How much strength training is enough? | Fitness Science Fitness Science

How much strength training is enough?

Almost everyone performsHow much strength training is enough? strength training for a certain goal. Whether that goal is to get stronger, get larger muscles or lose fat, strength training can help. Achieving those goal does not just depend on the perfect training program but on how often you train as well. Training frequency is an important factor in achieving results. When you train more often with the right (on training frequency adjusted) training program, you will likely get better results. However we all lead busy lives and not everyone is able to hit the gym every day. So the important question is: How much strength training is enough to see results?

There is not an easy answer to this since it depends on your training goal and training experience (training status). However, many studies performed on different populations of test subjects and training protocols, indicate that training two times a week is superior to three times a week. Strength training on three days each week is in most cases superior for developing strength to two times a week. Training four days a week with a split training program was just as effective as training three days a week with a full body program when the number of sets per muscle group or exercise each week remained the same.

It is therefore not only a question of frequency, but apparently of weekly training volume. When each muscle does the same amount of work each week, training results will be equal. For example: Performing three sets of the bench press exercise two times a week is just as effective as performing two sets per training for three times a week. Given of course that training intensity and rest periods remain the same.

Here is where split training programs can become interesting. Because you can increase the weekly training volume per muscle group if you train a few muscle groups at a time with multiple exercises. For example the bench press, incline bench press and dumbbell fly. When performing three sets of each exercise, chest muscle training volume will be nine sets per session. Performing this two times a week will increase this to 18 sets per week. Compare that to training three times a week with only one chest exercise and you will only have performed nine sets each week for the chest muscles. So if you have time, training four times a week with a split training program can provide much better results.

Maintaining muscle strength is less well researched, however the studies that did found that a full body program performed one to two times a week will maintain strength with only three sets per muscle group each session. The optimum maintenance program has yet to be discovered. However, maintaining strength clearly is much easier than increasing it.

To answer the question how much strength training is enough here are the recommendations based on current research:

Recommendations:

Beginners:

Increasing strength and muscle size:

Frequency: two to three times a week

Split or Full body program: Full body program

Intensity: 8-12 repetitions per set (60% 1RM)

Volume: two to three sets per exercise.

 

Maintaining strength and muscle size:

Frequency: one to two times a week

Split or Full body program: Full body program

Intensity: 8-12 repetitions per set (60% 1RM)

Volume: Three sets per exercise.

 

Advanced:

Increasing strength and muscle size:

Frequency: two to five times a week

Split or Full body program: Full body program if three times or less per week. Split training when training four times or more each week.

Intensity: 6-10 repetitions per set (70-90% 1RM)

Volume: Three sets per exercise. When doing split training three to four exercises per muscle group two times a week.

 

Maintaining strength and muscle size:

Frequency: one to two times a week

Split or Full body program: Full body program

Intensity: 8-12 repetitions per set (70-90% 1RM)

Volume: Three sets per exercise.

 

References:

-Loveless, M.S. Ihm, J.M. Resistance Exercise: How Much Is Enough? Current Sports Medicine Reports 2015, 14,3.

-Calder, A.W., Chilibeck, P.D., Webber, C.E., Sale, D.G. Comparison of whole and split weight training routines in young women. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology 1994, 19, 185-199.