As with all things fitness, the answer invariably is “it depends.” How often you should lift weights is not a simple cookie cutter answer. Just like how much food should you eat, or how much money should you be spending; how often you lift weights is very personal and depend on a variety of factors.
This is almost always the first question I ask when planning a workout program. Someone who wants to compete in a bodybuilding competition will have a very different program than someone who is less interested in a full aesthetic body recomposition, and wants to be able to run and jump and play with their kids (and not spend hours in the gym). Often the tools are the same (hello, lifting weights) but the frequency, duration, programming, and intensity will vary wildly.
If the answer is yes, then starting with a 3 times a week program will be enough to catapult you into a relatively noticeable body recomp. If you are used to being sedentary and now we have introduced new stimulus multiple times a week, then chances are very high that you will see significant results within the first 8 weeks of training if you stick to the plan.
By adding in 3 x’s a week to lift weights, not only is your body burning more calories on those days, you are also benefiting from the EPOC (which is fancy trainer speak, Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption.) Which means that in the time period post workout, your body will continue to burn more calories as it continues to recover from your workout, blessing you with extra calories burned.
Think of a bon fire. When you are lifting weights, the fire is at it’s peak. When you stop lifting, you stop feeding the fire. It slowly dies down but doesn’t burn out and go cold immediately. That is what happens to your body post weight lifting. You don’t stop the benefits when you stop weight lifting. Depending on the workout you can often enjoy those perks for up to 24 hrs.
It depends (see what I did there?) Much of the research supports that the degree of improvement from 0-3 times of lifting is incredibly high, and that the jump from 3-4 x’s per week gives you maybe 15-20% more improvement, and from 4-5 x’s per week may yield 5-10% more improvement. It’s like having kids. The leap from 1-2 is an incredible hurdle. After 3, 4, or 5 the amount of added craziness is less noticeable. So while adding in a 4th or 5th weightlifting workout may benefit you if you have pretty high performance or aesthetic goals, anything beyond that is marginally important for seeing the results you want.
In addition, the amount of workouts you log are irrelevant if it exceeds your MRV (again, fancy for Maximum Recoverable Volume.) Meaning that if you cannot recover (soreness, fatigue, etc) from a workout for the same muscle group before the next one, it may not be the best choice to keep hammering that nail…You can certainly train this volume , and we all know that the body adapts to the stimulus you place it under, but one of my favorite sayings for training and nutrition is “if it ain’t broke…”
By that I mean, if you are seeing great results from training 3 x’s a week and you are feeling great, tons of energy, and minimal soreness – that’s a huge WIN! You do not HAVE to do more workouts if you are seeing great results there. It is totally personal, and up to your preference and goals how many days a week you should train.
Need help deciding how much you should be doing? Let me know -that’s exactly why I am here.
Til next time,