Before you start working out consistently, the very notion of lifting weights even a couple of days a week every week can sound daunting and perhaps even untenable.
However, many people find that once they start hitting the gym and training consistently, they fall in love with working out and may even want to lift weights every day.
But can you lift weights every day? More importantly, should you lift weights every day?
It seems reasonable to assume that lifting weights every day is a good idea. After all, if exercise is so good for the body, isn’t more exercise better?
In this article, we will discuss the ideal frequency for lifting weights and answer the question, “Can you lift weights every day?”
We will cover:
- Can You Lift Weights Every Day?
- Should You Lift Weights Every Day?
- How Often Should You Lift Weights?
- Training Plan Structure
Let’s dive in!
Can You Lift Weights Every Day?
Ultimately, there’s an important yet nuanced difference between the questions: “Can you lift weights every day?” and “Should you lift weights every day?”
Although you can lift weights every day, in nearly all cases, lifting every day is usually not ideal.
Your muscles need time to rest and recover after exercise in order to repair and rebuild back stronger.
Lifting weights every day can impede this repetitive process and compromise your gains in strength and size, and can certainly increase the risk of injury.
If your muscles have not fully recovered before you train them again, they are already starting at a weakened state, so the risk of injury is higher.
Additionally, intense weightlifting is taxing on the body from hormonal, metabolic, and neuromuscular perspectives as well.
Even if you train different muscle groups on different days, it’s best to have one full rest day per week to give your metabolic, hormonal, neuromuscular, and musculoskeletal systems complete rest for better recovery.
Injuries and overtraining can occur not just when your muscles are tired but also when you have central nervous system fatigue or neuromuscular fatigue, which can affect your lifting form, technique, and coordination.
Overtraining can occur when the stresses of training outpace your body’s ability to fully recover, and this often involves more than just the need for your muscles themselves to repair.
With all that said, if you’re lifting very light weights at a low intensity (less than 67% of your 1RM), you probably can lift weights every day with a fairly low risk of injury, though again, it’s not usually ideal from a fitness improvement perspective.
Should You Lift Weights Every Day?
Now, onto the more important question: “Should you lift weights every day?” We’ve already hinted at the answer but stated more overtly, no; you shouldn’t lift weights every day.
You should have at least one full day of recovery between workouts that target the same muscles.
Muscle groups usually need up to 48 hours—if not 72 hours or more—to fully recover and repair the microscopic tears and damage caused during heavy resistance training exercises.
Lifting weights every day does not allow ample time between workouts for this reparative process to occur. Much like trying to scale an avalanche on a mountain, the more you try climbing up (doing daily resistance training workouts), the further back you slide.
In other words, lifting weights every day continually cuts into your recovery, compromising the effectiveness and extent of the muscle-rebuilding process.
As such, if you lift weights every day, you can somewhat sabotage your potential gains.
You will impair the hypertrophy process by causing more damage before the muscle fibers have actually been repaired and strengthened from the previous workout.
How Often Should You Lift Weights?
To improve general health and fitness, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends doing resistance training exercises for all the major muscle groups at least twice a week.
Beyond that, there are three primary types of resistance training goals: increasing muscular endurance, increasing muscular size (hypertrophy), or increasing muscular strength.
Each of these resistance training goals impacts the ideal training volume, loads, and recovery, or how often you should lift weights.
Muscular endurance refers to the fatigue resistance of a muscle or the ability of your muscles to continually contract and produce force under a load for an extended period of time.
Training for muscular endurance involves using lower weights and a higher number of reps to build stamina.
Typically, the loads used for muscular endurance training should be around 67% of your one-repetition maximum (1RM) or less.
The number of repetitions percent should be 12 to 15 or more, and you should perform at least three sets.
Additionally, due to the lower-intensity nature of muscular endurance training, the muscles are able to recover more quickly from your workouts.
It is recommended that you give your muscle groups a minimum of 24 hours to recover after a muscular endurance workout before training them again.
Therefore, theoretically, you can lift weights every day if you are lifting lighter loads at or below 67% of your 1RM.
