Unless you have a trainer, knowing how often to train and how long to train for can be confusing, and it's easy to over-do it. PT and Media Fitness Expert, Carly Yue, explains the ideal balance to ensure you see optimum success in your training…

Whether you want to cut down and get lean, train for size, build strength, or just maintain, the amount of times per week that you train can make or break your results. As a general baseline, if you’re looking for any sort of results, I’d strongly recommend that you don’t spend any less than three days per week hitting the weights. You won’t be accomplishing anything by training less than this, and your weekly training volume will simply be too low, which won’t have lasting effects on strength, muscle volume, or caloric burn.

Here's my expert advice when training for your goals:

Training for fat loss and cutting

Focus on doing three to four workouts per week. Fat loss workout programmes often involve total body training, large movements, and a lot of energy expenditure to kick-start the metabolism. That’s a lot of effort, and can run your energy stores thin if you don’t give yourself adequate recovery time. Put a day of complete rest or light cardio in-between each weight training workout, and training will be effective.

Training for size

To do this, look to increase your total weekly volume. In this case, our muscles have a 'quota' that they need to hit each week, so that they each receive a sufficient amount of training to promote growth. Usually the protocol used is a muscle group isolation split, which often calls for four to five workouts per week. My favourite split is: Day 1 – Back, Day 2 – Chest, Day 3 – Legs, Day 4 – Shoulders, Day 5 – Arms.

Training for strength

Remember to focus on the big three movements, squatting, deadlifting, and bench pressing, as they target the most major patterns of the whole body. Four days per week can do the trick if you’re looking to add in a day for isolations, weak links and specifics. Strength training requires a lot of heavy sets, and heavy sets can have a greater impact on fatiguing the nervous system. That said, recovery time is vital.

In addition, interval training, cardio sessions, and a good diet tailored to your goals will all affect your results, especially regarding bulking and cutting, though we do have to remember not to go overboard. Some common signs of over-training are lowered strength, lowered body temperature, poor sleep quality, increase in body fat/water retention, and susceptibility to illness such as colds, flu, and digestive problems. It’s all about balance, and rest is just as important to your results as the training itself.

So although it can be tempting to spend hours in the gym, my advice would be to focus on quality rather than quantity when it comes to training. 45-60 minutes is more than enough, and if you can still manage another couple of hours, I would seriously question whether you're training hard enough. Most people have no idea how hard they could or should push themselves until they have a training session with someone like me. The truth is that you won't get the body of your dreams by coasting along at the gym!

In addition to that, for the majority of people with pressing careers and busy social lives, exercising for more than one hour per session just isn't sustainable. The gym should enhance your life, not hinder it. Less can be more, and remember that rest is all part of the programme.

Carly Tierney Personal Trainer

Guest post by PT & Media Fitness Expert Carly Yue.