How often, and for how long, should you be going to the gym? A new study suggests frequency over reps

This post was originally published on this site

From cardio and low-impact to rest days versus two-a-days, people are not always sure how to work out, and more importantly, how to workout effectively. So how much do we need to exercise to see results?

A new study suggests it’s not about how long you spend in the gym but rather how often you go. 

Researchers evaluated muscle strength and definition or thickness, following a four-week training program in a study published in August in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. The 36 participants had not completed any resistance training of their arms in the past six months and were asked to follow one of three training plans: one set of six repetitions for five days a week, one set of six reps once a week, and five sets of six reps once a week. The participants performed “maximal eccentric contractions” on a machine, which is essentially lowering a heavy dumbbell in a bicep curl.

After the program, muscle strength increased by 10% in the group doing one set of six reps for five days a week compared to no change in the group doing 30 reps once a week. For the group doing six reps once a week, there was no change in muscle thickness or strength. 

“People think they have to do a lengthy session of resistance training in the gym, but that’s not the case,” says Ken Nosaka, author on the study and exercise and sports science professor at Edith Cowan University in a press release. “Just lowering a heavy dumbbell slowly once or six times a day is enough,” Nosaka says, who also emphasizes a need for a couple of rest days in between.

Current exercise guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity a week for most adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The guidance also suggests two days of strength training per week. 

Dr. Susie Reiner, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and exercise physiologist says that while frequency in resistance training is beneficial, the heavy weight lifting used in the study might not be feasible for someone starting out. Reiner, further notes this type of weight lifting could cause delayed onset muscle soreness (muscle pain that starts after you’ve worked out) and could even lead to a “negative” response to exercise, which may discourage someone from continuing a workout if they’re new to resistance training. 

Developing research suggests exercisers may get similar results without having to push quite as hard as the study participants, Nosaka says.

“We only used the bicep curl exercise in this study, but we believe this would be the case for other muscles also, at least to some extent,” he says in the release. 

If you’re beginning to experiment with resistance training, work toward meeting the general physical guidelines of two strength days a week and continue to build up frequency and weight, Reiner says. 

In a practical sense, quick bursts of heavy loading frequently may be beneficial for some but not all. Enjoying the exercise you do also plays into your desire to add frequency.

“While a short workout sounds attractive, know that these workouts will be very difficult and be prepared for the physical demands,” says Reiner. “Think about what workouts are sustainable for you in the long run, which ones you will come back to and engage with the most and keep progressing them over time.”