You may know it’s not best to bench on back-to-back days, but how bad is it really to squat then spin? Or HIIT it hard every day? We turned to the experts for tips on just how aggressively you can stack your workout plan before it backfires.
Want the full run-down? Here’s what you need to know about doing the same workouts and training the same muscles on back-to-back days.
The most important aspect here? Recovery. Toned triceps take time—and not just time in the gym.
“You don’t get better during strength workouts—you get better between them,” says Neal Pire, an exercise physiologist at HNH Fitness in Oradell, New Jersey. Muscles take a beating during training, then over a day or two they recuperate and rebuild stronger than before. Many variables affect how quickly your muscle fibres recover after weight training (i.e., your level of fitness, how much weight you’re lifting, and how many reps you complete). But for the average Jane, Pire recommends training the same muscle group no more than twice a week, leaving at least 48 hours between each. So, no, you probably shouldn’t strength train the same muscle group two days in a row.
Doing cardio—whether it’s running or spinning—mutiple days in a row usually isn’t that risky, as long as you’re not going zero to 60 with your training intensity and frequency, according to Jacqueline Crockford, an exercise physiologist at the American Council on Exercise, as previously reported in Is It Bad to Do the Same Workout Every Day?. Slowly increase your training and listen to your body to avoid any overuse injuries.
But is it bad to lift those three-pound dumbbells in spin class every day? Not really—since those spin and barre class exercises aren’t exactly considered strength training.
“High-intensity, total-body workouts (like burpees) don’t provide the same muscular stress as classic strength workouts, so it’s OK to do them on back-to-back days,” says Pire. However, “if you’re doing compound or multi-joint movements, you’re hitting multiple muscles groups at one time—which can also be taxing and require more recovery,” says Ogden.
That’s why, if you do too much HIIT training, you may experience overtraining syndrome. To prevent that, rotate HIIT days and strength days—with low-intensity active recovery days, of course. “A mix of HIIT and heavy weight lifting will help you look lean,” says Hoehl.
“Ab work is generally about conditioning, or endurance, more than strength, so feel free to tack it on to your workouts daily,” says Pire. Just make sure to mix things up. “Your core is always keeping you stable, so ab muscle recovery happens fast,” says Hoehl. Abs quickly acclimate to stress, so do a different abs exercise every day, he adds.
The One Rule to Follow—No Matter What Kind of Workout
Overworking your body or hammering one muscle group, in particular, will likely sacrifice your form and put you at a higher risk of injury.
That’s why both Pire and Ogden agree: Regardless of your workout or which muscle group you’re training, there’s one rule of thumb: Let your body be your guide. “If you’re too sore from the previous weight workout, push today’s back and do cardio instead,” says Pire.