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How Often Should I Strength Train?

Updated: Feb 2

By now we probably know that strength training is beneficial for all of us and that the benefits go far beyond the aesthetic! But how often do you need to be strength training to be getting all those awesome benefits from it? The good news is, it's not as often as you may think...

 

As mentioned above, the benefits of strength training are much more than just the way your body looks - although this is one common reason why people get into training and exercise in the first place.

Some other benefits that aren't so visual include stronger bones, better heart health, increased confidence, fewer injuries and better weight management - a lean and 'toned' body can purely be the by-product of a lot hard work. More on the benefits of strength training can be found in THIS previous blog post.


The answer to the question 'How much strength training do I need to do to reap the benefits?' is the ever frustrating - 'It depends!'

There are many factors that come in to play when trying to answer this question and they involve being pretty honest with yourself and your situation:


  • How much experience do I have when it comes to this type of training - maybe you've never done a squat, have done the odd bodyweight movement or you could be a competent gym goer?

  • What is my current level of fitness - do you currently move your body often or are you new to, or getting back into exercise?

  • What are my goals - are you doing this purely for the benefit of your health, or do you have some serious training related boxes to tick?!

  • What is a realistic amount of time I can allocate to training per week? Trying to fit in 5 sessions a week with a young family probably isn't going to happen...And the great news is, it doesn't need to!


Now that you've established where you sit in your experience level and how much time you can commit to your training, we can look at what your schedule might look like in a week!

 

I'm a complete newbie or have been away from training for a while.


Contrary to what you may be thinking, you are in an enviable position here! A 'blank canvas' with the ability to build some great foundations from the ground up...Not to mention the coveted 'beginner gains' - you'll likely see and feel changes in strength relatively quickly in comparison to your more established strength trainer!

TWO sessions a week is perfect for you - and these do not need to be long and tedious. 40 minutes of concentrated work is perfect.

I would look at both sessions being full body and very technique focused. If you're in a gym atmosphere, sticking to the machines is a great way to get the hang of movements before moving onto the free weights and I would recommend starting here.

Try alternating lower body with upper body and doing 2-3 sets at each machine. Pick a challenging weight, but not something too heavy that will compromise your form. As you get the hang of each movement, aim to increase the weight in small increments every week or so and see your progress soar!

Hiring a coach or getting a programme written specifically for you and your goals can be so beneficial at this point in your strength training journey...and, would you believe I know someone who can help you out with that?!


I'm fairly confident, but I'm time poor!


Do what you can do realisitically! TWO to THREE sessions a week will do your long term health wonders. Implementing the same strategies as mentioned above (2-3 sets of each exercise at a challenging weight and aiming to increase this weight often), will see your body become stronger and more capable.

You may want to keep all of your sessions full body focused, or maybe do one upper day, one lower day and one full body day. There is no hard and fast rule here, do what works for you - if you're enjoying what you're doing, you're more likely to stick with it!

One way of maximising your time spent training is to use 'Supersets' in your session. This involves doing two exercises, targeting different muscle groups, back to back and then resting when both exercises are completed (rather than resting after each set of each exercise). This might look like Squats superset with Shoulder press, or Hamstring Curls superset with the Seated Row - an upper body movement, paired with a lower body movement. This way your body is still resting while you are completing the other exercise, and you can fit more into a shorter amount of time. Again, find out what works for you and your schedule - do what you can realistically and be ok with it not looking 'perfect'. On the weeks where getting training in becomes challenging, be kind to yourself and know that everyones priorities are forever changing.


I've got time and I've been lifting for at least a year.


Anywhere from THREE to FIVE strength training sessions will see you doing fantastic things for your health, as well as kicking some serious goals!

I've fluctuated between this number of sessions over the years and have found I've still been able to make progress being in the gym fewer days a week...Having more rest allows the body to recover and be ready to hit sessions harder and with more energy, so I've often found less to actually be more. Again, find what works for you and do that.

Regarding a training split when doing up to 5 sessions per week, there is no magic formula...You may want to do all full body sessions, alternating between lower and upper exercises (this is what I like), or split upper and lower on different days - the ball is in your court here! As long as we're continually challenging the muscles by increasing weight, number of reps or changing tempo, you'll be heading in the right direction.


 

No matter where you are in your strength training career, the same principles apply to achieve the results you're after and see your body thrive - progressive overload, fuelling your body appropriately, adequate sleep and implementing at least 1-2 full rest days per week.

When training toward specific goals, avoid chopping and changing exercises frequently. You'll see the most progress from sticking to the same programme for a while...8-12 weeks is generally the sweet spot before boredom kicks in in my experience! If health and general fitness is your driver, just get in there and challenge your body....Without challenge we don't grow!

Aiming to get moving daily is still important no matter what your strength training schedule looks like. Supplement all the hard work you're putting in building strength by heading out for some gentle movement like a walk, bike ride or maybe a swim - this can also help with muscle soreness. No, I don't mean you have to go to the gym and go for a swim on the same day - just aim to move your body daily, that's what it's made to do after all!

 

If you're interested in joining Four Peak Fitness, getting a tailored programme or even a bit of Personal Training, don't hesitate to get in touch! If I can't help, I can point you in the direction of someone who may be able to.

Find me on Instagram - @kando_training, or Facebook - @KANdoTraining.



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