Over the last 20 years, I’ve closely followed the research around strength training frequency. How often should one strength train?
The scientific literature is pretty clear that we don’t need to (and shouldn’t) strength train very often to produce great results. The notion that more is better is in fact, a misnomer. The preponderance of the current scientific evidence would suggest that to optimize the benefits we see from strength training (muscle strength, size, endurance, resting metabolic rate, cardiovascular function and the many mental/cognitive benefits), most of us should be strength training about 2 times per week. Some of us can handle 3 times per week and produce great results; others may produce better results with slightly lower frequency. One of my long-time mentors strength trains only once every 14-18 days (and he has what is largely considered, the most impressive home gym in the world with over 40 MedX and Nautilus strength machines); he loves strength training, he has simply found that he produces better results with lower frequency.
So where does this leave us? I think our take home message is that we should pursue consistency. We should strive to make serious, high tension, low force resistance training a sustainable health behavior. At times this might mean 2 or even 3 workouts per week; at other times, this may mean 2 workouts in an entire month. I just returned from a 14 day lay-off of no strength training (the longest layoff I’ve had in over 15 years). My strength training frequency for 2019 has been approximately 1 workout every 8-9 days. I’m moving back toward one workout every 3 days for the next few months. Instead of being hyper-focused or obsessed with how many times per week I’m strength training, I think our real focus needs to be on consistency over the long haul. How can we engage in strength training in a way that is sustainable in our 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and more importantly in our 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s (when strength training really becomes important).