Are You Weight Training Too Often or Not Enough?
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If you have yet to incorporate weight training into your weekly workout routine, now’s the time to start. Despite what you might think, weight training is not exclusively for the guys you see at the gym that look they could be contestants in a Hulk look-alike contest. Giving the body a boost in both athletic pursuits and everyday tasks, the benefits of the weighted workout are immense – more on this below. And as long as you train smartly, there really are no downsides.
So how do you train smartly and how often should you be weight or strength training in a week to reap the rewards and avoid injury? To answer all those qs and then some, we asked the experts. We checked in with Dr. Alexis Colvin, Orthopedic Sports Medicine Surgeon at The Mount Sinai Health System and Jillian Michaels, health and fitness expert, and creator of The Fitness App, to break it down.
Benefits of Weight Training
As mentioned above, no matter if you’re doing squats with a kettlebell or dumbbell curls, your weight training workout is doing wonders for your body and mind.
- Improved strength: This might seem like an obvious benefit, but it’s a benefit nonetheless. Michaels and Dr. Colvin both share that weight training will boost strength and increase endurance in your workouts but also in your everyday life.
- Increase skeletal muscle and strengthen bones: Dr. Colvin shares that weight training helps to increase skeletal muscle and it can also help with bone-strengthening. These might not seem important now, but they will benefit you down the road as skeletal muscle and bone strength naturally decrease with age.
- Better posture and balance: Michaels notes that weight training improves posture and balance. This means you’ll not only be looking better and reducing back pain but elevating your performance in activities where balance is key like yoga, cycling, skiing, or surfing, to name a few.
- Boost mood: The endorphins your body releases during exercise have been proven to be a natural mood booster, but this isn’t exclusive to cardio workouts, studies have found that weight training can have a positive impact on the mood, as well.
- Improve cognitive function: While the majority of research in this area has involved older adults, studies have found that weight training has positive associations with cognitive function and memory.
How Many Days Should You Weight Train in a Week?
While weight training is beneficial for your bod, it’s important to create a balanced weekly workout schedule to prevent injury and give your muscles a chance to heal – too much weight training, can even result in muscle loss. “In general, for overall fitness training, [working out] each muscle group twice a week [four days total] is ideal,” says Michaels.
“This way the muscles get enough stress for progress, but not too much stress for injury or diminished returns.”
Dr. Colvin agrees that when it comes to strength training involving all major muscle groups you should aim for a minimum of two days per week.
How Long Should Weight Training Workouts Be?
There is no set time limit for a weight training workout. Depending on how often you decide to train in the week, how you are training, and what your fitness goals are this will vary. As a general guideline, Michaels recommends aiming for at least 30 minutes.
Do You Need to Switch up the Body Area You Target?
If you only do one weight training exercise or focus on one specific area of your body, you’re not going to get very far in your fitness pursuits. Not to mention, your physique will look a little uneven.
To give your muscles the break they need and balance out the workload, Michaels recommends splitting up your four weight training sessions of the week into push days and pull days.
Here’s her outline:
Push Splits: Chest, shoulders, triceps, upper and lower ab focus, quad focus
Days: Monday / Thursday
Break: Two days of rest in between training sessions)
Pull Splits: Back, biceps, glutes, hamstring focus, oblique focus
Days: Tuesday / Friday
Break: Two days of rest in between training sessions)
Of course, if you want to work out on the weekend you can shift this outline, but sticking to a plan like this will ensure you cover all your bases – rest and workout-wise – in the week.
Remember, while you will be targeting the same muscle groups on those specific days, you will want to diversify the types of exercises you do and vary your reps and sets to avoid a plateau – and frankly keep things interesting. “I utilize different exercises, change up the amount of weight, vary reps and sets all to accomplish a balanced healthy physique. This strategy also helps to promote continued change. When we do the same things repeatedly, our body effectively adapts and progress slows tremendously,” says Michaels.
She adds that you can do steady-state cardio, such as cycling or hiking, on active recovery days.
Do You Need Cardio, Too?
Speaking of cardio, don’t feel that you need to hang up your running shoes or put away your Peloton now that you’re weight training. Dr. Colvin shares that it is important to cross-train to avoid injury and improve fitness performance.
However, unless you are focusing on burning extra calories to meet a weight loss goal, Michaels says you don’t need to do cardio and weight training on the same day. Give yourself time to rest and focus on the workout at hand for the day. And if you really want to do a moderate jog or swim later in the day just try to do it after weight training and not before.
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