Weekly Cardio & Strength Sessions & What’s “Right” For You?

If you’re new to working out, one of the first questions you probably have is how often you should be exercising each week. Whether your goal is to get stronger, shed fat, or drastically improve your fitness levels, the first step is planning out your weekly sessions so you can stay consistent with your hard work.

While there isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to a workout schedule, there’s a general number that you should aim for when you’re just starting out if you want to get stronger, maintain lean muscle, and shed fat. Here’s how you should plan on breaking up your cardio and strength-training sessions each week.

How many weekly strength training sessions should I do?

Studies show that strength training just once a week doesn’t show much difference in the body, and while lifting weights twice a week showed more improvement, the body actually shows tremendous grains by strength training at least three times a week. By increasing your strength sessions from two to three times a week, you’ll see 12 percent more muscle gain and 13 percent more fat loss.

When you’re planning out your strength sessions, be sure to give your body a rest day in between each workout so your muscles can fully recover. The gains you make don’t actually happen in the gym — they happen when you’re resting. So planning two back-to-back heavy leg sessions isn’t a good idea. Give yourself at least a day for those muscle groups to recover before hitting them again.

Although three strength sessions each week is a great place to start, that doesn’t mean you can’t do more. Once you’re feeling strong enough and you’re improving, add in more sessions throughout the week.

How many weekly cardio sessions should I do?

This all depends on what your goals are. If you’re trying to lose weight and shed fat, you want to be in a calorie deficit (eating less calories every day than you’re expending), and doing cardio regularly will help you reach that goal. Doing cardio 3-5 times a week for 30 minutes or more at a time is a great way to speed up fat loss. If you’re doing cardio and strength training on the same day, it’s best to do your weightlifting first and then finish off with cardio.

What you do for cardio is entirely up to you. You can either choose LISS (low-intensity sustained state), like going for a distance run or a rigorous hike, or HIIT (high-intensity interval training), such as a circuit class at your gym or a Tabata style workout. Both are effective and excellent ways to improve your cardiovascular health.

No matter what you decide, make sure you choose something you actually enjoy doing. If you hate HIIT classes, don’t take them. If you despise running, don’t even bother lacing up those running shoes. Consistency is the most important rule when it comes to improving your fitness and getting stronger. If you hate doing it, you won’t do it — so choose whatever cardio you know you will actually complete.