When people come to me with the goal of getting stronger, building lean muscle, and losing body fat, one of the first things I do is advise them to incorporate strength training into their workout routines. Not just because I personally love to lift, but also because the proof is in the research.
According to a 2006 review in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, strength training won't just enhance your performance: "The general benefits for men and women include an increase in bone mass and lean mass, improved body composition (due to decreased fat mass), cardiovascular fitness, strength, and an enhanced sense of well-being."
Strength training once in a blue moon won't help you achieve your weight-loss goals, which is why I tapped a couple of professional trainers and strength experts for the 411 on the best weightlifting practices to help you lose weight.
How Often You Should Lift If You're a Beginner
Pratik Patel, director of performance nutrition and assistant strength and conditioning coach for the New York Giants, told POPSUGAR that he recommends beginners start with one to two strength sessions a week to ensure their muscles have enough time to recover.
I typically advise beginning with two to three strength sessions per week; two if someone is completely new, and three if they're more athletic. It's important not to go too hard too soon as you're getting acclimated to strength training. The last thing you want to do is lift with poor technique and get injured or experience extreme soreness, leaving you unable to continue your weekly training plan.
Since squatting to sit on the toilet shouldn't feel like a workout, which is why celebrity trainer Stephen Cheuk, certificate IV Australian Institute of Personal Trainers certified trainer and founder of S10 Training in New York City, said beginners should start with two strength sessions a week. He added that people new to strength training will "typically drop body fat and weight quicker" in the beginning, usually around a minimum of one percent of body fat or one pound per week, but this will vary per person.
How Often You Should Lift If You're More Experienced
As your body begins to adapt to the initial soreness (here's what to know about exercising when you're sore), Pratik recommends gradually following more advanced training programs. "A more advanced person who works out most days of the week for the majority of the year will be able to train specific muscle groups two to three times per week with adequate rest and have no major issues," he said.
If you're accustomed to working out but new to strength training, I recommend starting with three sessions a week for a minimum of four to six weeks. If you're happy with your results, stick to three strength sessions a week; if not, I recommend reviewing how heavy you've been lifting, the set and rep scheme, and the lifts you're doing. Doing so will help you determine whether or not you're lifting enough weight and if you need to diversify and progress the exercises you're doing along with the reps and sets (here's how to determine your reps, sets, and weight).
For those who are more experienced, Stephen also advised training three times a week. Along with lifting more often, he also suggested focusing on more specific details like whether or not you're taking too little or too much rest in between exercises.
Remember: these are just general guidelines. You may find that you need to lift less or more often and incorporate other styles of training into your routine in order to achieve your fitness goals. As always, I recommend working with an experienced trainer to teach you how to lift and help you devise a training plan specific to your goals.