Taking your first steps into the world of weight lifting can be pretty exciting, particularly if you’ve never really worked out much in the past. The prospect of transforming your pudgy, out of shape frame into your ideal, statuesque form is often a source of great enthusiasm and the results can’t come quick enough after those first few sessions.
This mix of enthusiasm, impatience and inexperience can lead to some newcomers performing the same workout every day, targeting the same muscles with the same weight in an attempt to maximise their initial progress and see results faster. While enthusiasm is laudable and should be encouraged, failing to plan your workouts properly can lead to overtraining, injury and can often stall progress entirely. But how often should you lift weights to maximise your progress?
When you’re lifting weights, it causes tiny, microscopic damage to the fibers in your muscles. The body then works to repair this damage, which increases the size of the muscle fibres in a process known as hypertrophy. This process causes an increase in the ability of the muscle to generate force and power, alongside the aforementioned increase in the size of the muscle fibers.
This process generally takes around 48 hours to complete, after which the muscle is repaired and ready to be worked again. If you train the same muscle groups every day you’re not giving the body enough time to recover fully, which can significantly slow down your progress and increases the risk of injury.
In theory, you could lift weights every day as long as you’re not training the same muscle groups on consecutive days. Ideally you’d take at least one or two days of rest per week to allow your body to recover, which is why most lifters will take the weekend off.
For beginners, it’s usually best to perform a full body workout 3 times a week, with a rest day in between each workout. For most people, this ends up being the classic Mon/Wed/Fri split, although obviously this can be altered depending on your schedule. Try to focus on the big compound lifts like squats, bench press and deadlifts, as they will provide a solid foundation of strength for you to build on when you become more advanced.