How Many Times a Week Should You Lift Weights to Lose Weight?

Lifting weights is often associated with bulking up, but you shouldn't be afraid of pumping iron if weight loss is your goal. In fact, leaning into dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells can make a major difference in the numbers you see on the scale — for the better.

Building lean muscle mass through weight training helps speed up your metabolism, so that your body continues burning calories for hours — even days — after your workout says Lais DeLeon, trainer at Plankk Studio. DeLeon adds that lifting weights will increase your muscle mass, which improves body composition (the ratio of body fat to lean body mass) and also increases your metabolic rate.

Read more: 13 Benefits of Weightlifting No One Tells You About

So just how many weight lifting workout do you need to do every week to achieve weight loss success? The answer isn't so simple.

Frequency, Duration and Intensity

Losing weight through weight lifting isn't a simple equation, as there are many factors involved. DeLeon suggests that women with a fat loss goal should aim for resistance (weight) training three to five days per week. How many days should you do? Well, that depends entirely upon your schedule, what you enjoy and what you will realistically stick to. Exercising too much is a common mistake made by anyone adopting a new routine, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Exercise is even more effective when paired with a healthy diet. Download the MyPlate app to track your calories consumed and burned for a complete picture of your overall health.

Listen to your body, says DeLeon. The last thing you want to do is go from zero to 100, which could lead to injury. Start with three days, with a stress on good form, and then progress from there.

"Training more days per week gives you more opportunity to burn calories, and if weight loss is the goal this may be more beneficial," she points out. However, it is totally possible to burn the same amount of calories working out three times a week, by making your workouts more intense and longer. Additionally, she recommends moving daily (5,000 to 10,000 steps per day) in a way that you enjoy and are likely to stick to long-term.

Keep in Mind

Frequency isn't everything when it comes to working out for weight loss. DeLeon points out that while exercising more often can contribute to weight loss, factors such as the intensity of each workout, the amount of calories burned during them and throughout the rest of the day and the amount of total calories consumed are incredibly crucial.

"While exercise is very beneficial for health and can support the calorie deficit required for weight loss, nutrition will play the biggest role in achieving a weight loss goal via a calorie deficit," she explains. "Clinically significant fat loss is predictably achieved via a calorie deficit, no matter how that deficit is created or what workouts women performed."

Don't Forget to Rest

Rest periods are also a crucial part of your workout routine. Lifting weights can get strenuous with increased load, and maximizing time by skipping rest is a recipe for injuries. It is crucial to space out sessions, as rest periods allow for muscle regeneration. When you rest, you are actually maximizing the gains as muscles undergo tissue repair and growth to compensate for the fat and water you lost during the rigorous drills.

Read more: Is It Bad to Do Just Cardio?

Constructing Your Ideal Plan

DeLeon suggests creating a workout schedule referred to as a workout split. Basically, you divide your workouts up by muscle group, targeting a different one each day. It will give your muscles an opportunity to rest and recovery, reducing your risk of injury. Each workout should include a balance of resistance training, aerobic exercise, and active recovery. It will also give you the opportunity to work out every day, if you desire.

"Although you can technically lift weights everyday as long as you allow each muscle group to rest for at least 48 hours before targeting them again, including weight training three to five days per week tends to be a more realistic schedule for most people," she explains. However, no matter how much (or how little) time you have available to workout, an effective training split is always possible.

An Example Ideal Workout Plan For Someone Who Enjoys Exercise

Monday: Heavy legs
Tuesday: Shoulders, triceps, chest and moderate intensity steady state cardio (think a 30-minute run)
Wednesday: Back, biceps and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio (think sprinting or Spin intervals)
Thursday: Active recovery and low intensity cardio (think a 30-minute jog)
Friday: Full body and HIIT
Saturday: Glutes, hamstrings and low intensity cardio
Sunday: Light shoulders, triceps, abs and moderate intensity steady state cardio

An Example Ideal Workout Plan For Someone Who Doesn't Enjoy Exercise or Has Very Little Time

Monday: Lower body and moderate steady state cardio
Tuesday: Active recovery (walking and stretching)
Wednesday: Upper body and HIIT
Thursday: Active recovery (walking and stretching)
Friday: Full body HIIT
Saturday and Sunday: Active recovery (walking and stretching) or another enjoyable class or activity

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