Shorter and More Often or Longer and Less Often?
June 16, 2009 3:17 PM   Subscribe

Personal training: three times a week for 30 minutes, or two times a week for an hour?

I'm going to be engaging in 10 weeks of personal training at my gym. I basically have the budget to either go twice a week for an hour each time or three times a week for 30 minutes each time. I'll be working with a trainer who's ACSM-certified and has a bachelor's in exercise physiology.

My end goal is to inculcate the habit of working out/exercising, and achieve some or all of the following:
  • Weight loss
  • Being able to do 2 or more bodyweight pullups (I can do 0 now)
  • Being able to do squats with proper technique
  • Being able to do pushups with proper technique.
What are the pro/con arguments for 3x/week at 30 minutes versus 2x/week at 1 hour?
posted by scrump to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Will you go to the gym on your own in between training sessions? If so, I'd pick the option with more total trainer time and supplement with individual workouts. If, however, you think you need an appointment with a trainer to motivate you to go to the gym at all (no shame in that; I'm sort of the same way), pick the option with more sessions per week, because getting into the habit of going to the gym multiple days a week is a valuable goal.
posted by decathecting at 3:25 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

i'd recommend 3x a week.

Since you're untrained, you'll be progressing very quickly from workout to workout (you should be adding weight to the bar every time you squat for a few weeks at least), and you're not lifting heavy enough to be seriously taxing your nervous system enough to need longer recovery times. A lot of your progress from workout to workout will be as much mental adaptation as muscular, as you learn correct form and get used to lifting. You'll also acclimate to the workload a lot better if you lift more often rather than doing more infrequent longer sessions.

Also, going more often will help you learn and remember the form for the lifts better, just like learning any other type of activity that requires precise muscular control.

Also, since you're doing squats, I'd really recommend bench presses instead of pushups because you can add progressive resistance which is key. Pushup form is really easy, and since they're more about endurance than power, imperfect form is a less serious problem. you can just crank out a couple of those at home after reading about form online and save your trainer time for learning proper bench press technique from the trainer. Pullups are good, but I'd add some deadlifts too to work out your back/hips/hamstrings with weights to maintain balance in your body, since you plan on squatting.
posted by I like to eat meat at 3:36 PM on June 16, 2009

The former.
posted by Zambrano at 3:43 PM on June 16, 2009

I would probably do the 3x program and plan to show up 30 minutes early to do my own warmup and stretching. Get on the treadmill or bike and do 20 minutes to get your muscles nice and warmed up then go stretch for a bit. Then you'll be ready to go with your workout with the trainer. Make sure that they know that you'll be ready to GO at the start of your session.

If I did the 2x program, I'd be tempted to just show up for the time and not workout beforehand (1.5 hours of workout doesn't fit into my schedule) and that would be somewhat wasteful. Plus, I really hate the gym and I'd feel like I needed to get another hour in there somewhere on my own and would be unlikely to go.

So, I guess you should really think about what works best for your frame of mind and motivation and time.
posted by amanda at 5:30 PM on June 16, 2009

2x per week for an hour.

Every session will have a few minutes spent on hellos, getting started, progress checks and wrapping up. I'd rather have fewer opportunities to fritter away time and money.

Walk or swim on your own for some additional workout time each week.
posted by 26.2 at 5:46 PM on June 16, 2009

2nding deciding if you'll go on your own or not, if not, do the three times to get in the habit and go early to stretch and do cardio. If you will, I think you'd benefit from the hour lesson more.

I also like to throw in one day a week where I do something other than my usual workout (yoga or dance usually) so I get exercise w/o getting bored.
posted by cestmoi15 at 5:57 PM on June 16, 2009

For learning technique, I would recommend that you peruse the site

They have, among other pieces of information, videos of people doing squats with proper technique. Depending on the way your mind works, watching a video will be helpful. If you think better by reading something, they also have good textual descriptions of proper squatting form.
posted by dfriedman at 7:39 PM on June 16, 2009

I think it depends on what you're doing. My concern if you're lifting heavy, which you should, would be that if you have a 30 minute session with a trainer you'll be rushing in order to get through multiple exercises. Maybe at the beginning this won't be a problem, but when I'm doing heavy squats or presses or something, I need at least 5 minutes between sets, plus I need to warm up. If I don't warm up properly or take enough time between sets my performance will suffer and I'll be at greater risk for injury. It takes me 45 minutes to an hour to do a workout of squats, presses, and deadlifts, for instance. So I might go with the 2x/week hour sessions, provided you could schedule it for something like Monday/Wednesday and then do a workout by yourself on Friday.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:28 PM on June 16, 2009

Oh, and Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe is an invaluable resource for learning correct form for the squat, bench press, press, deadlift, and power clean.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:30 PM on June 16, 2009

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