Data is king. There is no other way around it, corporations pay billions of dollars for data on customers that will allow their company to grow and increase profits for shareholders. I am not here to discuss business growth, but simply how often one should strength train for performance, fat loss, muscle building, health, confidence, etc. There is growing evidence annually based on studies researchers perform to find optimal data on what is most efficient and effective. While I wish I could provide a distinct set of data to show you EXACTLY how often you should be strength training, it simply is not that simple. There are complexities with strength training that every Personal Trainer/ Athletic Trainer/ Physio needs to take into account. I will return back to this in just a second…
Todays blog is just a snippet from our ‘Robust Knee Strength Guide’ which we dive into how you can create a customized plan for yourself and include an incredible 4 phase/ 12-15 week program for you to follow! Check it out here:
Do you fall into one of these categories?
By strength training, I am referring to any period of time you are moving your body against resistance. This does not have to include heavy weights but can be a calisthenic (Bodyweight) movement, and even work related. The fact of the matter is most people fall into three categories for why they strength train:
- Aesthetics (Beach body)
- Improved Health
What to take into account before creating a strength plan?
If you do not fall into these categories no worries, I see you but I am generalizing for the populations I see/ experience most. So, let us say you fall into one of these three categories, now what? Remember when I was discussing the complexity of strength training above and what every good trainer needs to take into account? These are major factors (Not all) that I always look into:
- Comorbidities: Diabetes/ Heart Failure/ High Blood Pressure/ Etc. These are all taken into account when deciding how often and the intensity you should be exercising at.
- Sport Specific: Are you training for something specific? Are you in season or off season? I find unless you are a collegiate/ semi-professional/ professional athlete, you can get away with most generalized strength plans.
- Age/ Gender: Absolutely a major factor in body development and recovery.
- Current/ Past Injuries: Due to being a physical therapist, I always take this into account. Are your current injuries dictating your movements? Do you have fears of movement from past injuries? Something to consider and often easing into a plan is best here.
- Current/ Past activity level: I see many athletes who perceive themselves as they once were. Let me tell you a secret… The past does not exist anymore and where you are currently is all you need to focus on.
- Overall Goals: Arguably the most important topic here. What are your goals? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What will keep you motivated. Unless you love exercise (Most people do not) you will have a terribly difficult time sticking with any plan.
- Time: Time is the most valuable asset. How much time do you have to commit to a workout plan? I know I love efficiency and HIIT based workouts because I do not have two hours to spend at the gym.
- Money: Lastly, money is a big factor in your workout plan. If you find how much your hourly rate is worth, it may be worth it to spend a little money upfront on a professional to guide you. Not all of us have 1000’s of dollars to spend on a personal trainer every week so the next best thing is a workout plan to get you going.
What is my Resistance Training Status?
So, if you are not already more confused here is what I can suggest. The National Strength and Conditioning Association released fantastic data on clarifying what your ‘Resistance Training Status’ should be based on experience.
So how do we interpret the table above? Lets base our ‘Training Age’ as what we are CURRENTLY doing WEEKLY. This is not the superman/ superwoman you used to be in high school. This is the current level activity you are performing week to week.
Now that we have that covered, let us pretend that we have been working out 2x per week for 2 months and you have a small history of weight training. I would personally place you in the ‘Intermediate’ category and move forward. If you have been training frequency (3-4x per week) for > 1 year with a strong training history, I would then place you in the ‘Advanced Category’.
How often should I be strength training?
You now have your ‘Resistance Training Status’ under your belt and are wondering how often you should be strength training. Here is another great start… The American College of Sports Medicine states:
The recommendation for training frequency is 2–3 days per week-1 for novice training, 3–4 days per week-1 for intermediate training, and 4–5 days per week-1 for advanced training. Similar program designs are recommended for hypertrophy training with respect to exercise selection and frequency.Data from Reference: 2
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So there you have it, an easy to follow and GENERIC guide to how often you should be strength training. Remember, we need to take into account the above complexities of a strength plan but this is a great foundation for those who want to get started. Remember, strength training is only a piece of the pie with your overall goals. We need a well rounded approach including sleep health, nutrition, community, stress, aerobic activity, etc. After all, the hardest part is indeed just taking that first step forward.
- National Strength & Conditioning Association (U.S. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Edited by Gregory Haff and Travis Triplett, 4th ed., Champaign, Il, Human Kinetics, 2016, pp. 87–543.
- American College of Sports Medicine. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Mar;41(3):687-708. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181915670. PMID: 19204579.