You may have heard lifting weights can offer all these amazing benefits. Find out whether lifting 3 days a week is enough to get to your fitness goals.
For resistance training beginners and many intermediates, lifting weights 3 days a week can be enough to build a nice amount of muscle mass and get a variety of other health benefits.
Individuals who are very experienced with resistance training may need to work out more often to get to their fitness goals.
No matter what your fitness level is, you also want to keep in mind that you need to provide your body with enough nutrients and rest to grow and strengthen muscles.
Additionally, you still need a good workout plan with the right exercises, enough repetitions, and enough weight to see muscle-building results.
Lastly, for optimal health, you likely also want to implement cardiovascular workouts.
Is lifting 3 times a week enough to build muscle?
The three main conditions of building muscle are a weight lifting program that is challenging enough, eating enough nutrients, and giving your muscles enough time to repair and grow.
Whether or not an exercise routine is challenging enough depends on your current strength level and the workout program you follow.
People who are new to lifting weights should easily be able to build muscle by lifting 3 times a week. They do still have to choose the right exercises, weights, and repetitions.
For intermediate lifters, 3 days a week can still be good enough to build muscle. However, the workouts will have to be more intense (heavier and/or longer) than the beginner ones to keep seeing progress.
Lastly, people who are more experienced with resistance training could find that 3 workouts a week is not enough anymore to build muscle.
One study divided 34 resistance-trained participants into three groups. All groups lifted weights on 3 days a week but the number of repetitions they did per exercise varied.
The goal of the study was to measure differences between these groups but for this article, the more relevant result is that all groups saw increases in strength and mass gains (1).
Even with as little as three 13-minute weight lifting sessions a week.
So while whether or not and how much muscle you will build by lifting 3 times a week depends on a few factors. However, for many people, this should be more than possible to see a good amount of muscle growth results.
Other results of lifting 3 days a week
Seeing muscle growth and strength improvements is typically the main goal of resistance training.
However, you may also want to know what other results you can expect from working up to lifting 3 days a week. Some of these include:
- Better cardiovascular health: While this is not the main goal of resistance training, compound lifts like squats and deadlifts will definitely get your heart beating faster. This could strengthen your cardiovascular system.
- Better bone density: Similar to other body parts, your bones can get stronger by pressuring them enough (but to safe extents), eating enough, and resting enough. This can help you avoid things like broken bones.
- You could lose fat: Whether you will lose fat also depends on other lifestyle habits like nutrition. However, if you keep everything else the same and start lifting weights, you will likely see some fat loss. Keep in mind that the extra muscle mass could make it so the number on the scale does not move.
- Your mood could improve: Besides because of helping you avoid conditions that make you feel worse, lifting weights can also improve your mood on its own.
- You could sleep better: Your daily habits can influence the quality and duration of your sleep. Lifting weights tends to improve these things.
For some people, these results could be as much of a reason to start lifting weights. For others, they could be welcome side effects of gaining some extra muscle mass.
Tips for lifting weights 3 times a week
By now it is clear that a lifting routine of 3 days a week can be effective for building muscle and offer you a variety of other benefits.
At the same time, you also want to keep in mind that these workouts still need to be good and effective. Doing a 5-minute plank 3 days a week will likely not be enough to get to your training goals.
Additionally, there are things to keep in mind about other lifestyle areas like nutrition.
You likely want to do compound lifts
To grow and strengthen a certain muscle group like for example your glute (butt) muscles, you have to train them enough throughout the week.
This applies to all the other muscles you want to train too.
Instead of working each of your muscle groups separately, you likely want to implement compound exercises that work different muscle groups when lifting 3 days a week.
These compound movements are mostly helpful for saving you some time while still challenging a variety of muscle groups enough. However, they could also help you avoid muscle imbalances.
Eat enough calories and protein
Your body needs enough nutrients to grow and strengthen your muscles no matter how many days a week you lift weights.
The main ones to keep in mind are your calorie intake and your protein intake.
Additionally, you preferably want to consume enough vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients. These play roles in a variety of processes that are important for both building muscle and general health.
Make your workouts long enough
Working your muscles enough to see progress can take time.
The study above found that three 13-minute weight lifting sessions a week can be enough to gain muscle mass and strength (1).
However, the participants still did at least 8 to 12 repetitions in each of the 7 exercises with only 90 to 120 seconds of rest between each set.
That means it might take a bit more time for you personally to set things up at home or in the gym.
Additionally, doing more sets on each of the 3 lifting days may get you to your fitness goals faster.
Use enough weight
Doing squats with two 10-pound dumbbells in your hands will likely not be enough to grow and strengthen strong muscles like your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.
Lifting weights is not only about doing enough repetitions but also about using enough resistance to make the exercises challenging enough.
The study mentioned used weights where participants were able to complete between 8 to 12 repetitions per set per exercise before hitting failure.
Exactly how many pounds or kilograms you need depends on the exercise and your current strength level.
Give your muscles enough rest
Resistance training involves damaging your muscles enough to start a variety of internal processes that make them stronger and bigger in the long term.
However, to achieve these things, you also have to give your body enough rest. It takes some time to actually grow and strengthen the muscles.
A rough guideline is that you want at least 24 to 48 hours for the muscle groups you worked. Keep this in mind when choosing how you distribute your 3 lifting days across the week.
Can you do other workouts too?
Resistance training can offer amazing health benefits but adding some cardiovascular exercise too even more so. Some people wonder if this is compatible with lifting 3 times a week.
Most people will in fact be able to lift 3 times a week, do other workouts like running, cycling, and walking, and still be able to build muscle.
The main thing to keep in mind if you have an intense exercise routine but still want to build muscle is your calorie and protein intake.
To build muscle you generally want to get slightly more calories from food than you are using. Really intense cardiovascular exercise routines could interfere with this.
You could also consider lifting weights more often. For this, you want to make sure you give your muscles enough rest and potentially challenge them a bit less on training days so they recover faster.
Is lifting weights 3 times a week good?
For many people, lifting weights 3 days a week will be more than good enough to build a nice amount of muscle mass when implementing a good training routine, eating enough, and resting enough.
A review of studies concluded that working muscle groups 2 or 3 times a week seems to be more effective than once per week for maximizing muscle growth (2).
Additionally, one of the benefits of lifting 3 days a week is that it is reasonable to fit in a schedule with a busy job, other activities, and other workouts like running, cycling, walking, etc.
At the same time, more experienced lifters need to keep in mind that this workout routine may not be enough for them to get to their training goals.
In short, lifting weights 3 times a week is good for most people in terms of muscle-building and health. Also keep an eye on other lifestyle habits like nutrition and rest.