How often to Lift Weights? Understanding Basic Principles of Weight Training
I have been training with weights since 1977 and do so even now. At one time a friend and I were keen to squat 100 kg and failed to do so with 6 months of consistent effort of squatting daily. A friend then told me that our method was wrong. It is then that I read a lot of literature on the subject and realized as to how wrong our method was. We then began to squat just twice a week and within 2 months we could easily squat 120 kg. Yes, our strength had improved by training lesser!
Weight training is becoming increasingly popular. It is helping the youth get healthy. However, I note that most people exercising regularly in the gym do not understand the principles of weight training. I have explained some major principles to help you to plan your weight training schedule.
Muscle Growth takes place at Rest
- When we exercise our muscles experience tiny tears in the fibres. It is during rest phase that these fibres repair and get stronger. Thus nutrition (primarily protein) and rest are vital for muscle growth.
- After training the major muscle groups require 48 hours to recover. The major muscle groups are thighs- (both quadriceps and hamstrings), chest, shoulders and upper back.
- The minor muscles groups require 24 hours to recover. These are: biceps and triceps. Obviously these muscles can be trained more frequently.
- Some muscle groups can be trained every day, like: calves and core muscle group (abdominal and lower back). These muscles have evolved thus because of their usage since ages.
Strength and Endurance are Very Different
- Whenever you can perform below 12 repetitions of an exercise for upper body & 15 repetitions for lower body you are focussing on strength building. Strength building means increasing the white muscle fibre content, which make our muscles bigger in size. Thus heavier weight and lower repetitions imply strength building.
- More repetitions with lighter weight imply more endurance building. The muscles have greater red fibre content. Muscles built for endurance are thinner and wiry. Schwarzenegger may not be able to do even 100 push ups at one go, but a wiry, unimpressive looking boxer may be able to do 200 push ups at one go.
- Depending upon as to what is your objective of weight training you should lift lighter or heavier weights, performing fewer or more repetitions.
- Unless you are a well trained athlete you should not lift such heavy weights that the repetitions are below six to avoid injury.
Understand Core Muscles
The muscles above the legs, both in the front and the rear of the body are considered as the core muscles. They can be called as abdominal (front) and lower back muscles (back). These muscles are different in nature and need to be trained differently.
Endurance Type Nature
It is ideal to train the core muscles with lower load and more number of repetitions. Top athletes do over a thousand of sit ups in a session.
Core Stabilizer Muscles
The deeper, invisible core muscles provide stability to our body. They are to be trained differently. The front plank, side plank and back plank are the exercises used to strengthen these muscles.
The visible six pack has very little to do with the ability of the abdominal muscles. Visible six pack means that the fat percentage in the body is low and that is all.
Importance of Muscles Groups in Body
- The most important muscle group is the core muscles group because these muscles are involved in practically whatever we do like- stretching to catch a ball, Cricket fast bowling, Tennis serving, and so on.
- Legs are the next most important muscles group as legs provide us stability and movement. The power of a Football kick and Boxing punch depends more on the leg and core strength than the upper body.
- Upper body muscles are the least important muscles group from the utility perspective. Unfortunately most gyms and gym instructors are obsessed with chest and bicep muscles for their appearance value.
Conclusion: How Often to Lift Weights?
I hope that I have clarified the major aspects about weight training. It is up to you to plan your training schedule. You can train every day, attacking a different set of muscles group. There are body builders who train twice a day. Most athletes train twice or thrice a week in gym only, because they cannot afford to devote greater time to lifting weights and some of the core exercises can be done without going to the gym.