It’s a question I get asked by a lot of my readers: how long should I workout? It’s a difficult question to answer because everyone is different, but lifting weights longer than you need to is counterproductive, and in some cases could lead to overtraining.
There seems to be a common census that you should keep workouts under 60 minutes, I have also seen statements saying workouts should be no longer than 45 minutes. To say that a workout should last no longer than 45 minutes is ridiculous and does not tailor to individual training needs.
How Long Should Workouts Last?
There is no hard and fast rule as to how long you should workout, there are actually several factors that determine workout duration, let’s look at each one in more detail.
1. Your Current Training Level
Your level of training will determine how long you workout. For example, a novice lifter, performing 3 full body workouts a week will have no problem training for 1-2 hours each workout. As the novice progresses into intermediate and advanced lifting, his or her workout time may decrease. This is because the workout program will ultimately have to change in order for the novice to continue making progress.
2. Your Fitness Level
Your level of fitness will determine how much rest you need between sets and also between exercises. As you become fitter, your rest times will naturally decrease.
3. Your Training Goals
Your training goals will influence workout duration. For example, if the primary goal is strength then rest times will be longer (maybe 5-10 minutes), compared to a primary goal of endurance, with minimal rest times (under 60 seconds).
Rest times soon add up, if a strength trainer performs 3 heavy sets, resting 5-10 minutes between each one, their total rest time could be 10-20 minutes for just one exercise.
4. The Workout Routine
The workout routine you select will ultimately determine the duration of your workout. For example, a typical full body workout would last 60-90 minutes, however a split routine could be as short as 30-45 minutes.
5. Exercise Selection
The exercises you choose will have an impact on workout duration. For example, barbell squats or deadlifts are taxing on the body, therefore require longer rest periods between sets compared to something like dumbbell curls, which are not very taxing.
Secondly, some exercises require a longer setup time. The barbell squat requires the adding of weight plates to the barbell and setting up the power rack pins and safety catchers, which can take a few minutes to setup.
6. Your Age
In general, a younger person will have more energy and a better fitness level than an older person, which will of course be a factor affecting your workout time.
7. Energy Levels, Hydration & Diet
If you are feeling tired chances are you will need more rest between sets and between exercises. If you haven’t drunk enough fluids throughout the day it will have a negative impact on your energy levels. Finally, if your diet is not consistent or you have not consumed the correct number of carbohydrates, proteins and fats it will make your rest times longer.
8. Outside Influences
There are of course outside influences that can affect your training time, such as resting too long between sets & exercises. Outside temperature can also be a factor, a hot day might require more rest between exercises. Conversely, on a cold day it can take longer to warm up the muscles, which means you could spend more time “working out”. Also, your stress levels can be a big factor, if you are stressed it can cause you to lose focus and take longer rest times than actually needed, this will also happen if you are sleep deprived.
The simple question to answer if your training duration is correct is: are you making progress?
If the answer is “Yes” then it means your training duration is not an issue. If, however you are not making progress you might need to see if you are training longer than you need to be.
There are of course a few things you can do to ensure an optimal workout time, these involve:
Decide on a rest between set duration and time it with a stopwatch/wristwatch.
Avoid unnecessary “gym chat”.
Stay mentally focused on the task of lifting weights.