So I’ve been asked numerous times recently about how long your workout should last. In case you had the same question, my answer is…Keep it short! Maximize the time you have in the gym.
Honestly, your workouts really never need to go over an hour and here is why:
Many of us think that the more we do, the better our results will be.
But more isn’t always better.
Longer, harder workouts…extra reps…don’t always equal greater results.
People will even tell you that you aren’t doing enough if your workouts aren’t at least an hour or two.
But who is really focusing the entire time or working as hard as they can when they spend two hours in the gym?
And if they are really working at 100% the entire time, they are probably overtraining and hindering their strength and size gains even further!
Sometimes too long, too hard, too much can end up hindering your progress and even cause you to go backwards – it may be the reason why you’ve been stuck looking the same way and lifting the same weight for the past few months or even years!
While hour-long or even two-hour long workouts have their place and time, most of your workouts shouldn’t last that long.
Sometimes less is actually more!
It is about being efficient in the gym, using compound lifts, shorter rest periods, heavier weights, and optimizing the time you spend there because the hormones that our bodies produce work to our advantage when we keep our workouts under 60 minutes and can actually hinder our progress when we go over.
When you start training, your body will boost testosterone levels significantly and around 30 minutes into your workout, testosterone levels in your body will peak. By about 45 minutes, your testosterone levels are returning back to normal.
So all those guys and gals spending two hours in the gym have been working without the aid of a key muscle-building hormone for about an hour and 15 minutes. They would have gotten more benefit out of 45 minutes of intense, compound, heavy lifting and optimal testosterone levels.
And on top of the fact that at about 45 minutes your testosterone levels are returning to normal, at about 60 minutes, your body will start producing more cortisol than testosterone and cortisol is a catabolic hormone, meaning it breaks down tissue instead of building it up!
When your workouts go over 60 minutes in length, you hormones are no longer helping you build muscle and burn fat. Your body is instead producing more cortisol, which breaks down muscle tissue, reduces protein synthesis, and increases body fat storage. Your body begins to fight against all of the hard work you are doing!
So instead of lifting heavy one set and wandering around the gym for five minutes “resting,” why not stay focused and get some high quality work done while your testosterone is raised?
Also, if you keep your workout shorter but more intense with compound movements, heavy weights and varied rest periods, you will optimize your hormone levels even more.
By lifting heavier with compound movements, you will maximize your testosterone response especially if you do enough volume. Working in the hypertrophy rep range of 8-12 reps for 4-5 sets at about 75% of your one rep max has been shown to result in significant increases in testosterone levels and other hormones that result in better protein synthesis.
And to get even more out of every rep, play with your tempo especially on the eccentric portion of your lifts. The eccentric portion of a lift, when the muscle lengthens, is where you can cause the most muscle damage. Studies also suggest that more protein synthesis happens after lifts with an emphasis on eccentric training. So between causing more muscle damage and more protein synthesis, focusing on the eccentric lift will cause bigger and better size and strength gains!
Also, while so many of the muscled guys and gals around the gym spend just as much time lifting as they do resting, long rest intervals may not be the best way to maximize your growth hormone response, a hormone that increases protein synthesis and muscle mass. Short rest intervals have been shown to create a strong growth hormone and testosterone response. Short rest intervals actually increase growth hormone levels higher than longer rest intervals.
However, don’t ignore the benefit of adding in some longer rest intervals especially when lifting super heavy and intensely. High intensity exercise does raise cortisol levels and longer rest intervals do allow for more complete recovery and also increase testosterone levels to counteract cortisol levels. Make sure to VARY your rest intervals.
So stop wasting your time in the gym doing two-hour, non-efficient workouts when your cortisol levels are working against you.
Not only are you not getting the most out of your time in the gym, but you are also causing yourself to not recover as well or as quickly.
Work SMARTER not LONGER!
So yea…That is my answer when it comes to how long your workouts should be.
Got another question? Let me know!
So last night when I was talking about workouts with a friend I realized how deeply it is ingrained in us that not only are certain exercises the key to weight loss success but so is a certain duration of activity.
She assumed I ran a lot and worked out for long periods of time because I’m “thin” and “in shape.”
Most women assume the same thing. They believe that running and long workouts are the key to weight loss success.
But they are wrong.
For one, I rarely ever run and when I do it usually is sprints or really light jogging if I’m going any distance over a mile.
And two, I don’t think any of my workouts have been anywhere near an hour for months now. Shoot, at least a few times a week my workouts aren’t even longer than 15 minutes!
Running and cardio in general is a key piece of the weight loss puzzle, but it isn’t the only piece. Strength training, and diet, are also very important.
If you don’t do strength training, you won’t add muscle.
Why do you want to add muscle when your goal is weight loss?
Because by adding muscle you burn more fat. When you have more muscle, you burn more calories allowing you to lose weight more easily and keep the weight off!
If you only do chronic cardio, when you take time off and eat normally, you will find the weight goes right back on. Also, you will find that your body will get used to the chronic cardio that you are doing and that you will constantly need to be upping the amount of time you spend running to get the same calorie burn!
BUT if you’ve added muscle, you will find that you won’t gain the weight back near as easily because you’ve raised your metabolic rate by adding muscle which needs more calories to be maintained!
Also, strength training will help prevent injuries that may develop from repetitive motions, such as running, that would hinder your progress or keep you from working out!
So while cardio is important, STRENGTH TRAINING, is actually more key to maintaining a healthy “in shape” weight!
Now to workout length….
Workout intensity is what really matters when you are trying to figure out how long your workout should be.
When I go for a hike or a walk, my workout will be longer. BUT if I workout super intensely, there is no need for my workout to pretty much ever go over 45 minutes.
So it isn’t that long workouts can’t be good, but if you are working out super intensely for an hour, you are probably going to either burn out or start feeling the effects of overtraining, which will actually hinder your progress toward your goal (be your goal weight loss or added strength or merely feeling fitter!).
So I guess to sum up what I’m saying is there is no one form of exercise or a certain length of time you have to spend working out to reach your fitness goals!
Variety is key!
(HMMMMM….Variety is key….That sounds familiar….I was going to link to another post here but there are too many preaching this on this site to pick just one! :-))