How Long Should My Workouts Be?

If you want to get fit, lose weight, or add muscle, how long do your workouts need to be?

The answer will depend on who’s asking: What are your goals? Where are you coming from?

The Big Picture

The average person who wants to improve their general fitness and health can accomplish a great deal in 60 minutes. This is a nice block of time which allows for a solid warm up, specifically programmed work, and a cooldown. This doesn’t mean you can only train for 60 minute blocks and it usually doesn’t mean you will spend the whole 60 minutes “working.”

Some focused people, who warm up quickly and move fast, find about half an hour gives them all they need. A few people use even less time but they’re few and far between. Some people will train for up to 2 hours — think about a runner who’s preparing for a half-marathon or someone doing a marathon bodybuilding session.

Your style of training will also affect your workout length.

Endurance training often takes more time. And if you’re trying to build great strength, it can take a long time to warm up and get to very heavy loads. And then, once you’re there, you are performing several sets with up to 5 minutes of rest between each set. This is a lot of time…

High-intensity workouts are often much shorter in duration (more on that below).

Minimum Required Workload

Whatever you’re trying to accomplish, they key is to ensure you warm up sufficiently, then do just enough work to make your body respond. The minimum required workload, you might say.

If you don’t do enough with enough intensity, you won’t get any results. Think about lifting a fork 10 times: it won’t have any effect on your body. But lifting a 40lbs dumbbell 10 times just might…

On the other side of the coin, if you do too much work, your body will not recover properly and you’ll likely need to take additional rest days. Imagine running a marathon: you probably wouldn’t run for an additional 2 hours the next day.

If you do the right amount of work, in the right time frame, you’ll challenge your body without beating it up. It will respond to this challenge by adapting and changing: you’ll gain muscle, lose weight/body fat, improve your endurance, and so on.

It can be hard for an inexperienced person to know exactly how much to do and how much time to spend in the gym. Some people are inclined to do way too much and others [still] tend to take it so easy that they don’t get results.

The solution? Work with a trained coach who will tailor your program to your history, your goals, and your time constraints. A pro can do this very quickly. Moreover, they will monitor your results, recovery, and progress to ensure you’re always on track. And through conversation, they will adjust your program regularly and on an as needed basis.

How Does Intensity Affect Workout Length?

It’s important to note that workout length isn’t the only factor to consider (or perhaps even the most important one). Intensity is important and carries more weight in creating change.

Think of that fork again: even if you lift the fork for 40 minutes straight, your body won’t change very much. I’m not saying it won’t be hard because lifting anything for 40 minutes would be a challenge. What I am saying is if you lift a heavy load 8 times in 25 to 30 seconds, rest for a minute, and repeat this cycle a few more times then you can expect your body to respond.

Another example:
A fit person might walk for 90 minutes without many benefits. But, if you pushed the same person to run a 5k as fast as possible, he or she could expect improvements in aerobic conditioning.

It’s not always about how long your training session is or how much work you do in that session. Real progress is made by working at a proper intensity for a good amount of time and resting appropriately.

In other words, “don’t judge your workouts by the clock only.” We’ve seen 4 minute workouts that packed an incredible punch.

For Best Results, Consult a Pro

The best plan is to talk to a coach about your fitness goals. Be sure to tell them about your training history and the amount of time you have to work out. A pro can put together an amazing plan and make sure it’s always moving you toward your goals.

We offer a free consult (we call it our No Sweat Intro) and would be happy to help you make a plan moving forward! To talk to us, book your consult today from this link.

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