First question: Can you grow and become stronger by training only three days per week?
Second question: Does everyone have the time to train 4x per week or more?
I am one of those people who does not have time to train 4x or more per week, at least not right now in my life. And that goes for many of my clients as well. So, lately, I have been playing around with three-day blocks to help not only myself but also my clients to reach our goals without losing our time or sanity.
I have seen a lot of success and mental relief with a lot of my clients who I am programming only three days per week. They are still getting stronger, still making progress, and looking forward to their time in the gym. So, I wanted to share an example of what a progressive four-week, three-day block could look like for you. Below is a link to the actual Excel document so that you can download the program and try it yourself. In the program, you will see weight cells, so if you download the Excel app to your phone, you can enter in the weights you use as you train. You can also do this with the Google Sheets app. I highly recommend recording your weights as you go to ensure that progressive overload is at the forefront.
So, let’s get into the details about the program. What I love about this block is that each day, you can probably finish within 60-90 minutes assuming that you aren’t jibber jabberin’ or playing on your phone. It is super simple yet effective! Each week consists of one upper-body day, one lower-body day, and one full-body day. But just a fair warning: some cardio is built in as well. Didn’t think you were getting out of that one, did you? We have just two rowing sprint finishers weekly that are progressive. Record your time, and try to match or beat it weekly. The sprint distance also increases by week 3. I also added in one low-intensity, steady-state session for 45-60 minutes. This could be a light walk or bike ride, or even a chilled yoga class. Nothing you should have to recover from.
As you will see, each week will build off of the previous week. The main movements stay consistent, but the rep scheme will change each week. Reps will decrease, and therefore, weights should increase over time. Some accessory movements will remain consistent throughout, but many will change to add some variety. Again, this is why it is important to track your weights—so that you can increase your weight on repeating exercises. And remember that you don’t have to increase by much. Just a 2.5- to 5-pound increase on upper movements or a 5- to 10-pound increase on lower movements over time is plenty. Do not burn yourself out on the first week. Give yourself wiggle room to progress. Below is a program legend so that you know what the hell I am talking about.
- AMRAP – As many reps/rounds as possible
- MM – Mind-muscle connection, meaning feel the muscle. Don’t power through sh*t; take it slow.
- RPE – Rate of perceived exertion (1 being no effort, 10 being can’t continue)
- A1/A2 – Same letter with numbers signifies a superset
Now within this program, each exercise for the first week should be RPE 7-8 unless otherwise noted. Each week after that is RPE 8-9 unless otherwise noted. Use the first week to “find your starting point” so that you can progress weekly. Don’t start so heavy that you are failing by week 3. You shouldn’t be failing at all in this program.
After you have finished the entire four-week block, you can take a deload and then repeat. Or, you can cycle through it again and take a deload after eight weeks. Because this is only a three-day block, assuming that you recover normally, you should be able to hit eight weeks before needing to deload. But different strokes for different folks. Either option works.
Give this program a whirl, and let me know how you like it! This is how my current training is set up, and I absolutely love it. The training is tough, but I recover well and am motivated for my next session. It also fits into my busy schedule, even on my busiest weeks. There is no sense in trying to fit in 4+ training sessions only to miss some here and there and become inconsistent. You will be better off following something you can hit consistently no matter what. Growth and strength are built from what you can consistently do. If you have any questions about the program, feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.