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How many days a week do you need to work out to see results?

Woman working out with dumbbell
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Now that 2022 is here, it’s easy to get swept up in that “new year, new me” mindset that makes us fill the fridge with all things green, and set the alarm for early morning workouts. Yet if you find that your health kick only lasts a few days or weeks, it might be time to reset and rethink your workout schedule.

Research shows that the best way to get real results is to be consistent, both in your diet, and your workout routine. If you start the month with a workout routine that involves hours of exercise every day, or a restrictive diet that you don’t really enjoy, your new habits are unlikely to stick.

Whether you’re hoping to shed some extra pounds, or just shape up in 2022, we’re here to help you reach those goals. Of course, you can’t expect changes overnight, but how many days a week do you need to work out to start seeing results? We sat down with Beachbody Super Trainer, Megan Davies, to find out more.

A woman lifting a barbell above her head

(Image credit: Westend61)

How many days should you weight train to gain muscle?

“How many days you plan on working out per week depends on a number of individual factors," Davies says. "Your experience level, goals, and schedule should all be taken into account when you decide on the frequency and length of time of training. More is not always better, and balancing training with a proper diet and enough recovery time afterward is key." 

“Lifting weights even once a week can help build strength, but research shows that working each muscle group two to three times a week can optimize growth. For a beginner to intermediate weightlifter, that might translate into a full-body workout three times a week. More advanced lifters can split their training by body part or muscle group, hitting each one two to three times a week during four to six workouts that are arranged to allow a couple of days between sessions that target the same group.”

Looking to up your lifting goals from home? We've found the best adjustable dumbbells on the market. 

How many days a week should you work out to lose weight?

“For weight loss, many of the same factors come into play: experience, goals, schedule, diet, and recovery," Davies says. "In my opinion, the top two things you should prioritize here is cleaning up your diet and increasing your daily activity level. Diet is the biggest struggle for most people, so finding an easy-to-follow, well-rounded nutrition program can be a game-changer. Your daily activity level includes exercise but also encompasses everything else you do from the moment you wake to the moment you go to sleep." 

“To increase your activity level beyond your workout, you might take the stairs instead of the elevator, go on a walk during your lunch break, park at the back of the car park instead of close to the door, etc. Being more active throughout the day is often overlooked by those trying to lose weight, and it’s a great way to boost your energy level without putting more strain on your body. All of that should be your foundation, but I still want to see a solid strength training routine to increase muscle mass and support weight loss, while providing a host of other benefits as you age.”

What should a week’s training plan look like to achieve the above?

“There are many ways to achieve your weight loss goals with two to six sessions a week," Davies says. "One program I teach has three weight training days, one HIIT day, two cardio days, and a dynamic recovery day each week.”

a photo of a young woman during a dance class

(Image credit: Luis Alvarez)

The CDC recommends adults get 150 minutes of exercise per week, which could be 30 minutes of exercise a day, for five days. As Davies mentions, this can be made up of weight training, HIIT training, or cardio, as well as just walking or moving more throughout the day. 

If you’re looking for workout inspiration to get you going, we’ve got it by the bucket load. We’ve found the best exercises to blast belly fat, the cardio exercises that burn more calories than running, and the best treadmill workouts to do at the gym. We’ve also tried this dumbbell workout which is great for beginners, this 10-minute ab workout with 65 million views, and this six-pack abs workout

Megan Davies is a super trainer for Beachbody On Demand, which has a number of on-demand and live workouts. She is also the creator of the online home training and nutrition program, Muscle Burns Fat. 

Jane McGuire

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past four years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.