In an ideal world, you would lift weights 3–5 times every week of the year. But sometimes life is designed to flood your days with unhappiness and for some reason — family, business, personal stuff, extended travel — you can’t devote much time to training until things get better. And so two options swim into your mind:
- You can either stop training and face the consequences of training cessation on muscle and strength loss or…
- You do the minimal amount of training necessary to preserve muscle and strength.
Obviously, the former is not particularly, or even fractionally, a capital idea. So you go with the latter and train only as much as necessary to maintain your current body composition and strength. But how much is that?
Well, Barry et al. (2021) conducted a brief review on how much training is necessary to preserve muscle and strength:
They looked at similar studies done on the topic and found that for the general population — you and me — very little training is needed to maintain your current size and strength:
I’m pretty sure you just gave a snort of disbelief but it really is all that you need to maintain strength and muscle — one to two workouts per week. And that’s exactly what I found myself and through working with clients — volume and frequency of training can be reduced by up to two-thirds to preserve muscle and strength.
But there’s an important caveat — most things in life come witha caveat so deal with it — training intensity must be maintained. This doesn’t mean lifting the heaviest weight possible. It means that you need to take sets to or as close to failure as possible (until you can’t perform another rep with good form). That’s exactly what this study concluded too: