How Much Strength Training Should A Beginner Do?

Strength Training 3 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

There is no set answer to this because it depends on a few things.

The factors include your current condition, preference for training, ability to recover, athletic ability, goals, and timeline.

What I’ll do is give you an education and let you make the decision for yourself as this is what I deem to always be the correct approach.

Beginner Gains

When you begin any pursuit your quickest progress will come at the beginning. Well, it should if you’re on a good beginner program, your nutrition is optimal, and you allow adequate rest time.

In the strength training world this is known as beginner gains. It is this magical period in the beginning of training where you are noticeably stronger each time you step foot in the gym. It doesn’t have an abrupt end, but it experiences diminishing returns.

Listen to me: enjoy this period as long as you can. The time it will take your squat to double from 100lbs to 200lbs(a few months) pales in comparison to the time it will take your squat to double from 200lbs to 400lbs(likely a few years).

The graph below illustrates beginner gains. It is the steep portion at the beginning of the graph. Again, there is no abrupt end but you do see the strength curve begin to flatten quickly.

Diminishing Returns

This refers to getting less reward for the same amount of effort. Arnold Schwarzenegger reportedly worked out for 3-5 hours a day, 6 days a week. That is an example of what becomes necessary at the top levels of strength training to continue progress.

Don’t worry. You aren’t there yet, and that amount of training would put you in the hospital.

But the concept remains. We begin to see diminishing returns 3-6 months into training. This is typically when you will move from beginner to intermediate status assuming you are doing everything right. At this point you will need to increase your level of training, and also your level of specificity within workouts. When you see your progress on our beginner program begin to slow be sure to download the Seriously Strong Intermediate Program. It’s free.

Diminishing returns still exist as a beginner, but they are the opposite of when you are an advanced athlete. When you are a beginner you will get less growth per hour for each hour you spend in the gym beyond a certain point. This is because your body will not have sufficient time to recover between workouts as your muscles will not be accustomed to the workload. Which brings us to the next point.

SuperCompensation

One last concept that will affect your training frequency as a beginner.

Supercompensation is when your body experiences stress that lowers your performance below baseline, and then recovers to a new, higher baseline. The body adjusts to the stress you put on it so it will have an easier time the next time you experience a similar load.

The trick to strength training is that we continue to increase the load so the body is forced to move to a higher baseline strength/muscle mass.

But there is a timing component to this.

If you workout the same muscle groups too soon you will not have allowed the body to supercompensate. If you wait too long they will have returned to baseline(or become even weaker called atrophy)

The Sweet Spot

When people come in for a complimentary consultation I always recommend starting with three hours of strength training per week spent as three (1) hour full-body training sessions with a day of rest between.

This is the absolute greatest return on time invested, and exactly what you’ll find in the Seriously Strong Beginner ProgramIt’s free.

Doing this workout split will allow you to ease into training without consuming your life, and you will gain strength very quickly.

Your workouts should focus on compound exercises (exercises that use multiple joints) instead of isolation movements (think bicep curls) to make efficient use of your time and develop coordination.

The Training Program

The Seriously Strong Beginner Program is designed around the concepts in this article and is a great introduction to strength training. It will ensure you progress quickly and safely.

Download The Seriously Strong Beginner Program

Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.