Should you strength train more often? That is the question.
It is not the strength training session. It is the result of proper strength training that increases lean muscle, decreases fat, and therefore improves body composition.
A question from Cary in our community, “If strength training does more to improve fat loss shouldn’t we strength train more often?” That is such a logical, thoughtful question.
So, it’s important I clarify so you realize it is not the 10, 20, or 40 minutes you spend strength training. It’s not during the session alone that improve fat loss, lean muscle loss prevention, and therefore body composition.
Proper strength training follows this formula:
Adequate stimulus during the strength training session + adequate recovery after a session = Positive anabolic muscle response
What is adequate stimulus during the strength training session?
- Overload to a point of temporary muscular fatigue – Done with a heavy weight and lower rep range or lighter weight and higher rep range
- Includes as many major muscle groups as possible – a full body routine, not a body part (or split routine) is best for women in midlife
- Includes compound exercises
What is adequate recovery following a strength training session?
The purpose of all of the following means of recovery are to improve anabolism. That is repair and rebuilding of the muscle following the act of breakdown that occurs during the workout. During exercise of any kind the muscles experience stress and microtears. When the body recovers it doesn’t just repair to original state, it overcompensates to be prepared for the next stress (workout).
If you’ve ever trained for a 5k you’ve experienced this. When you start, you’re not able to complete more than a mile. Then over time you can gradually do more and more, until you’re able to do the entire 3.1 miles. Or you’ve started a weightlifting routine and using a 5 lb weight and can barely complete a set. A few weeks later you realize you’re never tired at the end of a set. You need a heavier weight.
Three big components of adequate recovery:
- Adequate calories
Let me talk about calorie deficit for a minute. Known to support weight loss. It can be dangerous if you lose muscle. A caloric deficit may be created because of:
- increased activity
- reduced calories in and activity
- reduced calories alone
However, during times of stress – from menopause, loss of sleep, stressful life situations, adherence to an abundant micronutrient dense diet instead of strict calorie deficit is the better goal.
- Adequate protein – especially in the presence of lower calories
Protein needs increase with age due to muscle protein synthesis decline. Consider protein on a per meal basis. About 30-40 grams of high-quality protein at breakfast and again at dinner along with a modest protein midday meal support muscle protein synthesis.
Prime Time for Boosting Lean Muscle
The 24 hours following strength training muscle protein synthesis is boosted. That makes it a prime time to increase protein intake slightly over other days of the week. In fact cycling protein intake over the weeks of the month if you’re still experiencing a cycle or you’re in menopause can improve your body composition significantly. The type of training you do and the quality & quantity of protein you consume both together can dramatically improve your results. I’ve seen it for many women, even in their 60s and later.
- Adequate rest between muscle re-stimulus
Without adequate rest anabolism will not occur. Without enough time between coming back to the muscles again with a hard workout the repair can’t happen.
Imagine having the flu. You’re a busy person and when you start feeling better you get back into your regular routine. You find yourself having to sit down after you take a shower and get ready. Or maybe you make it until noon on your first day back and realize you’ve overdone it and wind up back in bed again. Your muscle, without the full recovery will experience more muscle wasting than benefit from exercise. You may be losing muscle even while you’re exercising regularly.
Review What Happens If You Strength Train More Often
To sum it up, recovery – included not only the time between sessions, but the time between sets of exercise in a workout, also requires consideration of your nutrition, life stressors, and quality of sleep – the ultimate rest.
Strength training at a frequency of twice a week to muscle overload that causes temporary muscle fatigue is my recommendation. It allows 72 hours between for recovery, and fits easily into most busy women’s schedules. It also allows the energy and desire for more movement in every day that ultimately prevents obesity more than frequent “exercise” that leads to couch compensation.
What does work if you like to strength train more often? Add a third – functional workout – in the middle of two heavier sessions.
There you have it, my answer to should you strength train more often?
Who Is “Most Fit?”
It is that woman who has the energy to play golf, clean the house, entertain grandchildren at the park or learn to dance or SUP that ultimately spends far more calories than an exerciser who sits all day with no energy or too sore to do more.
You might also like:
Dr Gabrielle Lyon on Flipping 50
Dr Douglas Paddon-Jones on Flipping 50
Resources mentioned in this episode:
The Flipping 50 Fitness Specialist