Wondering how long your workouts need to be in order to build muscle?
Then look no further: I am here!
Meaning that I’m here to give my take on this popular topic. Yeah, not the best introduction but it’ll do.
Besides, you’re in a hurry and you’re probably at the gym reading this on your phone inbetween workouts…
Anyway, let me first congratulate you on asking a question such as this one. It’s important!
Why, you ask?
Because it means that you want to take your exercise seriously. It’s a priority that you want to be efficient at.
Plus, if you live a busy life, you don’t want to be in the gym for 2 hours at a time. And I don’t blame you. Nobody got time for dat!
So, allow me to present you with some good news: there’s no specific length at which you should workout.
That is, there is no rule of thumb when it comes to workout length. But, there are some recommendations.
Know this: the particular length at which you workout depends on your individual goals and lifestyle.
I can’t tell you exactly how long to work out without knowing exactly what your goals are.
These are all very different factors that must be considered that can result in wildly different workout lengths.
For example, many powerlifters take anywhere from 3-5 minutes between sets. This means their workouts can last anywhere from an hour to two (or more!).
Also, this study suggests that training at high intensity (meaning lower reps and heavy weights) resulted in more muscle gains. This is something to think about!
It’s essential to know someone before recommending a particular workout length. It’s necessary to understand someone’s fitness goals and lifestyle before recommending a workout.
These factors can make a huge difference in how you should exercise and for how long.
Here’s some more good news: I can help guide you to find a length that works best for you. It’s always helpful to have a guide when you first enter into the fitness world.
Not only do you work out the right way but you save a whole lot of time from trial and error. This is the benefit to hiring a coach at your local gym.
And trust me: as someone who has worked out for years, I highly recommend you pay the money for a trainer. They can get you the body you want in 6 months.
This is a very short amount of time when you look at the big picture.
Most people spend years of trial and error, only to finally figure out how to workout correctly years after they started.
Much of this trial-and-error could be cut down considerably by dropping money on a great personal trainer for the first year of your training.
Anyway, I do my best here on this website for those of you who want to learn for free. But like I said, hiring someone credible is the best bang for your buck. Yes, it’s pricey, but you’ll avoid years of mistakes and possible workout injuries.
First, I will help you choose a length to start. Once you become comfortable, you will be able to fine-tune it to whatever extent meets your own fitness needs.
Sound good? Fantastic! Let’s get started.
Time, Distance, & Weight
First, TIME is only part of the formula.
What do I mean?
Well, take a look at the following example. What do you think makes more work?
Lifting 50 lbs 5 times? Or lifting 250 lbs once?
The answer: NEITHER
They take the same amount of WORK. Simply put, WORK is the measure of a given WEIGHT over a particular DISTANCE.
Now, what if this time we both lifted 50 lbs 5 times but it took YOU twenty seconds, and it took ME only ten seconds. Who did more WORK this time?
The answer. Again…neither.
DISTANCE and WEIGHT remain the same. We each lifted 50lbs (weight) 5 times (distance).
However, although we did the same amount of WORK since I did it quicker, I used more POWER. We lifted the same weight the same amount of times, but I did it faster.
Therefore I had a more productive workout because I performed the same amount of WORK but in less TIME.
Here’s another way to explain it: say we both went to the gym for 30 minutes. However, I did half the amount of exercises as you.
Assuming we are on the same levels of fitness, you got the better workout in. You performed more sets and reps than I did. Twice as many, in fact.
Another way of saying this is that you worked out with twice the intensity as me. Workout intensity is the key factor for a workout’s effectiveness.
(This wouldn’t be the case if we were on different fitness levels. For example, someone new to the gym could shock their body with just a few sets).
Get the point?
TIME is only part of the equation. The key is to be as productive as possible during your entire workout, whether it’s long or short.
Now that you understand TIME and its relation to exercise, let’s discuss when too long is too long.
Too Much Of A Good Thing
I know what you’re thinking…
“I get the whole concept of time, but at what point am I just wasting it? Is there a point where I’m doing more harm than good?”
And the answer here is… it depends.
The whole concept, “more is better” does not always apply to working out.
In fact, when you exercise for too long, it can lead to diminishing returns and even injury (due to failure of form).