Muscular Size (Hypertrophy)
The goal of increasing the size of your muscles is referred to as hypertrophy training.
Hypertrophy training is all about high volume and moderately high loads.
The general training recommendations to build muscle mass are to use loads that are 67 to 85% of your 1RM, for 6 to 12 repetitions, for three sets.
In terms of the ever-important recovery, you should take 24-48 hours between workouts before training the same muscle group again.
Therefore, you should not lift weights every day if you are doing hypertrophy training unless you train different muscle groups every other day (for example, upper body/lower body splits).
You should lift weights no more than every other day with the same muscle groups.
Studies suggest that for the goal of increasing muscle size, or hypertrophy, it is better to lift weight two days per week rather than just one, as this doubles the stimulus for muscle growth and results in greater gains in size.
However, the researchers noted that it remained unclear whether lifting weights three days per week was preferable to two days per week and hypothesized that hypertrophy training 2 to 3 days per week (but not more) was ideal.
Training to increase muscular strength focuses on high weights and low volume.
Loads used to build strength are usually 75-90% of your 1RM, lifted for 1-5 reps, for 3-4 sets.
Due to the high-intensity effort, the muscles typically need 48-72 hours to recover between strength workouts before they are trained again.
Accordingly, as with hypertrophy training, unless you train different muscle groups every day, you should not lift weights using strength training protocols every day.
You should lift weights no more than every 2-3 days with the same muscle groups.
Training Plan Structure
As just tangentially touched upon, the way that you structure your workouts in the context of your overall training plan also affects how often you should lift weights.
There are two primary ways to structure your resistance training workout plan; you can do total-body workouts, or you can do split workout routines, often called body-part splits.
As the name describes, total-body workouts are routines that include exercises that use all the major muscles of the body over the course of the workout, giving you a full-body workout.
For example, if you are doing a total-body workout, there will be exercises that target your chest, others that will work your back or arms, exercises that primarily target your legs, and exercises that strengthen your abs and core.
There can also be full-body exercises, such as burpees, or compound movements that involve several major muscle groups. For example, a total-body workout might include exercises like a lateral lunge with a bicep curl or a step-up with an overhead press.
Because total-body workouts train all of the major muscle groups in a single workout, you should not lift weights every day if your training plan is structured with full-body workouts.
The only exception here would be with muscular endurance training protocols because the loads are quite low, and the resultant muscle damage and necessary recovery after the workout are minimal.
Again, with total-body hypertrophy or strength training workouts, you should not lift weights with the same muscle groups more than every other day or every 2-3 days respectively.
Split Workout Routines
Split workout routines, or body part splits, focus on just one or two particular body areas per workout.
You might do upper body one day, and lower body and core the next, or the body might be partitioned into arms and chest in one workout, back and core in another, and then legs, though there’s plenty of variability.
If you are following a split workout routine, all, or nearly all, of the exercises for any given workout are focused on the particular body area or region.
For example, on legs day, you won’t find pull-ups or push-ups in the lineup. Similarly, on arms day, you wouldn’t have squats or lunges unless potentially paired with an upper-body exercise.
If you are structuring your training with split body routines, it is potentially possible, if not ideal, to lift weights every day, with the important caveat that it’s best to have at least one full rest day per week.
Therefore, it’s not technically lifting weights every day, but rather six days per week.
For example, with hypertrophy training, you might do legs and abs on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and then chest, arms, and back on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Then, you would finish the week with the rest day on Sunday before beginning again the following week.
This will be a very intense training program, though probably feasible for advanced athletes.
With the training goal of increasing strength, if you wanted to lift weights every day, you could structure your training week into something like arms on Monday, legs on Tuesday, back and abs on Wednesday, chest on Friday, rest on Saturday, and arms on Sunday.
Then, you could enter the next week beginning with legs, and following the same type of order, with a shifting rest day per week.
Ultimately, depending on the type of resistance training workouts you are doing and the way that you are structuring your strength training workout plan, lifting weights every day can actually be counterproductive, if not dangerous, in the sense that it can increase the risk of injuries and overtraining syndrome.
For a list of compound exercises to add to your next strength training workout, check out our complete list here.