One of the first things I tell anyone who comes into the gym for a consultation is that consistency is extremely important.
If you want to make a real change, you can’t take long breaks or show up randomly and expect big things to happen.
So I’m still pretty well sold on consistency.
I was listening to a bodybuilding podcast recently that addressed this question, and they brought up a great point.
Long story short, there has to be a balance between consistency and intensity.
Too much intensity
One thing that people new to (or back in) the gym have loads of is motivation and enthusiasm.
Often that translates into high levels of intensity as well.
You’ve probably known these folks.
They want to lose weight, so they decide they’re going to hit the gym every day for a couple of hours, and also go for a run a few times a week, and eat nothing but salads.
Almost without fail, these individuals burn out because they can’t recover, or even worse, get hurt and have to stop working out for a while (which sometimes stretches into weeks or months).
Consistency without intensity
On the other side of that coin is the person who shows up to the gym, day after day, month after month, and year after year.
They rarely miss a workout for anything…
But a few years later… they still look exactly the same.
No major changes in their strength or physique.
Because they aren’t varying the intensity of their training to keep ahead of their body’s adaptations.
Hopefully, they aren’t going backwards, but they definitely aren’t moving forward.
And that almost seems like a waste.
Split the difference
As with most things in life the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
Too much intensity will prevent you from being consistent.
But consistency without enough intensity will mostly be a waste of time (though it’s better than doing nothing… but “better than nothing” shouldn’t be our standard!)
Depending on a variety of factors, training anywhere from 3-5 times per week should be fine, as long as you’re ratcheting up the intensity as you go along.
That doesn’t mean you’re killing yourself every time you go to the gym (maybe only some of the time…)
It means you’re making improvements, and every session is a little better than the last session.
Below are a few ways to make sure you’re staying on track.
3 Simple ways to ensure you’re not wasting your time
Before we start, I implore you to keep a training log.
Personally, I prefer the analog method.
I think you should go buy a cheap notebook and pen and carry it with you every time you go to the gym.
Write down everything that you do in your session, exercises, sets, and reps.
It’s also useful to make notes on you felt that day, or anything else that puts your session into context.
Trust me… You won’t remember it later. Just write it down.
- Doing more reps with the same weight
Just like it says! If you can do more reps with the same weight than you did last session… you’re moving forward. Even if you only eek out 1 more rep, that’s progress.
- Doing the same amount of reps with more weight
If you’ve hit the top of the rep range in your program, you can move up in weight. This time you might want to compare to the lower end of the rep range, but adding weight = progress.
- Doing more sets with the same of weight reps
Or maybe you hit the top end of the rep range with the weight you were using, but instead of changing weight or reps, you just add another set. This increases the total volume of your workout, which is… you guessed it, progress!
The Double Progression Method
This is another simple way to know when it’s time to make a change.
If you have a given rep range that you’re working in (i.e. 12-15 reps), and a weight that you’re using, you will first progress the number of reps session over session until you can hit the maximum number of reps for each set (i.e. 3 sets of 15 reps).
Once you hit the max number of reps, you increase the weight.
This takes the guesswork out of what to increase and when.
Make sure you’re being honest about how many reps you can actually do.
Not everything has to be taken to failure, but don’t quit on a set just because the reps are getting difficult.
You probably still have at least one or two more.
Don’t cheat yourself!
Got questions? Let me know in the comments.
And if you need help with your programming and nutrition, reach out, I’m starting to take on online training clients and I’m happy to help you get your training and food squared away you can start seeing the kind of progress you’re looking for.
Fill out this survey and I’ll see how I can help!