Two days a week. That’s how many days you need to be spending doing weight-bearing exercise if you’ve not been exercising over the previous 365 days. Supplement that with a handful of walks during the week, and you’ll be pretty happy with your body.
This isn’t a scientific assertion (though it coincidentally is in line with current government recommendations), but one I’ve determined over the course of a decade of coaching people. I’ve watched people who were relatively untrained transform their bodies from only two hours a week of strength training.
This should be good news for those of you who are reading this but believe yourself to be too busy to work out. This also should be good news for those of you who simply hate the gym and hate the idea of working out. You can do anything for two hours a week, can’t you?
Two hours a week. Eight hours a month. That’s it.
There is a catch. The clients who’ve achieved success lifting weights only twice a week did properly supervised, progressively overloaded, full body workouts when they were in the gym. And they consistently incorporated no less than two of the following lifestyle choices in their weekly lives:
- Regularly sleeping 7 to 8 hours a night.
- Eating a balanced menu with veggies at almost every meal.
- Walking with an exercise purpose for at least 30 minutes at least two days a week.
What kind of results am I talking about? I’m talking several dress sizes lost, objective biomedical markers moved appreciably, and subjective reports of “feeling better” and more mobile.
One of the things I really like about fitness is its reliability. If you tell me what you’re doing, I can usually predict how you’re feeling. The science behind those two days a week of strength training having such dramatic results when incorporated with other lifestyle changes is straightforward and uncomplicated.
1.) Untrained people usually have relatively more fat mass and relatively less lean body mass.
2.) Once untrained people begin lifting weights, they begin putting on muscle, which in turn helps them burn more fat.
3.) This new muscle is part of what makes them “feel better,” feel stronger, and report more mobility. Their previously rapidly deteriorating bodies benefit, in other words, simply from having more strength.
4.) The progressively overloaded workouts were key to their success because their bodies did not get used to the new weight-bearing stimulus. What that means is, when the person could do a goblet squat with a 25-pound dumbbell for ten repetitions, they moved on to a 30-pound dumbbell, and so on. Because the person constantly gave the body “new” stimuli—in this case progressively heavier weights—the body was forced to change by building new muscle tissue. This we already know burns fat and enhances one’s ability to move (up and down stairs, at the park, in the bedroom).
Don’t want to invest in a gym membership? Well then how about a bench and a pair of adjustable dumbbells? Beginners will be able to get a lot of mileage from a pair of dumbbells and a bench because they can do all of the foundational movements composing a well-rounded fully body workout. (Squats, hinges, pushes, and pulls).
There’s two ways to read this blog. One is to say, “sweet, I ONLY have to work out two days a week.” Remember, if this is your take, that those two days only will be effective if you include other lifestyle changes listed above as well.
The other way to read this is that two days a week of weight-bearing exercise is the minimum effective dose. In other words, I’m fairly certain that an adult cannot claim to be healthy UNLESS they are doing at least two days a week of weight-bearing exercise.
One question you might be wondering is “do I have to lift weights? Isn’t yoga, Pilates, running, or dance enough?” All of these activities are great and potentially life-transformative in their own rights, but for the most part two days a week of any of them won’t be enough to see the significant changes most people want. That is not to say that you shouldn’t do these other things, but for busy people I’m all about identifying the most efficient path. From my experience that path is that of the barbell, dumbbell, and kettlebell.
Do you have two hours a week to devote to a stronger, healthier, more mobile body?