The fitness world can be tricky to navigate, especially when it comes to working out. There’s so much information out there, and it can be tough to filter out the noise to find what habits work best. This is why many people fall under the misconception that you need to exercise every day of the week to see significant improvements.
Working out three days a week is enough to get in shape, help with weight loss, and improve muscle mass. However, this is only achievable with 225 minutes of consistent exercise per week. That equates to 75-minute sessions, three times per week, including both vigorous and moderate activities.
In the rest of this article, I’ll be discussing why this is true and how you can incorporate the perfect 3-day workout routine into your weekly exercise ritual.
Is Working Out 3 Times a Week Enough To Get in Shape?
Many people assume that you have to be going to the gym every day to get in shape. However, this isn’t necessarily true— or possible for many people because we all have busy schedules and budgets to keep in mind.
Luckily, three seems to be the magic number for workout sessions per week.
Working out three days a week is enough to get in shape. As recent studies suggest, it’s possible to get the same results from just three gym sessions as you would from six. However, this depends on how you spend your time and how consistent you are.
In a study performed in 2018, researchers compared the results of people who worked out six times a week with those who worked out three times a week and saw that both groups exhibited the same levels of strength. This led them to conclude that volume is more important than frequency when it comes to working out.
So if you’re only able to fit in three days of exercise a week, that’s perfectly fine. As long as you’re mindful of the actual content of your workout routines, three days a week should be enough to get in shape.
How Long Should You Work Out 3 Times a Week?
As we previously discussed, the volume of your workouts is more important than how often you’re working out. Still, you might be wondering how long those individual sessions should be.
When working out three times a week, you should include at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity and 50 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per session. As a result, each session should be at least 75 minutes long.
According to the CDC, you should aim for 75 minutes of “vigorous” aerobic activity and 150 minutes of “moderate” aerobic activity per week— meaning that your individual workout sessions should be at least 75 minutes long if you’re planning on working out three times a week.
However, it’s up to you to divide that time in a way that makes sense for you. Take a moment to identify and analyze your workout goals, so you can come up with a workout plan that works for your unique needs.
For example, if your main focus is core strength, spend the more vigorous minutes concentrating on that primary goal and the more moderate minutes focusing on others.
It might be helpful to acquire a notebook or a journal so you can keep track of your workout goals, equipment needs, and diet. Having a place to plan out your exercise can make it a lot easier to divide your workout times in a logical way that tackles your personal goals while simultaneously checking off the CDC’s recommendations.
Will Working Out 3 Times a Week Build Muscle?
So we’ve talked about how long your workouts should be. But will working out three times a week really build muscle?
Working out three times a week can build muscle, as long as you’re consistent with your workouts. That means focussing on and resting muscle groups the right way, not overdoing it with too heavy weights, and giving your body time to recover between sessions.
In a recent study performed by the University of New South Wales, researchers observed almost 1,000 different women and concluded that consistency plays one of the most critical roles in building muscle.
Within this study, they concluded that a good resistance training session should include:
- Per session – 3 sets of 10 repetitions
- Overall – 3 sessions per week for at least 15 weeks
With this regiment, they found that the women gained an average muscle mass of 1.5 kg (3.31 lbs). In addition, they saw an average increase of 25% in muscular strength once the 15 weeks were over.
As I mentioned earlier in the article, volume makes more of an impact than frequency when working out. However, consistency is a bit different from frequency.
While frequency refers to how often you’re working out, consistency means making those workouts a regular part of your routine. In other words, working out consistently means that you create a routine for yourself and actually stick with it.
So, if you decide to go to the gym and work on free weights, it’s best to keep this up for the suggested 15 weeks to see results.
Think of working out like an equation. You must consider volume, frequency, and consistency when developing your personal exercise plan. You can work three times a week at the recommended volume, but you won’t be building much muscle if you’re not consistent with those habits.
How Long Does It Take To See Results From Working Out 3 Days a Week?
Now you know you need to be consistent, but how long until you’ll see results?
It takes a few weeks to see results from working out three days a week, provided you remain consistent. These results could be an increase in energy levels, the ability to lift heavier weights or a reduction in body fat. It depends on the exercises you do and where you were when you started.
In the study done by UNSW, the women involved saw significant results in 15 weeks.
However, if you’re consistently working out three days a week, you’ll probably notice small gains as you progress with your current routine.
“Within three to six months, an individual can see a 25 to 100% improvement in their muscular fitness – providing a regular resistance program is followed,” says an article by an exercise physiologist at Exercise Right.
However, it’s important to note that every individual body is different. Therefore, there are a lot of variables to consider, including your weight, height, and overall health.
So, where one person may see huge changes in their appearance, others may not. The important thing is not to compare yourself to others and continue with your journey. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and if you remain consistent, you will see results.
In addition, while it’s possible to notice small gains within the first few weeks of a new workout routine, your progress can vary depending on what supplements you’re taking, your diet, and the fitness equipment you’re using.
For example, a person exercising three times a week for the recommended 75 minutes per session likely won’t see any results if they eat fast food every day. So a balanced diet is just as important in most cases.
Essential Tips for Working Out 3 Days a Week
Working out three days a week can be beneficial to your overall health. However, there are some things you want to keep in mind while practicing this particular exercise routine— for the sake of both your physical and mental well-being.
Here are some essential tips for working out three days a week:
- When you’re working out, you must acquire the right fitness equipment. Having the right workout gear can make or break your routine, so make sure that you’re using the right fitness accessories for you and your personal needs.
- Fitness apparel can make exercise more comfortable, but according to psychology and a survey by Healthline, it also plays a massive role in our motivation to stay in shape. Dressing up in workout clothes can boost confidence, inspire you to meet your goals, and promote a better workout performance overall.
- Studies have shown that people who write about their goals are more likely to achieve them— and there’s neuroscience to back that. For example, if you write down your unique fitness goals in a designated notebook or journal, you’re more likely to stick to a routine and practice the consistency that’s essential for seeing progress.
- The CDC states that good eating habits can support muscle growth and help you maintain a healthy weight. Though working out three days a week may help you see progress, a proper diet will only help the process. You might want to consider making the switch to eating all organic foods to ensure that you’re eating the cleanest food possible.
Studies have shown that you don’t need to go to the gym every day to get in shape. Instead, just three days a week of consistent training is more than enough to see results.
Just remember that you need to find a routine that works for you, and then you need to stick to it. You won’t see a gain in muscle mass if you don’t keep up with those bicep curls, so make them part of your routine and keep up the good work!
- NCBI: Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength in Trained Men
- CDC: Benefits of Physical Activity
- Greatist: How Often Should You Work Out, Really?
- UNSW Sydney: Workout frequency the most important factor in strength gains for women
- The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Comparison of 1 Day and 3 Days Per Week of Equal-Volume Resistance Training in Experienced Subjects
- Exercise Right: How long does it actually take to see results from exercise?
- Forbes: Neuroscience Explains Why You Need To Write Down Your Goals If You Actually Want To Achieve Them
- CDC: Benefits of Healthy Eating
- Healthline: Why It Pays to Try and Look Good at the Gym