If you are wanting to know how much you should train your muscles, you have come to the right place! Some people are guilty of training too little while others potentially do too much, and if your goal is a more “toned” body (which means more muscle), then you want to be sure you are training enough! Not too little and not too much. I am going to break down how many sets you need per week for each muscle group and also how much time is required in between weight training days so that your body optimally recovers.
Generally, you can train a muscle anywhere from 10-25 working sets each week. You do not have to train every single muscle group excessively, however you should aim to hit the legs and a well-rounded upper body regimen for 10-25 sets. This does not include warmup sets. For example if I am prepping for hip thrust I will warmup my body first with dynamic movements to elevate heart rate and get the blood flowing, then I will do a few sets of lighter weight hip thrust to prime my body for the move. THEN I get into the working sets where I am challenging myself with the weight and the reps.
If you are a newbie to weightlifting you should start on the lower end of training with perhaps 2 or 3 days of lifting each week at around 30-45 minutes per session. If you are a more seasoned lifter you can do on the upper end of the working sets as your body is more conditioned to training. How frequently you train determines on the intensity of your workouts as well as the length. For example someone who trains legs for 10 minutes one day could definitely train their legs another 2 or 3 times that week for 10-15 minutes each time. Compared to someone who does 60-70 minutes of leg training — they will certainly need more time in between leg workouts to recover.
If you have specific goals of building up a particular muscle part, such as the glutes, then you should focus on training them harder and/or more frequently. That does not mean doing more than 25 sets per week, but it might mean doing 12-15 sets one day, and then repeating another lower body session later on that week hitting the glutes once again. In order to avoid “overtraining” you need to allow a minimum of 48-72 hours in between lower body sessions. Since the lower body is such a large muscle group it is more taxing to perform leg workouts – so I would suggest 72 hours in between sessions. And if you’re like me and you hit the legs pretty hard for 60 minutes in any given leg day, you may want to make your second leg day a little bit lower intensity and focus on doing bodyweight glutes i.e., bridges, banded exercises, and maybe throw in some kettlebell swings. Heavy, compound movements will tax the body much more than a single leg bodyweight hip bridge, so it will take longer to recover from a workout filled with those type of movements.
If you are training your muscles every single day and doing HIIT classes like Orangetheory or Crossfit, your chance of injury is increased. Sorry to say but it’s true! There is a reason orthopedic surgeons love Crossfit! It is not good to do the same type of intense, high impact training every single day unless you are hitting different muscle groups each day. So yes you could lift weights 4 days in a row if you are a seasoned lifter and are hitting individual muscle parts i.e., chest/triceps, back/biceps, legs, and then arms/shoulders (that is an example of a bodybuilding split workout routine). For the average person not doing bodybuilding shows I would suggest 3 days of lifting weights on nonconsecutive days so that you have a day in between each workout to allow muscle growth and repair. Remember: the muscle growth and repair happens when we REST and SLEEP so it is important to have a minimum of 1 day of rest per week, ideally 2 or 3. On those days you can still do low intensity workouts if you want such as walking, easy bike ride, swimming or yoga.
As far as how to improve your recovery in between workouts, eating sufficient protein and carbs and getting sleep is IMPERATIVE. You cannot train hard and either eat trash food or skip meals and expect your dream body to appear! You have to fuel your body with nutrition which includes healthy proteins, enough protein throughout the day (ideally 30-50 grams 4x daily give or take depending on your size and goals), plenty of fresh, filtered water, and enough carbs to replenish glycogen lost during training. Carbs are certainly your friend when you are training and I wish more people would understand this. You will feel potentially very lightheaded, weak and dizzy in your workouts if you are not fueling properly so stop trying to train on a completely empty stomach (unless you train first thing in the morning and are used to this and you eat plenty of carbs right after). I used to be guilty of not eating enough carbs and I did not see changes happening in my body (i.e., more muscle development, leaner) until I started eating ENOUGH carbs. For me that is 200-250 or even 300 grams of carbs per day depending on my activity and how much I ate the day before.
So remember let’s train hard, allow recovery in between workouts, be PATIENT and eat well and then you will begin to see the changes in your body that you desire!