You don't need to work out as much as you think
Consistency is king. Weight training 2-3 times a week is enough to be muscular and strong.
Many people are going to be making health and fitness related resolutions heading into the new year, only to give up over the coming months because their goals weren’t achievable consistently.
Weight training should be the exercise foundation for most people, and you don’t need to do that much to achieve great results. Realistically, for most of us, our goal isn’t to get as muscular as possible or move the heaviest weights. We want to feel strong, look good, and, most importantly, optimize our overall health.
Consistency is king
Building muscle and getting stronger takes years. The most important thing is to have a routine that you can stick to consistently. The two most significant factors that prevent that for me are 1) getting “busy” and finding it hard to make enough time to work out and 2) getting injured and not being able to properly work out.
I’ve found that 2-3 times a week for an hour total, including warmup, is achievable indefinitely and minimizes how often I'm injured as long as I’m disciplined and progressively overload.
Put more simply, you’re going to get better results working out 2-3 times per week for a year than 5-6 times a week for a few months only to give up or get injured.
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My general protocol
I plan for 3 strength workouts a week but make sure that I hit all the most important things in the first 2 days. Days 1 and 2 are rather simple - 3 main exercises and a couple of accessory exercises. Day 3 is typically a circuit designed to hit most muscle groups and elevate my heart rate significantly. On weeks when I can’t get my day 3 workout in, I don’t stress because I know I’ve already done my essential exercises.
Day 1: Lower body push; upper body push; upper body pull; accessories.
Day 2: Lower body pull/hinge; upper body push; upper body pull; accessories.
Day 3: Full-body circuit of 4-8 exercises with no rest between exercises.
I change exercises, rep ranges, and tempo every 4-6 weeks; we call this a “block.” In the first week, I use lighter weights and calibrate, progressively adding more weight over the rest of the block.
My current block
I just finished a block that was dumbbell focused and had mostly unilateral exercises. My new block is barbell focused and looks like this:
Barbell Back Squat: 3 warmup sets, then 4 sets of 8 reps with 90-120 seconds of rest between sets
Incline Barbell Bench Press: 2 warmup sets, then 4 sets of 8 reps with 60-90 seconds of rest between sets
Barbell Row: 1 warmup set, then 4 sets of 8 reps with 60-90 seconds of rest between sets
Superset: Banded face-pulls/Hanging Knee-raises, 3 sets of 10 reps
Barbell RDL: 3 warmup sets, then 4 sets of 8 reps with 90-120 seconds of rest between sets
Weighted Pull-ups: 2 warmup sets, then 4 sets of 5 reps with 60-90 seconds of rest between sets
Weighted Dips: 1 warmup set, then 4 sets of 8 reps with 60-90 seconds of rest between sets
Superset: Tib-trainer/Reverse Flys/Ab-wheel Rollouts, 3 sets of 10 reps
Circuit of the following with no rest between exercises:
Dumbbell Split Squats 8 reps per side
Ring Pushups 8 reps
Inverted Rows 12 reps
AbMat Crunches 12 reps
Kettlebell Swings 12 reps
5 rounds with 60 seconds of rest between rounds.
It all comes down to your goals. Unless you’re a pro athlete or focused on packing on as much muscle as possible, 2-3 strength training workouts a week is enough to be muscular and strong and is a maintainable cadence for most people.
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