09 Aug 2021

Benefits of total-body resistance training 3 days per week

Dr. James L. Nuzzo
Head of Exercise Science Research at Vitruvian
Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist
Share this article:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

People often want to know how frequently they should exercise to get the most out of their training. The answer to this question is not necessarily straightforward because factors such as training goals and time available for exercise need to be considered. Nevertheless, a resistance training program that involves total-body exercise 3 days per week is good for both new and experienced exercisers. Here are a few reasons why: 

First, life is total-body. The various activities we do every day require us to use muscles of our upper-body, lower-body, and trunk or core. Climbing and descending stairs, and sitting and standing from chairs, require adequate strength of the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Carrying heavy groceries requires adequate strength of the deltoids, biceps, and forearm. Lifting boxes and moving heavy furniture requires adequate strength from all of these muscles plus those of the trunk or core. Thus, total-body training ensures that our muscles are adequately prepared for the demands of everyday life.

Second, total body programs are effective. Numerous studies have found that total-body training, 3 days per week improves physical fitness in various populations. This is particularly true for individuals who are new to resistance exercise.

Third, muscle soreness is less likely to occur with a 3-day per week, total-body workout. With total-body workouts, each muscle group gets sufficiently, but not constantly, stressed. During a 30-minute total-body workout, there simply is not enough time to stress every muscle group to the point where excessive muscle soreness will result. Some soreness might occur, particularly in the first week of training, but it will be less than what would be experienced if exercising only one muscle group for the entire 30-minute session. 

Finally, exercise sessions can be shorter when exercising 3 times per week compared to 1 or 2 times per week. With a 3-day per week program, you can complete 3 sessions lasting only 30 minutes each. To achieve the same training volume with a 1-day per week program, you would need to extend the duration of your training session to 90 minutes. A 90-minute session will not suit some exercise scenarios, such as exercising during lunch breaks. Moreover, the shorter 30-minute sessions of resistance exercise throughout the week might help to establish resistance exercise as a life-long habit.


One way to incorporate this information into exercise on your V-Form or Trainer+ is to participate in classes that include exercises for all major muscle groups. Another way is to build a workout that includes various multi-joint exercises. Multi-joint exercises are exercises that require movement at more than one joint. For example, during the squat, movement occurs at both the hip and knee joints. During the overhead press, movement occurs at both the shoulder and elbow joints. Squats and overhead presses are great exercises to include in a 3-day per week, total-body training program because they activate numerous muscles groups in a short period of time. The squat will activate and strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and low back muscles. The overhead press will activate and strengthen your deltoids and triceps. Other time-efficient multi-joint exercises include the deadlift, lunge, bench press, and bent-over row.

More articles