How often should you lift weights?

March 8, 2018

I often get asked, “How often should I train?  Should I train daily?” 


It really depends on your type of training, what your goals are, and how experienced you are with weight training. 


“It depends,” is what I end up telling a lot of clients (and acquaintances at dinner parties who find out I’m a trainer).


In my years of training experience, many people who have not trained for some time,  or have not trained at all, want to come in every day and go full force.  By the logic of, “If I spend more time In the gym I’ll get better results faster.”  That seems like a nice idea.


But that’s not how you get stronger or build muscle.  In my experience, it is a good recipe for injury.  It is also not even a very sustainable plan. Building muscle and strength takes time and recovery.  It cannot be rushed, so why the hurry?  It is not as though you can make up for years of not lifting in a span of a few weeks.  Without a semblance of a structured program and going full tilt you are likely to strain a muscle, at the very least.  Be smart about your training.   Quantity cannot make up for lack of expertise and quality movement.


For some inexperienced lifters, or those who have been off for a long time, two days of a full-body style resistance training program can be a good starting point.  It is plenty of time in the gym, even with some cardio thrown in the mix.  If the lifts are performed properly and with good form, you will be challenged, a bit sore and the days you are not training will be needed to recover.  Think of your training in terms of a stress put on the body, in a good way.  The body adapts to these stresses put on it after each training session, and as that stress is increased each session , that is how you become stronger.  If you have not been training, it will not take much of a stimulus to cause stress to your body to create the changes you desire.


Keep in mind that in the beginning of training, you are primarily training strength.  You are training neurons and most likely not training for hypertrophy just yet.  So, if hypertrophy is your goal there is no reason to even use the "more is more" approach right away.


Whether it is strength focused, hypertrophy focused, or just general health and well-being, there are different approaches to training.  People with more experience in the gym may start experimenting with different programs.  A full body training program may be continued, but recovery may take longer between sessions.  There are upper body and lower body splits, which is self-explanatory, as well as body part splits, which are not a favorite of mine, but may work well for a competitive bodybuilder.


What is it that you are training for?  It is part of my job as a coach to help you determine that and steer you in the right direction with proper programming and the appropriate amount of recovery.

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