Hey Angels and Alphas,
Many of us are lead to believe that if something is good, this means that more of that something will be naturally better. This mindset is prevalent in the world of fitness, especially when you consider movements such as the “no pain, no gain” or the “no days off.”
We keep going on and on about how long and hardcore our training was, and if you don’t believe me, just do a 5-minute scroll through Instagram and notice how many people are talking about exactly that – incredible workouts that last hours on hours.
But the thing we have to realize is that effective workouts are not long workouts. Just because a workout lasted more than 2 hours, doesn’t mean it’s superior to a 30-minute
workout of equal intensity.
This brings us to the topic of today’s talk – does the length of our workout really matter, and how long should we be actually working out for?
How long should my workout be?
As you can guess, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The truth of the matter is that how long you work out (and how frequently you train) depend on a number of factors, including your age, goals, training experience, available time, workout structure, rest time between sets, how crowded the gym is, and so much more.
There’s no perfect or ideal amount of time that any one workout should last. There are simply too many factors involved! Exactly the same thing can be said about training programs – not every program or exercise is right for every type of gym-goer.
But what’s more important is that we have to realize, the length of our workout is not indicative of the quality of our workout.
Let’s give a practical example. Imagine two trainees take 2 hours to complete a workout.
Trainee A is focused on powerlifting and does heavy triples for most of his exercises. This means that he needs long rest periods so he can regain his strength ahead of the
next working set. If you’ve ever trained for powerlifting, you know that it could take a full 5-6 minutes before you’re fully recovered and ready to make another attempt at a heavy
And then we have Trainee B. He’s a gym newbie who hits the gym 3-4 times every week because he wants to get fit. He also takes long rest periods, talking to his friends,
scrolling on Instagram, and mindlessly pounding out set after set on the bench press (but not pushing anywhere near his one-rep max.)
This might seem like an exaggerated comparison, but this is the reality inside of most gyms – and it’s here to prove a point. Just because you’re in the gym longer, doesn’t
mean you’re actually training hard, that you’re training effectively, or that you’re training at all.
There’s no reason why you should be concerned with the length of your workout. Your only goal should be to improve upon what you did in your last workout.
This can mean adding weight to the bar, adding reps to a set, or decreasing the amount of rest you take between sets (just to name a few.)
What’s more, a lot of people who are concerned with the length of their workouts are actually people under a time crunch. They want to maximize every second they are
spending in the gym, and at this point, they resort to techniques such as supersets, drop sets, circuit training, and more.
But just because their workouts are shorter doesn’t mean they’re not doing what’s necessary in order to progress. Your main goal, as a gym-goer, should be to stimulate your muscles so they have a reason to grow and adapt. That’s it.
Let’s talk about long workouts and cortisol levels.
Some people actually believe that working out for longer than 60 minutes can have adverse effects on their results, but this is not true.
Research has proved time and time again that short, intense workouts can increase cortisol levels just as much (if not even higher) as longer, less-intense workouts can.
The body doesn’t just say, “Hey, you’ve been working out for longer than 60 minutes, so now I’m going to flood the body with cortisol.” The body doesn’t work that way.
Okay, so how long should a workout actually be?
When you understand that training frequency and duration will be highly subjective based on factors and circumstances such as goals, training experience, and overall fitness levels, you can get a pretty good idea of how long an average workout should be.
That being said, here are some general rules of thumb you can follow:
- If you’re looking to build strength and grow muscle size, you should be lifting heavy weights about 3-4 times a week, overall reaching about 5-6 hours total.
- If you want to burn fat or lose weight, all you have to do is add 2-3 hours of cardio on top of your existing resistance training regime.
In both cases, you should take at least one full day of rest so you can promote recovery and reduce the chances of overtraining.
Bringing it all together…
There’s no shortage of misinformation when it comes to the perfect ideal length. You have half the people promoting the “hardcore” training approach and saying that more is always better, and the other half of people promoting a minimalist approach of 3 times a week, up to 45-minute workouts.
As with everything, the truth is somewhere in the middle, and it’s heavily subjective. You shouldn’t be asking the question of “how long should I work out”, you should be asking a
question of “what is the average length of a workout for someone in my situation who wants to achieve the same goal I do.”
Looking at it from this perspective, it’s easy to provide clarity and take into account the plethora of facts that have to be clear to you before you even step inside the gym. It’s easy to get flooded with information and succumb to paralysis by analysis in search of an “ideal” workout length for making progress. Don’t succumb to it – you’re better than that.