Instructor Adrian Williams doing side plank

How Much Strength Training Is Too Much? We Asked the Pros

There can be too much of a good thing.

By Tiffany AyudaApril 19, 2023


There’s something that feeds your confidence like no other when you’re crushing a heavy deadlift or strict pressing a massive weight overhead. While strength training feels empowering and has real results—a defined physique and improved performance—you’re probably wondering whether it’s something that’s safe and effective to do every day. Like many things, can too much strength training be bad? Ahead, we spoke to experts about the consequences of lifting weights every day and how often you should actually be challenging your muscles. 

Should You Lift Weights Every Day? 

The short answer is no. While there are many benefits to strength training, including building stronger bones and muscles and maintaining a healthy weight, you shouldn’t lift weights every day. 

“The science for strength training is that two to three days per week is the best dose for most people. This is for those looking to improve balance, posture, strength, and coordination, and decrease risk for conditions, like diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease,” says Healther Milton, MS, CSCS, exercise physiologist supervisor at NYU Langone’s Sports Performance Center.

This recommendation aligns with the physical activity guidelines for Americans put out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to physical activity guidelines, you should aim to strength train all major muscle groups at a moderate or greater intensity two or more times a week. This is part of the general guidelines to work out at least 150 to 300 minutes a week at a moderate intensity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.

“Recovery is very important when you’re thinking about your lifting routine. I recommend lifting a minimum of two to three days a week or a maximum of four to five days. Depending on your goals, your body will need to repair and grow new tissue in order to become stronger,” says Adrian Williams, a strength, rowing, and running instructor at Peloton. 

One way you can create a strength routine is to do a full-body strength workout three days a week or do four days a week of a split routine. “A split routine is two days of upper-body work and two days of lower-body work. Sessions may vary in length, but it is recommended to target all major muscle groups and reach an intensity that is hard enough to elicit gains,” Milton says.

Another way you can do three days a week of strength training is to dedicate one upper-body day, a lower-body day, and a full-body day, says Williams.

When you’re strength training, you want your rate of perceived exertion—how hard you’re working during exercise—to be hard. Think: at least 60 percent of your one-rep max (one rep of your heaviest lift) effort. This level of exertion is what’s going to stimulate muscle growth.

Having said that, recovery is a crucial part of muscle growth, so it’s not wise to work the same muscle group on back-to-back days. In fact, you should allow at least 48 hours of recovery between working muscle groups, says Milton. This allows your muscles to repair and adapt so they become stronger.  

Even if you’re alternating muscle groups on different days, Williams recommends taking a rest day after lifting three days in a row, and then working out two more days followed by another rest day. 

What Happens if You Lift Weights Every Day?

The main risk that comes with lifting weights every day is overtraining syndrome, which is a condition that happens when you work out too much without adequate rest. When you’re overtraining, you won’t see an improvement in your performance. Instead of getting stronger and being able to lift heavier, you might actually notice that your strength and power are declining at each session, Milton says. 

“Without resting your tissues, you will find it harder and harder to recover from your workouts. If you aren’t recovering, this can lead to overuse issues or imbalances within your body,” Williams explains. 

In addition, workouts that were once challenging might suddenly feel really hard, and you can develop unusual muscle soreness that persists.

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, other signs of overtraining include excessive sweating, recurrent injuries, like muscle sprains and tendonitis, persistent fatigue and exhaustion, irritability, and sleep issues. Overtraining can also lead to digestion issues, such as constipation and diarrhea, and make it more difficult to recover from a cold or other illness. 

How Often Should You Actually Do Strength Training?

As mentioned, it’s best to lift weights at least two to three days a week, with four to five days being your max if you’re rotating muscle groups. That said, strength training comes in different forms, and you don’t necessarily have to use heavy weights. 

If you’re lifting light weights or doing bodyweight exercises, like yoga and Pilates, you may be able to do these exercises daily. However, it’s important to ask yourself what your ultimate goal is, Milton says. If you would like to gain muscle and improve your strength and performance, then you should lift heavier (60 percent of your one-rep max) and alternate working different muscle groups or doing full-body workouts throughout the week.  

There are also different types of strength goals, like building muscle definition or improving power, so consider the number of reps and the intensity of your workout. 

For example, if you’re looking to improve muscular endurance, then you want to stick to 12 or more reps at 67 percent or less of your one-rep max, according to the American Council on Exercise. Workouts like yoga and Pilates build muscular endurance, so your muscles can continue to do a movement over time. This is one part of muscular strength, Milton says.  Unlike heavy lifting, muscular endurance workouts can be done daily because they don’t tax your muscles, tendons, and bones the same way.   

For hypertrophy, aka increasing muscle size and definition, aim to lift 6 to 12 reps at 67 to 86 percent of your one-rep max. And if you want to build max strength, do six or fewer reps at 85 percent or more of your one-rep max. Power training also involves low reps at high intensities—around 80 to 90 percent of your one-rep max for one to two reps. Because you’re working at a greater intensities for hypertrophy, max strength and power training, these types of strength training workouts shouldn’t be done daily. 

“Hypertrophy training will help you build muscle definition but also increase the size of your muscles. Power training, which has low reps and longer rest periods, will help you increase strength. You can incorporate both into your weekly training routine and will have noticeable gains if you do. You will build muscle if you’re looking to attain power and definition,” Williams says.

Moreover, if you want to improve your balance and mobility for healthy aging, picking up some weights is what’s going to be best, Williams says. “It helps with maintaining flexibility and improving muscle strength. I would try to incorporate it into your weekly routine two days a week.”

The Takeaway

It’s not necessary to lift weights every day, and if you do, you increase your risk for overuse injuries and overtraining syndrome. For most people, strength training two to three times a week is sufficient, but if you prefer to split training different muscle groups, then you can train up to five days a week. Just remember to recover at least 48 hours between working muscle groups.

You may be able to do bodyweight exercises, like yoga and Pilates, daily. These types of workouts create a great foundation for strength, proper form, and stability. But if you want to continue to challenge your muscles so they grow stronger (or bigger), then lifting weights is going to be your best bet because it provides the stimulus that your muscles need to repair and grow stronger. That goes for improving your muscle flexibility, joint mobility, and balance, too. Resistance training checks all these boxes.


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