-weight. Loads are cycled in a range from 70%-93% Total time: 90 minutes.

Thursday: Cardio/steady state: 5-mile light jog, hike, 15-mile bike, or something similar. Training time: about an hour.

Friday: Kettlebell workout: Higher intensity than Monday bit still never to failure. Training time: 30 minutes.

Saturday: Workout with my instructors. Usually test out one of the workouts for an upcoming class. Training time: 60 minutes but includes some chit-chat.

Sunday: Climbing! 1.5 to 2 hours, but lots of socializing and hanging out.

I’m always curious what my friends and colleagues do as well. If you have a moment, I’d love to see what your training split looks like. Shoot me a message or leave a comment below.

Until next time, 

Jerry Trubman is a coach, clinician, author, blogger, and powerlifting state champion. With over two decades of lifting experience, he has devoted himself to seeking out better answers, and distilling them into practical programs that produce great results. Jerry has coached "Team Protocol" to 4 National Powerlifting Championships in the 100% Raw federation. He writes the internationally-read blog, “The Healthy Addiction” and lives in Tucson, Arizona with his wife Marie and dog Sadie. To subscribe to his blog, click here

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