Posted on 15 May, 2017

How Often Should I Lift Weights?

By Jacob Andreae in Fitness, Exercise How Often Should I Lift Weights?

[Image source: Thrive]

If you read my last article, you would have seen that I wrote exercise should be incidental and done most days. Lifting weights is different. Lifting weights isn’t about just getting out and moving around more. Lifting weights is a bit more serious.

If you start lifting weights (free or machine) either at home or at the gym, it’s important that you understand how often you can do that

Lifting weights is a part of strength training. It’s important to acknowledge that there are many different types of strength training.

Some examples include:

  • Bodyweight exercises
  • Free weights (i.e. dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells)
  • Machine weights (i.e. seated row, lat pulldown, multi-stations)
  • Resistance bands
  • Plyometric exercises

For the purpose of this article, I am talking about free weights and machine weights that you find in a gym.

Now, I’m not one to promote going to a gym. I think there is so much more you can do from home that is functional and if you want to increase the intensity beyond your own bodyweight by lifting weights, there are many objects in the home that can double as a makeshift weight.

If you’ve been watching my Instagram stories of late, you will realise that I have been going to a gym. I’ve been using the gym at one of my places of employment, the NTIS. I’ve started doing this just for something different.

If you start lifting weights (free or machine) either at home or at the gym, it’s important that you understand how often you can do that, and if you want to lift weights more regularly, how you can structure your program to accommodate that.

When you lift weights, you are making the muscle bigger. But the muscle gets bigger from the recovery, not the actual exercise. When you perform the exercise, you are actually damaging the muscle — creating micro tears in the muscle so that it needs to be repaired. When it’s repaired, it becomes bigger. It’s important to note that muscle develops differently depending on the type of exercise you do.

If you lift heavy weights, you are creating bigger micro tears, hence more muscle is needed to be repaired and therefore, more muscle develops. The body is constantly trying to meet the needs of the stimulus you are giving it, regardless of what that stimulus is. If you lift lighter weights, smaller tears are made resulting in less muscle to be repaired and less growth.

The other thing that makes a difference to the size of muscle growth is programming. Performing lower repetitions (the number of times you lift a weight) using a heavier weight will lead to bigger muscles. Performing higher repetitions using a lighter weight will lead to muscle growth, but not is big and bulky. This will give your muscles a more toned look.

At the end of the day, regardless of how heavy the weights are that you’re using and the number of times you lift them, the purpose of strength training is to increase muscle mass by causing your body to respond to this particular stimulus. The muscle becomes damaged (in a good way) and it needs to recover. It recovers and responds to the stimulus (lifting weights) by getting stronger.

If you don’t allow the muscle to respond, recover and repair, you are defeating the purpose of doing weights in the first place. All results come from the recovery. Muscles take about 48 hours to recover. It can be as much as four or five days depending on what you do and how conditioned you are at a particular exercise. As a general rule of thumb, you should take a day off in between each day you lift weights. Therefore, two to three days a week is a good general guideline for how often you lift weights.

I eluded to earlier about lifting weights more often. Some people break their weights training program up into body parts. That way they can lift weights more often within a week. They might do two days of legs, two days of upper body (chest and back) and two days of arms. This is quite an advanced way to do weight training and something someone would only do if they wanted to really build lots of muscle.

If you’re starting out lifting weights and want to know how often you should do it, two to three days a week is my recommendation. Just make sure you have a day off in between. To schedule a weights program into your week, I suggest one hour every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

How do you, or will you in the future, structure weight training into your week?

About Jacob Andreae

About Jacob Andreae

I write and speak about Fitness, Nutrition and Mindset. 

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How Often Should I Lift Weights?A quick start guide to losing weight and staying on track. Learn the strategies I use to eat and move for optimal health. Includes worksheets to enhance your motivation, commitment and discipline, along with a sample eating plan and exercise program.