Most people believe in order to get great results at the gym, you have to be in the gym all day, everyday. When you couple that with busy lifestyles with work, family, friends and everything else in between, a lot of people give up because they feel they can’t commit to such a time consuming task.This just isn’t true, in fact spending all your time in the gym doing exercise after exercise, rep after rep may even hinder your results. In fact, you can achieve great results and build muscle by hitting the gym as little as 3 times per week!
The important part is how you prioritize exercise selection and programming, aiming to get the most bang for your buck in order to maximize muscle gain and get in and out of the gym lickety-split.
Compound exercises, such as squats and deadlifts, are the most efficient use of your time in the gym as they allow you to work your entire body with just a handful of exercises. Isolation exercises such as tricep pushdowns, bicep curls and calf raises only work one muscle group and won’t cut it if you’re trying to progress with a minimal time commitment. By increasing the amount of muscle groups like those in compound movements, it leads to greater strength, heavier weights and muscle gain. On top of saving time, compound exercises also cause a significant rise in anabolic hormones, namely testosterone and growth hormone, two very important hormones for muscle growth.
A common feature of training 5 days a week leads to training a different body part every day which would only work each major muscle group 1 or 2 times a week. Whereas with 3 training days with whole body workouts you are working major muscle groups 3 times; this is one of the major reasons people don’t get the results they want, hence less is more.
Rest and recovery are key after smashing a workout. Your muscles need time to recover from your workouts, but they do not need an entire week which is often the case if you train 5 days a week. Rather, muscles usually recover in around 48-72 hours. Training 3 times a week, spread over the week would translate to greater recovery times as you have at least 1 day for rest and recovery in between training days. After this 48-72 hours, if you don’t train those muscles soon after that period, you will experience a little detraining and that will delay your progress.
Lastly, all that time that you’re not in the gym will mean you have more time to prioritize your nutrition. If you don’t follow through with proper nutrition to fuel muscle growth, you’ll struggle to make significant changes. Even on rest days, you should be focused on a high protein intake to provide your body with enough resources to build new muscle tissue. Poultry, meat, eggs, legumes (beans, lentils, pulses) or a protein supplement such as EHPLabs’ Oxywhey are great sources of protein to help build muscle.
So if your goal is to build muscle, consider training 3 days a week as it might be more beneficial to cut back on training days to increase training muscle group frequency, enhance recovery times and maximize your efficiency and time in the gym.