Does Strength Training Once a Week Actually Do Anything for Your Body?

We asked how much time you need to spend in the weight room to see real results

Confession: While I’d happily run or spin five or six times a week, I’m much less diligent about strength training.

It’s not that I’m ignorant to the perks. When I’m consistently pumping iron, I look and feel great, and I know my bones and heart benefit from the habit too. But for some reason, working up a sweat on the running trails or a bike always ends up feeling like a much more efficient route to the endorphin rush I crave after exercising. Plus, lifting weights is hard! So when my week starts to fill up, my strength workouts are the first thing to go.

But! I do make a point of getting into the weight room—or doing a strength-based workout—at least once a week. In fact, I get a little paranoid if I go any longer without squeezing in some squats or push-ups. I don’t want run off all my muscle tone, after all. But is a once-a-week strength schedule even worth it?

“Any activity is better than none,” says Bedros Keuilian, a personal trainer and the president of Fit Body Boot Camp. Yay! “However…” Ugh. “… strength training one day a week alone isn’t going to yield the greatest results.”

Even when you combine a five-day-a-week running habit with one day a week of weights, the best you can hope for is “modest results in strength gain, muscle toning, and even an increase in bone density,” says Keuilian. Again, better than nothing—but I’m probably not going to get super ripped, and I’m definitely not getting all the benefits I could if I were to step it up a bit.

So what’s a cardio addict to do? Keuilian suggests spending just three to five minutes at a time on simple, no-space-required moves like bodyweight squats, tricep dips, and burpees. He recommends doing that several times a day, but even adding a single five-minute weight “session” post-runs adds up—if I do that after every run, that’s another 25 to 30 minutes of muscle building I’ve snuck into a week.

My trick? Hitting up classes that combine cardio and strength, like Barry’s Bootcamp or even bouldering. My biceps will be back in no time!

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