While there's a common (okay, rampant) misconception that lifting is antithetical to a "feminine" physique (something we keep hearing from experts is just not true), the fact of the matter is that strength training is an important part of any fitness regimen. Strength training gives a boost to your movement control, physical performance, and yes, even self-esteem — not to mention that your chances of injuring yourself during a workout decreases the more strength you build.
According to Robert Forster, PT, "Strength training will also bring additional benefits, including increased bone density" — something that's especially important for women who tend to have issues with bone density as they age. "One in four women will suffer an osteoporotic bone fracture later in life," says Forster, which makes it even more crucial for women to do all we can to maintain healthy bone density in our youth.
Now that we've got you on board with Team Strength Training, here's the question — how much strength training is really necessary? As it turns out, probably less than you think. According to Rebecca Golian, personal training and creator of the Obstacle Course Race Training Program at Chelsea Piers, "For the average person, strength training once or twice a week is enough to break the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle."
Though experts do disagree on whether one day of strength training per week is enough (in part because this frequency doesn't allow your body to become as accustomed to the exercises — in other words, more post-workout pain), they do seem to be in agreement about the two-a-week guideline.
A series of studies done by JE Graves and his team between 1988 and 1990 supported the idea that the results garnered from training three or more times a week were about the same as the results garnered by training once or twice a week. Since then, many subsequent scientists have undertaken their own studies that corroborate this. The verdict, time and time again? "20+ years of research has made it quite clear that most people train more often than they need to," as massage therapist and science writer Paul Ingraham sums it up.
Now that we've nailed down frequency, what about duration? Again, this is an area where less may be just as effective as more. Michael Boyle, a strength and conditioning coach whose resume also includes training the Boston Red Sox, suggests that just fifteen minutes of training, twice a week, is enough to see results. Less than that isn't recommended, but c'mon — don't you have a half-hour a week to devote to building your strength?
The added benefit of fewer durations is that it gives your body more time to recover, too, which means fewer injuries in the long run. So shorter workouts, fewer times a week, and fewer achy days? We're not hearing any downsides here.