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I'm a 29 y/o male starting strength training for the first time. I've done cardio my whole life and there were 3 rules of thumb I had in terms of time expectations:

  1. It takes about 4 months after starting cardio until significant fitness gains are noticable.
  2. It takes about 24 hours after a single cardio session until there has been enough recovery to train again ("time to recovery")
  3. It takes about 10 days after any given cardio session until the body recovers and becomes stronger ("time to improvement)

Now number (1) and (2) I have an understanding of for strength training (1 is still about 4 months and 2 is now 48-72 hours). But number 3 I have no idea.

Of course, there is far too much 'noise' between individual sessions to be able to notice an improvement from a single workout. However, metric 3 is still very useful. I know, for example, that if I train cardio less than 10 days before a race, I will be able to recover, but I won't see all of the benefits from that training. So with <10 days to go before I race I only do moderate excercise. Metric 3 also allows me to set realistic expectations after a very intense session about when I might see benefits from it.

I have found a lot of information available about how long after strength training you have to wait until you can do strength training again. But I can't find information about how long it takes after a strength session until you have recovered and accrued all the benefits of that session.

I am aware that for beginners you might actually break down more muscle than you can rebuild afterwards for the first few weeks. I've been going for 3 months now though so should be through that soon.

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  • "I have found a lot of information available about how long after strength training you have to wait until you can do strength training again" I would be interested to know where, because there are many different ways to accomplish this. – Dark Hippo Feb 9 at 16:45
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#3 works differently for muscle groups than it does the heart. The hypertrophy/strength process involves increasing fluid in muscles or increasing muscle fibers through a complex process. I'd argue that this is accomplished in a single workout due to

  1. the longer you go without training a muscle, even a single workout, it can interrupt training and possibly even weaken you if you miss more than a couple week's worth of effort training a muscle.
  2. Muscle fibers can grow after each workout.

So to answer the question, I would say 48 hours(after recovery). You can try to deload and recover the nervous system and the body as a whole for about 9-14 days. If you were a strength competitor, sometimes they train up to an event, having just enough time to recover. There's workouts I've done where I increase either a small amount of reps or weight each week. I remember training three times a week with the same exercises for each muscle(not recommended for best growth but I'm trying to make a point). Each training session when I did a dumbbell bench press, I was stronger than I was two days ago, either better managed my workout without fatiguing, or increasing reps or weight, even if it was 1 rep.

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