How Often Should You Strength Train?
Strength training, like anything, is a skill that requires unrelenting practice and consistency. Yet, many treat it with the same dubious cavalierness as, say, making a ham sandwich.
Some people think that just because they “kinda sorta” show up in the gym 1x per week that they’ll reap all the benefits and look like The Rock in six months or be able to hit a tennis ball as hard as Serena.
It doesn’t work like that, and today’s guest post by Baltimore, MD based strength & conditioning coach, Erica Suter, explains why.
How Often Should You Strength Train?
“We’ll just train one time a week.”
This is the phrase many of my personal training clients and athletes utter.
As much as I want to say this is as useless as a nun in a nudist colony, or coffee without caffeine, or a hobbit in a NBA game, I don’t.
When it comes to frequency of strength training, I opt for the math class analogy.
So think of acquiring strength gains as learning math skills.
As a kid, if you attended math class once a week, instead of the usual five times, how much better would you be?
Would you be able to memorize equations?
Would you be able to progress and learn new things quickly?
Would you ever make it to advanced calculus?
Would you pass the SAT math portion?
Instead of going into an extensive exercise physiology lecture, think of strength training like math class. The more we stay consistent with it and the more often we do it, the more we’re going to see results.
I’m making too much sense.
Alas, as a strength coach who works in the private sector, I still get push-back from soccer coaches on the frequency of training.
Here’s a common conversation:
Coach: “We will train 1x a week with you.”
Me: “Great. It’s better than nothing, but I can’t work magic here like Gandalf. 2x a week at a minimum will elicit the best results.”
Coach: “Well, our team has practice twice a week, skills training twice a week, and games on the weekend.”
Me: “Solution: stop the extra skills training and get in the gym. Your players are already overloaded with skills training from your practices.”
Coach: *crickets chirping*
It’s funny how when it comes to sport performance – developing speed, building strength, reducing chance of injury, and improving change of direction ability – people fail to understand this shit needs to be attacked more than once a week.
Performance training, to that end, isn’t some magical process that happens with the tap of a wizard wand.
It’s the same as everything else:
- building a business takes time
- learning math takes time
- teaching soccer skills takes time
- learning motor skills take times
- learning to read music takes time
- understanding your spouse takes time
- getting through an entire season of Game of Thrones takes time
- becoming Beyonce takes time
Why do people think performance training and athletic development are any different?
Sorry to be redundant, but…this all takes time.
Too, I’d be remiss not to mention this all takes consistency. More than once a week. For more than one hour.
I know I’m sounding vanilla as hell right now, but it’s true.
And if you disagree with me, fuck you, do you even practice consistency, bro? Let alone, have you even tried?
Alas, I digress.
Here’s the thing: hadn’t my athletes started off-season training end of May, when we learned running mechanics and change of direction, and gained strength, I’m not so sure we’d be able to progress onto cool shit like this:
It’s worth mentioning that it took these girls a year of training more than twice a week to progress onto sled sprints. With that said, I truly believe you have to earn your sled sprints. So many things need to be mastered first, such as core stability, running mechanics, coordination, and leg and arm strength before we can do the fun shit.
Moving on, hadn’t we attacked Pull-Up variations 3x a week, I’m not so sure my female athletes would’ve been able to do this:
…Oh, and out-pull-up their college teams as freshmen.
And hadn’t we learned the deadlift from the start, I’m not so sure we would’ve been able to introduce contrast training into our program:
And hadn’t we started with learning how to load the inside leg when it comes to efficient change of direction, not so sure we’d be able to up the ante with reactive agility drills like this:
Looking back on the off-season, I’m so incredibly grateful my athletes didn’t settle for the once-a-week-bullshit shenanigans. Most were coming into our facility at JDyer Strength and Conditioning 3-4x a week.
If that isn’t reaching enlightenment and entering the gates of heaven, I don’t know what is.
Not only did they see tremendous gain in speed, strength, and power from this frequency of training, but they also developed a passion for movement, which extends far beyond a D1 scholarship.
What’s more is, they all visit during their holiday breaks to stay active and resilient.
With that said, frequency of training matters.
Yes, improved performance.
Yes, improved speed.
Yes, improved agility.
Yes, reduced chance of injury.
But most importantly, yes, lifetime habits.
And these habits of frequency extend beyond the weight room. Athletes understand what it takes to be dedicated for the long-haul.
Do you really want them half-assing school, business, and career?