Limited Time to Strength Train? This one's for you!
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As a Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Physiologist, I'll be the first to tell you that an extensive strength training plan delivers results.
But what about those of us who want results, but have limited time and energy to train?
There's my husband. His love of weight lifting can be found in a dust covered box alongside his high school football jersey. These days he wants to spend his free time ultra-running or playing with our kids. If he squeezes in a few in-home strength sessions per week, is it enough to make a difference?
Then there are crazies like myself. A side effect of having worked with pro athletes is that I want to train like one too. These days, instead of bee-bopping around NFL field houses I'm juggling mom-life, running a coaching company, and everything else in-between. The only thing a stubborn dedication to strength training six days per week gets me is a mom-bie moment – times where despite good intentions, I train in a fog of fatigue. If I decrease the amount of days per week I train, can I still build strength and maintain an athletic look?
Researchers recently asked, “Does weight lifting 6 days per week produce better strength building and fat loss benefits versus 3 days per week?” The results may surprise you!
WHAT DO WE KNOW?
It's well documented that strength training helps us to live a healthy, happy life. It not only protects our bodies from injury, degeneration, and disease, but also helps us maintain the ability to perform essential daily activities, like picking up our not-so-small-anymore kiddos when they need a good hug or lifting a heavy box overhead without blowing out out rotator cuff!
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning published a study that investigated how the effects of high strength training frequency compare to moderate frequency. It was concluded that strength training six times per week did not offer additional strength and muscle growth benefits over threes time per week, even with volume and intensity remaining equal.
While this is just one research study, it's an important reminder that it's possible to see increases in strength and lean body mass with just a few strength training sessions per week. Ultra-runner dads and fitness goal-getter moms of the world, let us rejoice!
It's time to replace any feeling that we aren't doing enough with focusing on ways to maximize results from the sessions we CAN fit in.
QUICK TIPS FOR SUCCESS
Here are two simple ways to maximize results from any strength training session:
Concentrate on using the correct muscles to do the work with every repetition. For example, if doing a bicep curl make sure you focus on contracting your bicep with each curl instead of propelling the weight up with your legs.
Lift Heavy Enough to See Results
Make sure to put in enough effort to reach fatigue at or near the end of the prescribed rep range. Hint: If you're hitting exactly the prescribed number of reps with each set, odds are you are not pushing yourself hard enough. For example, women age 35+ should be aiming for 10 reps or less due to our decreasing hormones impacting our body's ability to effectively build muscle. No one wants to be "Ten Pound Tina." You likely know her... the woman at the gym who's been curling ten pounds for 20 years, looking the same and gaining zero strength. Everyone wants to see results and lifting heavy enough gets the job done right!
The Bottom-line is: When faced with limited time to strength train we can maximize results by using good form, activating the correct muscle groups, and challenging our bodies.
Your challenge is to experiment with different ways to maximize your body’s efficiency and find ways to make strength training work in your life.
Now, please excuse me while I go take my own advice and try to dominate my precious three strength sessions per week!
Louise Valentine, MPH, CHES, CSCS, ACSM-EP, EIM II, CPT, BCTMB is a multi award-winning health, fitness & performance expert. Owner of BreakingThroughWellness.com, she coaches active women & runners to achieve goals, quickly break through setbacks & thrive after 35 with more energy, less stress! Follow Louise on Facebook & Instagram for more simple science-based tips!
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Colquhoun, R., Gai, C., Aguilar, D., Bove, D., Dolan, J., Vargas, A., Couvillion, K., Jenkins, N., & Campbell, B. (2018). Training volume, not frequency, indicative of maximal strength adaptations to resistance training. J Strength Cond Res, 32(5), 1207–1213.