Strength Training Guidelines

We’ve talked a lot about strength training guidelines for adults on our podcast. I thought I’d provide a quick recap of those guidelines and give you some ideas on how to get in quality strength workouts.

Strength Training Guidelines

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), healthy adults should perform strength training at least twice a week on non-consecutive days. Each session should include 8 to 10 repetitions that stress each of the major muscle groups or 10 to 15 repetitions for those who are older and frail.

If you go with longer repetitions, you’ll use lighter weight.

You can certainly train more than twice a week but you want to make sure you cover all of the major muscle groups at least twice a week. So, perhaps you do upper body and alternate with lower body twice a week. That gives you four days of strength workouts.

Major Muscle Groups

If we’re supposed to train every major muscle group twice a week, we need to know what they are. Plan on training these parts of the body:

  • Chest
  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Arms:
    • Biceps
    • Triceps
  • Abdomen
  • Legs:
    • Quads
    • Hamstrings

Benefits of Strength Training

Why should we strength train at all? Isn’t it sufficient to just walk 10,000 steps every day?

The ACSM describes a variety of benefits of strength training. They are:

  • Maintain muscle or fight the loss of muscle mass
  • Prevent osteoporosis
  • Decrease the risk of heart disease
  • Decrease the risk of falls or the likelihood of injury if you do fall
  • Increase quality of life

Examples of Strength Training

You often hear strength training also referred to as resistance training. The goal is to put your muscles under tension using resistance. You can do that with weights like dumb bells and kettle bells, resistance bands, machines at the gym, or body weight exercises.

Examples of typical resistance exercises that can be performed using free-weights, machines, or body weight for the major muscle groups are:

  Free-Weight Machine-Based Body Weight
Chest Supine Bench Press Seated Chest Press Push-ups
Back Bent-over Barbell Rows Lat Pulldown Supermans
Shoulders Dumbbell Lateral Raise Shoulder Press Arm Circles
Biceps Dumbbell Curls Cable Curls Side planks
Triceps Dumbbell Kickbacks Press downs Dips
Abdomen Weighted Crunches “Abs” Machine Crunches Prone Planks
Quadriceps Back Squats Leg Extension Body Weight Lunges
Hamstrings Stiff-leg Deadlifts Leg Curls Hip-ups


If you aren’t sure how to do any of these, there are lots of demonstrations available on YouTube and a variety of strength training apps.

Don’t forget that the ACSM also recommends that you get in some cardio workouts during the week. I’ll write that up in a future post.

6 thoughts on “Strength Training Guidelines”

  1. I have wished for a chart like this one. It will take away the “remembering” and allow me to focus on the weights and my form.

  2. This is a great post Jill! I especially like the chart you created!

    Knowing the Y is great motivation as well. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Chris. Sometimes it just helps to see the different things you can do to accomplish the same goal.

  3. Thanks for the great summary. Your chart is perfect for putting up to shake it up on the routine.

    1. Thanks, Jane. (I forgot to reply earlier!) There’s probably plenty of other things we could add to that chart but it’s a good start, I guess.

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