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How Often Do I Need to Strength Train to Build Muscle?

An Expert Says You Should Be Lifting Weights This Many Times a Week

Want to tone up? Building muscle is your golden ticket! Tightening up your legs, arms, and stomach means you'll need to focus on strength training. Remember that strong is sexy, and once you have the determination, you just need to make a plan. Before you can make a plan, you need to know exactly how many times to strength train each week to build muscle. Ready, set, go!

To help you make the best plan, POPSUGAR sat down with Raphael Konforti, Youfit Health Club's national director of fitness.

What to Expect When You're Expecting Muscle

Should you be worried about strength training and building muscle making you look bulky? According to Konforti, the exact opposite happens when you strength train. "From both an aesthetic and health perspective, women benefit a lot from strength training." He told POPSUGAR that building muscle doesn't just happen overnight, though.

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"Women won't wake up one morning loaded with muscles ready to tear their sleeves. Strength training is a subtle process. Over time, women will notice areas start to feel more firm and defined rather than big and bulky." Have you ever looked in the mirror and noticed a new line of definition on your arms or legs? That little bit of progress that feels so incredible is exactly what Konforti means by subtle progress. Strength training just means more of those feel-good moments.

Making Your Plan

When it comes to building muscle, you've got options when it comes to training. According to Konforti, the number of times you need to strength train depends on how you want to work out, but he admitted that even one session per week is enough to see improvements. "Most women do best with three strength-training sessions per week, but plenty of women have seen success building muscle with two or even one session per week." He continued to say, "What most people overlook when planning out their workouts is what's realistic for them. It's much better to stick to a consistent plan that has you training twice a week then to try and work out four days a week, but miss workouts every other week."

Your Strength-Training Options

Despite what you've heard, gym rats clamoring about and working out one muscle group per day, like arms, shoulders, back, or glutes and hamstrings, isn't the most effective plan. "Following a total-body or upper/lower-body split works best. Unless you've got six days a week to spend in the gym, you're much better off training each muscle more than once a week. It's an old bodybuilder's myth to only train a muscle once per week," Konforti told us.

Konforti recommends that you either strength train with total-body workouts two to three times per week or alternate training your upper and lower body if you plan to train three or four times a week. He said, "Most women really see the best results alternating between varied total-body workouts three days a week." Three days a week sounds more than doable to us!

Here are a few different ways you can build muscle and get the most from strength training every week:

Two Days a Week:

  • Option 1: Total Body (Same workout each time)
  • Option 2: Total Body (Focus on pushing movements on day one and pulling movements day two)

Three Days a Week:

  • Option 1: Total Body (Same workout each time)
  • Option 2: Total Body (Alternate focusing on either total-body pushing or pulling movements each day)
  • Option 3: Upper/Lower (Alternate between focusing on either upper- or lower-body exercises each day)

Four Days a Week:

  • Option 1: Total Body (Alternate focusing on pushing movements or pulling movements each day)
  • Option 2: Upper/Lower (Alternate between focusing on either upper- or lower-body exercises each day)

Pushing movements means exercises like push-ups, overhead presses, triceps dips, squats, and lunges. Pulling moves are exercises like deadlifts, dumbbell rows, pull-ups, and curls that work your back side and biceps.

You're all set, so pick your split and go build some sexy muscle!

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Sheila Gim
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