How Much Time Should I Spend Lifting Weights?

Woman exercising with weights
A woman holding Dumbbells. (Image: XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images)

The amount of time you dedicate to lifting weights depends on your weightlifting experience and your training goals. Experienced lifters can endure more training stress and need a greater number of sessions to see continued improvement. Beginners need to allow more time for muscle recovery and to prevent overtraining. And the greater the training stress, the more time you need to let your body recover between sessions.

If You Are Getting Started

A basic strength program is designed to promote balanced musculature in all major muscle groups, strengthen ligaments and tendons, and minimize your risk of injury. Beginners can improve their basic strength by performing two to three sessions per week, lasting about 20 to 30 minutes each. More experienced lifters can still benefit from a basic strength program but should aim for three to four sessions each week, lasting about 30 to 40 minutes.

For Big Muscles

Hypertrophy refers to an increase in muscle size and promotes the lean look found in experienced weightlifters. Training for hypertrophy does not always go hand in hand with increases in muscular strength, say exercise scientists Thomas R. Baechle and Roger W. Earle, authors of the book "Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning." To create hypertrophy, you should aim for two to four weightlifting sessions per week, choosing about six to nine lifts per session. Each session should last about 40 minutes and include a thorough warm-up.

For Maxing Out Strength

Improving your maximal strength requires more strenuous lifting, and your body will need greater time to recover and adapt between sessions. Perform just two to three well-spaced sessions each week to improve maximal strength. Choose just three to six exercises, with three to six sets of each. Give yourself plenty of time to rest between sets, allowing about three to five minutes to recover.

If Your Goal Is Power

Power is a combination of maximal strength and the speed at which the lift is performed. Athletes need power to achieve a high rate of force quickly, such as in football or rugby. Similar to maximal strength training, power training is strenuous and requires plenty of recovery time. Beginners should aim for two sessions per week when starting a power lifting program, while more experienced lifters can perform three. Choose just two to five exercises and perform three to five sets of each to improve your muscular power.

Or to Endure

Muscular endurance is your body's ability to withstand a certain load for longer periods of time. Training for muscular endurance should involve less recovery time, as you are conditioning your muscles to perform while under fatigue. Perform three to four sessions each week, and aim for 15 to 30 repetitions of each exercise to improve muscular endurance.

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