Exercise too little, and you won’t stimulate muscle growth. Exercise for too long and you could sideline yourself for days (or weeks).
It comes down to the whole dilemma of quantity vs. quality. Unless you have significantly advanced in exercising, long workouts will not benefit you.
As I said earlier, the amount of time you spend in the gym depends on the time of workout you’re doing.
Generally speaking, you should aim for a minimum of 12 sets and a maximum of 20. Powerlifters will aim for less sets while volume lifters will usually shoot for 20 or so.
Remember, working out is as much mental as it is physical. And, this leads us into our next consideration. Work out length will also be determined by your lifestyle.
How Much Time Can You Dedicate To The Gym?
My whole philosophy is to make fitness a part of your lifestyle. But, I don’t want you to become a slave to the gym, either.
Generally speaking, I encourage everyone to focus on getting as lean as possible.
Training from a lean state gives your body the right frame to build the Warrior physique. In my opinion, it’s much more satisfying to build your body from a lean state than from a bulky state.
Whether you spend 30 minutes in the gym or 2 hours won’t really matter with this goal in mind.
Committing to a workout routine that takes 2 hours to complete would lead to mental fatigue. Sure, you may keep it up for a few weeks, but if it becomes a burden then why would you continue?
Working out should be enjoyable, not stressful. I see it all the time at the gym. People come and go because they think the longer they work out, the better.
However, this couldn’t be any farther from the truth. As this study proves, losing weight is really about the quality of your diet and not the time spent in the gym.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be in the gym. But, it shows that 2-hour long lifting sessions aren’t going to get you lean.
If you lead a busy life and can only make it into the gym for 30 minutes, then that’s great. Stick to that. Get as many sets in as needed during the allotted time.
The point is we all have different lifestyles. I have friends who hit the gym for 2-3 hours at a time. They love the atmosphere, the clanging and banging, the people. Lifting weights is their passion.
There Is No Magic Number for Workout Length
So what’s the best workout length?
When you’re at the gym, chances are you see people with a personal trainer. Trainers continuously help people reach their fitness goals. That’s their job.
Anytime you have a goal, the quickest path to that goal is to model someone who has achieved it.
Now with that said, a lot of personal trainers don’t know jack about fitness. The gym I attend has zero personal trainers that are actually in shape. It’s quite silly.
You also need to be careful who you pay attention to. You may be tempted to get some advice from the guy at your gym who’s jacked.
However, chances are he took drugs to get to that point. This is the problem with social media. 90% of the “natty” fitness models are lying. They took PEDs to get to that point, just like most of Hollywood.
They all lie and claim they’re natty, but it’s simply not true 90% of the time. To admit to PED use would destroy their business and credibility. Therefore, they all claim “natty.” But they’re not.
This is why the only people you should listen to when it comes to fitness are those who are actually lean and shredded.
Note: I didn’t say big and shredded. You can’t be big and shredded without drugs. That’s the truth that these fake-natty’s won’t tell you.
So, find someone who looks amazing with their shredded physique. That’s what you should aim for, and it’s what I teach here on this website.
What I’ve noticed with actual natural lifters is that they all have an amazing diet. Their workout length varies, but most tend to be really strong regardless.
Final Say On How Long You Should Workout To Build Muscle
Now that you know the workout length is entirely dependent on your overall fitness goals, what should you commit to?
That’s a question only you can answer.
Hopefully, your first action plan going forward is cleaning up your diet. This is what will get you noticeable results in just a few weeks.
Spend a few weeks working out for 30 minutes, a few weeks for 1 hour, and a few weeks for a 1 hour and 30 minutes. Find out what length makes your body feel best and fits into your schedule.
Afterwards, switch it up and keep your body guessing.
Remember that this is just a guide to get you started. A workout length that’s best for you may not be best for me.
If you’re new to exercising, start with 30 minutes and work your way up. Consider hiring a credible personal trainer for 3-6 months to avoid trial-and-error.
The key is that you continue to stay motivated. If you lose motivation from 5-6 days per week in the gym, it’s okay to cut back to just 3 workouts per week.
As I said, it’s the diet that will transform your body over time, especially if your goal is to burn fat and get lean.