Came a question about the wisdom of doing full-body workouts on consecutive days:
“Out of curiosity, could you train your whole body back to back on Saturday and Sunday? Or should you avoid training the same muscle groups on consecutive days?”
In days gone by, I would have told you to take at least a day or so before training the same muscles.
That is, if you want to do a full-body workout on Monday, wait until Wednesday or Thursday before doing the same thing again.
However, a number of studies have been published in recent years that have changed my mind on the subject.
When a team of Brazilian researchers compared training a muscle once a week with a full-body workout performed on five consecutive days, there were no significant differences in terms of strength or size gains between the two groups.
That is, 10-15 sets distributed across five consecutive training days delivered much the same results as the same number of sets performed once a week.
A couple of studies out of Portugal and Singapore show that training on three consecutive days (e.g. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) works just as well as inserting a recovery day between each workout (e.g. Monday, Wednesday, Friday).
In other words, training three days in a row then taking four days off produced much the same results as training every other day and taking the weekend off.
Here’s how the Portuguese researchers sum up their findings:
“Results from the present study show that, at least in recreationally trained men, total-body resistance training performed 3 times a week on consecutive days is an alternative with similar effects on maximal strength and body composition to the recommended workouts on non-consecutive days.”
Granted, these training programs didn’t last very long (7-12 weeks), and we may well have seen a different set of results with longer training periods.
What’s more, the “optimal” amount of time between workouts is highly individual, and will vary from person to person, based on the type of workout you’re doing. Given the choice, I’d still prefer to insert at least one day of rest between workouts for the same muscle group.
However, if you only have time to train at the weekends, and provided that your workouts are set up properly, a couple of full-body workouts on Saturday and Sunday may well do the job just fine.
Christian Finn is the nation’s leading authority on science-based, joint-friendly ways to build muscle. A former “trainer to the trainers,” he holds a masters degree in exercise science, and has been featured in or contributed to major media on two continents, including the BBC and Sunday Times in the U.K. and Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness in the U.S.