When asking how many strength training workouts-per-week you need, to begin with, the end in mind, think backward and determine what is your desired goal?
What is our training goal, is it to get stronger, is it to become bigger, and is it to be more powerful, or do we just want to be able to endure longer?
I have explained that process in the articles
How many strength training workouts per week do you need if you want to become stronger?
If you want to become stronger, you are probably better off with two to three strength training sessions per week.
The idea behind this is that if we do a training that is geared towards becoming stronger, we need to work with high intensities, which is 85% of our 1RM and above.
This form of strength training, also referred to maximum strength training has an effect on the nervous system and requires a lot of time for the nervous system to recover. Available information and evidence state that we need 48 to 96 hours between these kinds of training sessions to recover.
Though this is not always practicable; however, it gives an idea that you need longer rest so as to recover from these sessions. If you want to know how many strength training workouts-per-week is needed to increase our strength, it is important you do two to three training session per week with a minimum interval of one day rest in between the strength training sessions.
The ideal number of strength training workouts to develop maximum strength is between 2 – 4 strength training sessions per week.
How many strength training workouts per week do you need if you want to gain muscle mass?
If you are interested in hypertrophy; there are basically two mechanisms, functional hypertrophy and non-functional hypertrophy.
Functional hypertrophy, also termed myofibrillar hypertrophy, leads to a growth of active contractile tissue, which means the muscle tissue is growing.
Non-functional hypertrophy, also termed sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, leads to an increased energy storage in the muscle combined with more water being stored in the muscle and resulting in bigger muscles.
If you are working on functional hypertrophy, the intensity is higher, usually about 75% to 85% of the 1RM for fewer repetitions (4 to 8 repetitions). The necessary training volume is achieved b additional sets, for example 8 sets of 4 repetitions @ 85% 1RM or 6 sets of 5 repetitions @ 80% 1RM.
Non-functional hypertrophy is best trained using the more traditional bodybuilding type of training with 60% / 65% 1RM to 75% / 80% 1RM and higher repetitions (8 – 12 repetitions). Generally speaking, the total amount of sets is a bit lower, than for the non-functional hypertrophy training, for example, 4 sets of 8 repetitions @ 75% 1RM or 3 sets of 12 repetitions @ 65% 1RM.
Please note, that the set and rep scheme provided is just a guideline, the number of repetitions you can do varies from individual to individual (also referred to inter-individual differences), as well as it varies between different muscle groups (also referred to as intra-individual differences).
More information on inter-individual differences and intra-individual differences read the small article Inter- and Intra-individual Differences in Problem Solving Across the Lifespan a bit of a heavier read, but explains the difference pretty well.
Due to the lower training intensity compared to maximum strength training, hypertrophy training (functional hypertrophy as well as non-functional hypertrophy) don’t have such a strong effect on the central nervous system and need less time to recover.
However, it has a stronger effect on the muscle tissue leading to more muscle damage. This is the reason why people that are interested in gaining and maximizing muscle size tend to split up the training they do for the different muscle groups (also referred to split training or split-routines). So that they don’t work the same muscle groups in consecutive strength training session and each muscle group gets more rest before it is trained again (more than 72 – 96 hours).
For instance, a simple split could be in the first training session, we do upper body; second training session, we do lower body. You can increase the frequency per week, the implication of this is that you can do more sessions, but if you take a look at a single muscle group you still don’t train more than once or twice a week. There are various different split routines and even more different philosophies on split routines, covering all those would go far beyond the scope of this article.
Bottom line:The ideal number of strength training workouts for functional hypertrophy and non-functional hypertrophy is between 3 – 6 strength training sessions per week.
The ideal number of strength training workouts for functional hypertrophy and non-functional hypertrophy is between 3 – 6 strength training sessions per week.
How many strength training workouts per week do you need if you want to become more powerful?
If you are an athlete and compete in a sport, you will probably be interested to become more powerful at any point in your season.
Power can be trained with a broad variety of intensities, depending on your training goal and the adaptation you want to see. You can see an outline of the different intensities Power Training workouts in the articles
For power development, you tend to have lesser frequency per week because it also has a very strong influence on the central nervous system. Which means you need a longer time to recover from training session that target the power development, similar to the development of maximum strength.
The ideal number of strength training workouts to develop Power is between 2 – 3 strength training sessions per week.
How many strength training workouts per week do you need if you want to endure longer?
If you are training and competing in endurance events, you are probably interested in training your capacity to endure longer.
Strength endurance is trained with lower intensities (less than 60% 1RM) and higher repetitions (more than 15 repetitions)
Because the intensity is lower strength endurance training workouts aren’t that taxing for the nervous system as maximum strength training workouts or power training workouts, neither do they result in the same muscle damage as hypertrophy training sessions. However the metabolic cost is quite high due to the high accumulation of lactic acid.
The ideal number of strength training workouts to develop and train strength endurance is between 2 – 3 strength training sessions per week.
How many strength training workouts per week do you need if you want to improve technique and skills?
Sessions that are aimed at learning and acquiring new techniques, as well as consolidating the acquired techniques are also very important. They are vital to complex exercises, such as the Olympics lifts (Power Clean, Power Snatch, Split Jerks, etc.) These exercises are technical and skilful, they therefore, require a longer period of practicing the technique before they can be loaded.
These exercises are technical and skillful, they, therefore, require a longer period of practicing the technique before they can be loaded.
Since these sessions don’t produce a lot of fatigue, we can do them more frequently in a week. This means you can do about 4 to 5 strength training sessions a week to work on technical aspect of certain lifts.
How many strength training workouts per week Conclusion
The total amount of strength training sessions per week depends on your goal and desired adaptation you want to see. The strength training sessions designed for the different adaptations (maximum strength, muscular hypertrophy, power development and strength endurance) have different recovery times depending on their demand on the nervous system, muscular system or energy system.
The strength training sessions designed for the different adaptations (maximum strength, muscular hypertrophy, power development and strength endurance) have different recovery times depending on their demand on the nervous system, muscular system or energy system.
A good understanding of the demands of these strength training sessions and the resulting recovery times will help you improve your training programming.
More information on Strength Training
The Fundamentals of Strength Training
The Ultimate Guide to Strength Training for Beginners
The Importance Weight Training Has On Power
What is Strength Training
How Strength Training works
Why Strength Training is important
Why Strength Training is important for athletes
How often should you do Strength Training
How long should a Strength Training Session last
How Strength Training works – accommodating resistance
How often should you do Strength Training to lose weight
How many Strength Training sessions per week
How to do Strength Training at home
How much Strength Training
and the strength training video library