Is It Okay To Work Out Once A Week?

November 16th 2019

As a strength athlete, consistency is key. It is especially important for beginners to structure themselves and set a schedule with attainable goals. So, as a strength athlete, is it okay to work out once a week? Well, maybe. If you only plan to work out one day per week, you will need to be prepared to pack in three or four days of training into one session. If you are not able to do that, working out once a week will not be enough to reach your peak performance or potential. You also will not see any visible improvement. However, if you are only able to train once a week, one day is better than none. It is best to spread your workouts over a few days to boost frequency and instill a workable balance. 

There are factors that determine how often you should workout. Regular strength training helps maintain muscle and prevents the natural loss of lean muscle mass that couples with aging. There are a plethora of benefits of strength training, including cardiovascular health, physical, and mental health. While there are many controlled aspects that fall into strength training, but there are even more uncontrollable aspects that are a part of the equation. Some of the controllable factors include the intensity, volume, and frequency. There are also many things that are outside of our control, like injuries, illness, and other unforeseeable circumstances.

Working Out Once A Week

It is not optimal but it is better than nothing. Generally, beginners pick workout programs that are 3-4 times a week. By opting to work out once a week, you will need to squeeze 3-4 workouts into one day, which a lot of people will not do.

Evaluate your Expectations

Common sense tells us that only training once a week will not impact as training multiple times per week. An athlete will require higher training frequency because they are at a higher performance level. Depending on your time restrictions, you can adjust your routine accordingly to maximize your results with the time provided. For beginners, you should always focus on proper mechanics and technique to prevent injury and increase athletic performance. 

Intensity and Modes of Recovery 

All strength athletes from beginners to experts should have recovery methods to maintain muscle on off days. Recovery modalities include low-intensity circulatory and mobility work, stretching, rolling, and other supplements such as a sauna. Finding a combination of training and recovery modalities is the key to finding the perfect balance in strength training. The combination may change depending on certain time limitations. If you are limited in how many days you are able to train, recovery modalities could have the greatest impact.

Strength training pushes your muscles with a “stronger-than-usual” force. By using heavier weights and increasing resistance, it makes our muscles stronger. It improves muscle tone and increases muscle mass. According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, “the current national guidelines for physical activity recommend strengthening exercises for all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms) at least twice a week. One set — usually 8 to 12 repetitions of the same movement — per session is effective, though some evidence suggests that two to three sets may be better. Your muscles need at least 48 hours to recover between strength training sessions.”

Intensity is calculated that is proportionate to a percentage of your one-repetition max. It is important to remember that high intensity is not equal to a harder intensity. The general rule is the higher the intensity, the lower the number of repetitions.  

ATP/PC System

You utilize the ATP/PC system in short, but intense bouts of exercise, such as weight and strength training. Any and all muscle contraction and exertion are the results of a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is turned into adenosine diphosphate (ADP) when the third phosphate group is pulled from the adenosine molecule releasing the actual energy used, which is used as mechanical energy in exercise. If a supply is present, another phosphorus molecule is cleaved from the phosphocreatine molecule. This leaves only creatine which creates another ATP molecule and starting the whole process over again. This happens until phosphorus supply is depleted.

Finite Storage of Phosphorus with Creatine

You can add creatine as a supplement to your training program and increase storage. This will increase the energy available. Next, is anaerobic/glycolytic and the use of glucose for energy. Glycogen is stored in muscles which converts to glucose for fuel usage as well as finite storage of glycogen. The aerobic and Krebs cycle plays some part in the above process. However, when weightlifting, you mostly use the first two. Then, once you deplete those fuel sources, you will not have as much energy to complete strength exercises. 

Anaerobic/glycolytic doesn’t kick in until approximately ninety seconds into exercise and then aerobic system two or three minutes later. Creatine and glycogen have storage limitations. Therefore, you are unlikely to have enough energy storage to maintain an intense workout for the extended duration needed to sufficiently stress the muscle groups trained. The limitation of doing this in one day can cause complete energy depletion. This illustrates why in order to make strength gains; you need to train multiple days of the week.

Frequency & Volume

Frequency relates to how often you perform a specific lift or train. Volume is another balancing act in strength training. Throughout your strength training, your volume should increase. It is essential to be aware that too much volume can lead to overtraining and injury while too little volume can lead to a halting stagnation. So, your volume in 2019 should be higher than your volume in 2018. This does not mean that you have to implement extreme changes to your training program, but just by steadily increasing weight will, in turn, increase the volume. An easy way to increase your volume and get stronger is to include an additional exercise in one of your training sessions per week.

Build your Training Routine

In conclusion, as a strength athlete, it is best to spread your training across three or four days a week. This will enable you to work different muscle groups while allowing your other groups to recover. Training one day a week is certainly better than none. However, you should at least use the additional days to stretch, do a light mobility work out, or use a sauna to prevent the loss of muscle mass and tone.

Interested in a workout that WORKS for beginners? Starting Strength is the answer for you. Nothing is more straightforward, concise and efficient than this general strength program. Though it is most popular with beginners, it has deviations for the intermediate and advanced athletes.

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