If you tend to favor a certain type of cardio, chances are you also favor a body part when it comes to strength training. It’s completely normal, as we tend to be creatures of habit. But just like doing one type of cycling or running class won’t make you faster, isolating one muscle group isn’t going to do much for your overall strength.
Your best bet to achieving well-rounded strength? Be intentional about your workouts and make sure to focus on your chest, back, abs, legs, shoulders, and arms each week, says Peloton instructor Ben Alldis. Thinking that’s a lot of body parts and not a lot of time in your weekly training schedule to hit them all? Here’s how to do it—with plenty of time for some rest days in between.
Two Is the Magic Number
To start, aim to hit each muscle group at least once during the week. You can follow this schedule outlined by Ben:
Friday: Shoulders and arms
If this is all you’ve got time for, you’re in a good place. However, if you want to advance your strength training, focusing on each muscle group twice a week will help you get there.
“Training each muscle group twice a week is more beneficial because of muscle protein synthesis, which is essentially the process your muscles go through after a workout to build additional muscle mass,” says Ben. “After a resistance training workout, protein synthesis remains elevated for roughly 36 to 48 hours in most individuals. By training each muscle group twice a week, you’re able to maximize protein synthesis response while avoiding interfering with recovery since your volume per session isn’t excessive.”
This doesn’t mean you have to devote hours on end to strength training. Browse the app for a 10-minute strength training class for your target muscle group and you’ll find that squeezing it in twice a week is easier than you may think.
Full Body Strength Classes vs. Body Part Splits
Ben says above all else, the strength training plan that will deliver the most results is the one you’re consistent with and enjoy. But there are some different benefits to both incorporating full body strength training classes versus isolated body parts during the week that may help you shape your goals.
“If you’re looking for muscle growth, more frequent training sessions with higher volumes per week [i.e., focusing on that twice a week per muscle group model] is going to be better than a full-body workout,” he says. “To maximize calorie burn or improve functional strength, less frequent full-body workouts may work best.”
Keep in mind that body part split workouts generally require more days working out throughout the week. So if time is a precious commodity for you, start with full body workouts or get into a program that helps outline the work that needs to be done for you, like Matty Maggiacomo's Intermediate 5-Day Split. For beginners, Ben recommends a full-body strength training program (try Total Strength 2 with Andy Speer) to help hone your skill development and set you up for long-term success.
Cardio Can Help, But It’s Not a Substitute
Yes, cardio workouts can count as leg day (especially if you’re crunched for time), but if you want to gain muscle size and/or strength, you still need to do strength training. “Cycling and running are repetitive. It’s one movement over and over again, so it’s not hitting as many muscle fibers as a strength training class would,” Ben says. “There’s also limited resistance with cardio, which means you won’t gain as much muscle or power as you would from increasing resistance over time with a strength training class or program.”
If you have a week where it’s going to be difficult to squeeze in a leg day, try a different ride or run to challenge those muscle groups. If you have time for both, make sure you’re selecting the right weight for you and set up your stack to get the results you want.
Tips to Stick With It
To make sure you’re hitting all the muscle groups you need to and not neglecting or focusing on one too much, Ben shares how to build a weekly strength training plan that will keep you accountable and help you get stronger:
Choose the number of days you want (or have) to work out.
Map out a day (or two) for each muscle group.
Select the workouts that focus on those muscle groups. Bookmark them for fast access when you’re ready to sweat.
Block out the time you have to work out. Put it in your calendar, put your phone on Do Not Disturb, or whatever else you need to get it done.
Even if your weekly schedule changes, stick to your training plan each week to see results. Don’t forget: Rest days are equally as important as training days.
Try a strength class with Ben on the Peloton App!