How Often Should You Lift Weights?

Finding the right balance and frequency of lifting weights is vitally important if you want to be successful in your workouts.

More often than not, people start lifting weights desperate for instant results, but subsequently end up overdoing it. Unfortunately, weight training six or seven times a week is unsustainable, with recovery playing such an important role. After all, being sore all the time isn’t fun for anyone. 

This is why most people weight train according to their own body-part split routine. For example, back and shoulders on Monday, legs on Tuesday, chest on Wednesday, and so on.

This type of routine allows you to individually focus on different muscle groups, while giving others time to recover. It also enables you to get your workout fix on most days of the week. 

How often should I max out in weightlifting? 

For those of you who target maximal strength and muscle mass in your lifting workouts, you’ll likely have experienced trying to max out. Maxing out is the process of lifting heavy weights relative to your body’s maximal abilities.

It is widely used as a beneficial practice of testing strength, however, it isn’t ideal for developing strength or muscle hypertrophy. 

Being able to lift heavy is obviously an important skill for weightlifters. But, in terms of exercises that offer a sustainable means of training, maxing out or lifting weights heavier than 90% of your max lifts isn’t recommended. Not only can it result in drop offs to performance, but maxing out can often lead to injury. 

One of the most frequently asked questions for weightlifters is how often should they max out lifting weights. As a general rule, if you are building up to a one rep max, you should only max out every three to four months. To max out, in any capacity, more often than this will likely lead to decreased levels of performance and greater likelihood of injury. 

Some of the benefits of training your body to max out include increased neural drive, the opportunity to set personal records, and validation of a strength program you may be working to.

While these benefits don’t justify maxing out on a regular basis, they do highlight an aspect of competitive strength programs (such as Olympic weightlifting) which are necessary in order to fully prep the neural systems for maximal output in the lead up to a meet. This is a process typically known as a peak and taper cycle. 

On the other hand, the potential risks of maxing out too often far outweigh the aforementioned benefits. The list of risks is endless, but some of the most common are chronic injury, serious injury, hormonal disturbances, neural fatigue, muscle atrophy and an increased body fat percentage. These risks offer an indication of just how dangerous it can be to max out on an everyday basis. 

How many times a week should I lift weights to gain muscle?

If you’re looking to primarily gain muscle through lifting weights, it’s recommended that you have strength training sessions at least three times a week to maximize muscle growth. The way in which you structure these workouts across the week is all down to personal preference and fitness levels. 

It’s worth noting here the possible plateau that can arise. This is when your body may stop responding to training if the sessions consistently target the same muscle groups with the same exercises and the same amount of weight.

If this is the case over an extended period of time, it’s important to try and change up your lifting sessions. Some of the easiest ways of doing this are to simply add weight to your lifts or alternatively, swap out your current exercises for new ones. 

Perhaps the most common method is altering the number of sets and reps you’re performing. Adding variation to your lifting workouts will allow you to combine both lighter and heavier sets to enhance developments in strength and muscle size. So, for instance, heavy days may involve as few as 4-6 reps while light days could consist of as many as 16-20 reps. 

Well-balanced variations to workouts will continue to facilitate muscle growth, as well as giving your body the time it needs to fully recover between strength sessions. Some might say, the perfect combination. 

How often should I lift weights to lose weight? 

This all depends on how quickly you’re aiming to lose weight. As recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevents (CDC), you shouldn’t look to lose more than 1 to 2 pounds per week. However, most people seek to find programs designed for much quicker weight loss results. 

Alongside your cardiovascular exercise, you should ideally be aiming for two to three days a week of strength training to lose weight effectively. These strength sessions should include full-body workouts which work multiple muscles at the same time. The most popular examples of these types of exercises are squats with a shoulder press, lunges with a lateral raise and press ups with a one-arm row. 

To ensure you maximize weight loss in your lifting sessions, it’s important to vary the intensity of your workouts, as well as changing up the cardio exercises you do alongside them. This could be as simple as alternating sessions on the treadmill with sessions on the bike. 

In addition to this, it’s also worth using circuit-style training when lifting weights to keep your rate of calorie burn high. Circuit training involves a series of different exercises, performed one after the other, with limited or no rest time in between.

At the end of each round of exercises, you have a short rest period, usually 30 seconds or a minute. These high intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions are becoming increasingly popular for all types of athletes.