The video and article address
- how often should strength training occur
- considerations for choosing the right training frequency
When Arnold Schwarzenegger as a young bodybuilder was in the prime of his career, he trained 2 times a day for 6 days in a week with unarguably great success. At some point, he decided to take his training to the next level and trained 3 times a day for 6 days a week and made even more progress.
So, what does that mean?
What worked for Arnold Schwarzenegger works for everyone?
My answer, very unlikely!
Do I want to tell Arnold what is right or wrong? Hell no!
Please don’t get me wrong, I am a big Arnold fan and I believe the career he made from a young bodybuilder to one of the most successful actors to a politician is unparalleled.
Looking at his career and what he has achieved makes clear that he is very special in some ways and the same is true for his ability to train and even more important his ability to tolerate training loads.
I believe a lot of misconception around strength training and training frequency still comes from back in the days when Arnold trained and when little was known about strength training and people had to rely on some of the anecdotal reports and experiences from strength training athletes.
People still believe in ‘the more, the better approach’ to strength training is the ultimate truth.
So, in the end ‘How often should strength training occur?’
A reverse-engineered approach to ‘How often should strength training occur’
I have explained the concept of reversed engineered strength training or to start with the end in mind in the articles
In a nutshell, the idea is to determine, what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it and work your way backward.
As a practical example, let’s take the Olympic Season 2016 as an example to showcase that.
We knew the date of the Olympic Games 2016 and we also knew, when the competition was scheduled to take place.
This was the moment in time when our athletes had to be in their peak shape. We counted the weeks back to the start of the Olympic Season and then determined, what we needed to do in the last 4 weeks before the Games, what we needed to do 8 – 4 weeks out, what we needed to do 8 – 12 weeks out, etc every preceding period was to design to support the following period.
You can use the same approach, even if you are not an Olympian.
Follow the outline:
Step 1: Set your goal
- do you want to become stronger?
- Do you want to gain muscle mass?
- Do you want to lose weight?
Step 2: Be specific
- How much by when?
How much stronger do you want to be in which time frame? In order to help you, I have explained what are realistic improvements for our athletes in the article xxx
Use the same approach, if you want to gain muscle mass or lose weight. How much more muscles do you want to have by when (you can measure circumference or look at the scale, make sure you check your body fat percentage when you look at weight gain, that it is a gain in muscle mass, not a gain in body fat!)
Step 3: Set a realistic time frame
If you want to make measurable full gains, you have to give it time. Think about a minimum of 8 weeks, better 12 or more weeks.
Step 4: Plan your training to meet your goal
Every goal requires a different a different plan of attack.
Let’s have a look at 2 examples.
Example 1, you want to become stronger / increase your maximum strength (for example in the Back Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift). So your plan could look like the following
- Week 1 – 4: Hypertrophy
- Week 5 – 8: Strength development
- Week 9 – 12: Maximum strength training
Example 2, you want to gain muscle mass in the lower body and upper body, your plan could look like the following
- Week 1 – 4: strength development / maximum strength training
- Week 5 – 8: Hypertrophy (lower rep range)
- Week 9 – 12: Hypertrophy (higher rep range)
The purpose of these 2 examples is to showcase that each goal requires different interventions.
For more detailed information on training goals and rep ranges, have a look at the following articles
Step 5: Look at your additional responsibilities
What?!? You might be asking, how is that of any importance for my training goals and how often strength training should occur?
Well, the answer is pretty simple, strength training or any kind of training is a question of adherence and continuity, consequently, you need to find a training frequency that you can follow for the next years.
If you chose a training frequency that is too ambitious and doesn’t align with your family responsibilities, education or other training responsibilities (if you are an athlete) you will not be able to follow your strength training regimen / adhere to your strength training program and might discontinue at some point.
From experience, one of the biggest pitfalls is, if you miss a few training. Once you lose momentum, it is much more difficult to regain momentum as opposed you just keep going.
Step 6: Determine your strength training days / strength training workouts
So, finally, we determine how often strength training should occur. Have a look at the article How often should you do Strength Training where I outlined different training frequencies for different training goals.
Match this with the training days you have decided for yourself and start training. By the way, training frequencies can also change throughout the different training phases, we do that all the time with our athletes. Depending on the season and training goal for each phase, training frequencies change.
Step 7: Work the Plan
Now that you have determined your goals, made the goals specific, set a realistic time frame, planned the different training periods, established the number of strength training workouts per week by matching it with your other responsibilities, now it’s time to work the plan and put the work in.
Step 8: Rinse and repeat
No plan is complete without an evaluation.
Have a look at what you have set out to achieve and whether you have achieved it.
Maybe you did, maybe you under-achieved or maybe you even over-achieved?
Depending on that you can adjust your plan.
Concluding How often should Strength Training occur
The question ‘How often should strength training occur’ and defining the right training frequency is relevant for strength training success.
However, a lot of misconceptions are still framing the perception of people how often they need to train.
If you want to achieve success and reach your strength training goals, there are a few steps you need to consider before you actually determine your training frequency.
Starting with setting realistic and specific goals, having a realistic time frame, planning the sequence of the training phases and looking at your additional responsibilities.