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Why training every other day is ideal for most people

It's a common misconception that daily training is needed in order to experience rapid progress in the gym. As it turns out, training every other day is ideal for the vast majority of recreational lifters.

Who needs to train daily?

There are some genuine cases where daily training may be useful or needed. Professional athletes or elite bodybuilders could potentially benefit from daily training if their weekly workload is too demanding to accomplish with an every other day training schedule.

What about everyone else?

Most recreational lifters train simply to look great, build general strength and to improve their health. They don't care about performance or competing.

It's unfortunate that many lifters hold the belief that more is always better, in their minds training 6 days per week must surely be superior to training just 3 or 4 days per week.

These lifters often start out full of energy, motivation and good intentions but ultimately suffer burnout either physically or mentally several months down the track. Quite often they end up quitting the gym entirely.

Slow and steady wins the race

It's important to understand that building an impressive physique takes a long time, several years in fact. Trying to rush things and force faster progress by training more often will usually backfire.

It's better to make slow and steady progress over several years rather than training too often and experiencing burnout and/or injury and having to constantly stop and restart your training.

Realistically speaking, very few people can commit to training more than 3-4 days per week without skipping workouts. People who plan to train 6 days per week very rarely actually make it to the gym 6 days per week, they usually end up making it to the gym 4-5 days per week at most, sometimes even less.

It's just incredibly difficult to maintain a 6 day per week routine when life has so many ways of throwing a curveball into the mix. A family emergency could arise, perhaps something goes wrong at work and you have to stay later than expected, perhaps you have a spontaneous date with a gorgeous woman.

Life is unpredicatable and it's better to have flexibility. Plan for the unplanned.

Every other day training

If you literally trained every other day you'd train 7 times every 14 days, or 3.5 times per week on average, one week you'd train 4 times and the next week you'd train only 3 times, then back to 4 times again the following week etc.

Some people prefer to always have their weekends free, the simplest solution for these people is to train 3 times per week on nonconsecutive days, for example, training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Whether you choose to train literally every other day or just 3 specific days per week really comes down to preference and circumstances. Personally, I prefer to train every other day and I don't mind having to train on Saturday or Sunday depending on which week it is.

What's most important is not training multiple days in a row. Whether you train literally every other day like me or you choose 3 specific days per week to train the key is to never train 2 days in a row. You should always have at least 1 rest day after every workout.

What splits work well with every other day training?

Full body workouts and upper/lower splits are both fantastic, whether you train 3 specific days per week or you train literally every other day like me you simply perform either a full body workout each session or you alternate between upper body workouts and lower body workouts.

A full body setup is pretty self-explanatory but to give you an example for the upper/lower split:

Week 1:

D1 = Upper

D2 = Rest

D3 = Lower

D4 = Rest

D5 = Upper

D6 = Rest

D7 = Rest

Week 2:

D1 = Lower

D2 = Rest

D3 = Upper

D4 = Rest

D5 = Lower

D6 = Rest

D7 = Rest

That's how it would look if you only wanted to train on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Over every 2 week period you train the upper body 3 times and the lower body 3 times.

If you instead prefer to train literally every other day the same principle applies, you simply alternate between upper body workouts and lower body workouts.

Of course there are other splits and ways to divide your body depending on your goals and needs. For example, you could use the following split if you wanted to emphasize your arms specifically by giving them their own training day and by increasing their training frequency by also training them indirectly with chest and back exercises on another day:

Workout 1 = Biceps, triceps, forearms

Workout 2 = Chest, back, delts, legs

You would simply alternate between workout 1 and workout 2 in the same fashion as the upper/lower example above.

It's also possible to utilize a 3 day split (push/pull/legs for example) while adhering to an every other day training schedule but this is more suited for very advaced lifters where frequency is not so important.

What if you miss a training day?

If you choose to train literally every other day like me and you don't care which days of the week your workouts happen to fall on then you simply pick up where you left off the next day.

Let's say I've been training every other day for a few weeks without missing any workouts and it's currently Saturday and I am due to train my upper body today and my lower body on Monday.

If I were to miss Saturday's upper body workout I would simply perform it the next day on Sunday and push my lower body workout from Monday to Tuesday to restart my every other day schedule. I would not train my upper body on Sunday and then train my lower body on Monday as this would break the golden rule of never training 2 days in a row.

That's how I do it but it's not the only way, perhaps you could simply shift Saturday's missed upper body workout to Monday and push Monday's lower body workout to Wednesday etc.

I prefer it my way because I don't like missing too many days, if I've missed Saturday I don't want to miss Sunday as well if it can be avoided. Sometimes though it can't be avoided and you have to do what you have to do.

If you decide to train just 3 days per week it's a little more tricky to deal with missed workouts but you could simply switch your training days for that week only.

For example, if you were to miss Wednesday's lower body workout you could simply perform it on Thursday instead and then push Friday's upper body workout to Saturday. This would enable you to get the workouts in for the week without messing with the following week because you would still have Sunday as a rest day and can start next week on Monday like usual without needing to train 2 days in a row.

If for some reason you can't train on the Thursday and Saturday you would instead have to just skip the Wednesday lower body workout entirely and push it to Friday. Then you'd have to push the Friday upper body workout to Monday and continue as usual from there on.

Why is training 2 or more days in a row not ideal?

It's important to understand that your muscles are not the only things that are stressed after an intense workout. Your nervous system is also stressed and requires time to regenerate. Your endocrine system can also suffer.

If you train too hard (close proximity to failure) too often the central drive from your nervous system will be muted somewhat and you won't be able to activate your highest threshold motor units. This will decrease the effectiveness of your workouts for stimulating hypertrophy gains.

Training with too much volume (too many sets) too often will not allow for sufficient muscle glycogen replenishment between workouts, if this continues chronically you will end up with elevated cortisol and decreased testosterone, both of which will interfere with muscle gains.

Training too hard, too much or too often can also cause sleep disturbances which will make it essentially impossible to make progress in the gym.

By never training 2 days in a row you give your body and mind the rest they need, this will enable you to train harder and with more volume per session without worrying about burnout or overtraining.

You'll also feel fresher and more energetic whenever you step into the gym. In fact if you limit yourself to every other day training (or just 3 days per week) you will be more motivated than ever to hit the gym.

By never training 2 days in a row you will have more productive workouts on average and in the long run this will translate into better long-term progress/gains.

People who try training 5-6 days per week often have to drag themselves to the gym like it's a job. They end up experiencing aches and pains and are at risk of overuse injuries.

I can count on one hand the number of people I've seen successfully train 5-6 days per week for long periods of time without needing to take time off to recover from burnout or overuse injuries. These people were using steroids which dramatically increase recovery between workouts.

If you're training naturally you can't handle the same punishment, training 3-4 days per week is the limit for natural lifters that are training hard and with decent volume.

If you train like a 70 year old grandmother perhaps you could train 7 days per week and still recover, but if you're training hard and pushing your sets to within 1-2 reps of failure like you should then you have zero chance of doing that 7 days per week, even if you train different muscles each day.

Intense workouts cause systematic stress that will affect both the nervous system and the endocrine system, too much systematic stress accumulating over time with put the brakes on your progress/gains. Just because your muscles can recover from something doesn't mean the rest of your body's systems are capable of dealing with the same stress.

If you'd like to hear Jason share his thoughts and experiences regarding every other day training watch the video below:


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