There are a lot of details you have to think about when putting together an exercise routine. Find out whether working out 4 days a week is enough.
Some important things to note first are that your fitness goals, what the workouts look like, and things like genetics play a big role in whether an exercise routine is “good” enough.
With these things in mind, for many people, working out 4 times a week is enough to gain a nice amount of muscle mass if they use a good workout plan, eat enough, and rest enough.
Next, losing weight is even possible without any exercise. That means exercising 4 times a week can also be enough to see weight loss results if your other lifestyle habits are good enough.
Lastly, as long as your body can deal with it, working up to working out 4 times a week will improve health and longevity. More specifically, it can improve your cardiovascular health, sleep, mood, bone density, etc.
However, it may be challenging the fit the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion exercise guidelines in 4 days. Working out more often can be beneficial for health and longevity.
Is working out 4 times a week enough to get in shape?
An important question to ask yourself when putting together your workout routine is what your goal is. If you don’t have any specific fitness goals you want, you can also not achieve these things.
Some of the most popular goals people have with working out include gaining muscle, losing weight, and improving longevity.
While exercising 4 times a week can help with all of these things, it could be better than alternatives, be worse than alternatives, or look different in terms of the specific routines depending on your personal goal.
Is it enough to gain muscle?
While you can get more detailed too, from a high-level view gaining muscle requires you to challenge your muscles with enough weight, repetitions, and sets, eat the right things, and rest enough.
If you approach it right, working out 4 days a week can likely help you gain a nice amount of muscle.
For this goal, your workouts will involve going to the gym or doing resistance training at home.
Even considering you want to give the muscles you worked 24 to 48 hours of rest, you can put them under a good amount of volume. Especially when implementing compound lifts that work multiple muscle groups.
An important thing to keep in mind is that it is also possible to not gain any muscle at all when working out 4 days a week.
If you only do 10-minute plank sessions with 5 pounds on your back and don’t eat enough protein. You will obviously not gain too much muscle mass.
While most people will not implement this exact routine, the point is that you can also approach going to the gym 4 times a week in a suboptimal way.
Secondly, as you get stronger and gain more muscle over time, you have to increase the challenge of your gym routine to keep seeing progress.
Experienced lifters may not recover fast enough, lack time, or not be able to eat enough to get gym gains and keep them.
Is it enough to lose weight?
Whether working out 4 days a week is enough for losing weight is somewhat more straightforward.
Body fat is basically stored energy. When you make it so your body requires more energy than is coming in from food, it starts using energy stores like body fat to make up for the difference.
While exercise can help, other lifestyle habits like nutrition play a big role in whether or not you will lose weight.
In simpler words, you can lose weight without any exercise at all. That means that implementing exercise 4 days a week could also be enough to achieve this fitness goal and speed up your results.
Is it enough for health and longevity?
Another reason to work out is wanting to live longer and healthier. These are great goals but unfortunately, human knowledge about the optimal exercise amounts for living longer and healthier is not that precise.
At the time of writing, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends the following exercise guidelines to adults (1):
- Moving more and sitting less throughout the day
- At least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity a week. Preferably spread throughout the week.
- You can gain additional health benefits by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.
- Muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
While these are inevitably not perfect guidelines, you can still use them as numbers to aim for.
Exercising 4 days a week can cover a large amount of these guidelines if you make your workouts long enough. However, it does look like training more often could be even better for health and longevity.
How long should you work out on these 4 days a week?
By now, it is clear that going to the gym and doing other workouts 4 days a week can be enough for a variety of fitness goals. However, how long and intense these workouts are matter a lot too.
For gaining muscle
First of all, to grow muscles you have to challenge these with enough weight and repetitions for your current strength level. In turn, how long your workouts should be varies a lot from person to person.
A resistance training beginner can likely already build a nice amount of muscle mass by working out 4 days a week for 30 minutes.
On the flip side, an experienced lifter may not see any muscle gains when doing 1-hour training sessions on the same amount of days.
The main way to figure out how long you should work out to gain muscle is by implementing a gym routine, seeing what changes this causes, and adapting the duration of your training sessions if you want different results.
For weight loss
As mentioned before, it is possible to lose weight without any exercise at all. That means how long your exercise sessions should be depends a lot on your other lifestyle habits and weight loss goals.
An example of a 4 days a week weight loss exercise routine could be two 1-hour compound weight lifting workouts, one 25-minute HIIT running session, and one 35-minute steady-state cardio cycling session.
That being said, you can see a lot of results with completely different time frames, intensities, and exercises too.
For health and longevity
Again, the guidelines from the previous health and longevity section are inevitably not perfect. At the same time, they can be useful for getting a first idea about how long you should work out on the 4 days a week for these goals.
To reach the guidelines of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion by exercising 4 times a week you would have to implement gym strength training on two days and for example two 112-minute sessions of moderate-intensity or two 56-minute sessions of vigorous-intensity cardiovascular exercise.
This again makes it clear that to reach these health and longevity exercise guidelines, exercising more than 4 times a week could be more convenient.
What results can you expect from working out 4 days a week?
For goals like building muscle and improving longevity, it is hard to predict exactly what results you can expect from working out 4 times a week.
That being said, with the right exercise routines, you can likely build some muscle, improve cardiovascular health, improve sleep, improve mood, improve muscle endurance, age more slowly, and burn more calories.
When it comes to weight loss, it is easier to estimate the results in precise numbers.
Let’s say you go to the gym to follow a 30-minute spinning (indoor cycling) class 4 times a week and keep all your other lifestyle habits the same.
A 155-pound person can expect to burn around 311 extra calories during each session. That would mean about 1244 calories per week which comes down to losing about 0.36 pounds (0.16 kg) of body fat.
Two things to keep in mind are that these are very rough estimations and that as you lose weight, the same activities start to burn fewer calories which can lead to a weight plateau over time.
Additionally, cardiovascular exercise is easier to put into numeric weight loss results but building muscle by lifting weights is also helpful for weight loss results.
Is working out 4 days a week good?
For resistance training beginners, likely many intermediates, and potentially experienced lifters, going to the gym 4 days a week is more than good enough to build a nice amount of muscle mass.
Make sure you implement a good lifting routine, eat the right nutrients, and give your body and specific muscles enough rest.
For people who are trying to lose weight, working out 4 times a week can also be very good. At the same time, exercising more often could also speed up results.
Lastly, for people who are trying to improve health and longevity, working out more days a week is likely recommended.
It can be challenging to fit the weekly ODPHP guidelines in 4 days. Additionally, moving more than these guidelines could potentially be even better for health and longevity (up to a point).