This is a very common query, how many days should I be training per week and for how long?? I can see why people ask this, because there is so much information out there and different theories on the topic. Some say quick 30min sessions is all you need, while others say a good workout should be at least an hour. But the truth is, both theories have merit and you should be training to suit your goals and not worrying about the clock.
You may have heard of a little training craze called HIIT. As described in my blog post, HIIT is High Intensity Interval Training, which usually lasts between 20-30mins. It lasts this long because you are training at such a high intensity, your body can only sustain the activity for a short period of time. This is an instance where only training for a short period of time is effective. You achieve your goal of having an intense, fat burning workout in minimal time.
If your goal is to build muscle, a quick 20min workout will not be enough to adequately grow your muscles. You need to cause fibre damage to the muscles allowing for metabolic stress to occur. To do this safely, without causing muscle damage, you need to spend time in the gym building up your weights to near maximal strength. A process which takes longer than a quick HIIT session.
Despite your goals, think about how many variables are involved in a gym session:
- Amount of reps
- Amount of sets
- Time between sets
- Time spent taking selfies
- Time spent chatting
- Time spent loading and unloading the weights
- Tempo training
All of these variables can determine the length of your session. I might move through my sets slower or require more rest time then the next person. If your training for hypertrophy, chances are you are going to need a longer recovery between sets and your entire setup process will take longer than usual. Recently I started using tempo training in my programs, which basically means I altered the tempo on my lifts and slowed them right down. This is a great training technique, but it adds about 15mins to my usual workout time. If I tried to keep to my usual schedule I simply wouldn’t be challenging myself enough during my workout.
For myself, I spend between 45-90 minutes in the gym, 4-5 times a week, with my usual time being about 60mins. However, I am about to undertake a heavy lifting program for the next 4 weeks and I intent to spend about 75 mins in the gym each time. This is because it takes me quite a few warm up sets to reach my ideal weight, then I take a longer rest between sets.
So basically, there is no such thing as an optimal workout time. It’s more about training for your goals and not wasting your time in the gym. However, remember to change things up a bit, if you generally only do a quick workout, make the most of it, but on the days you have more time, spend a little longer.
“I don’t count reps or set, I don’t look at the clock… I stop when I’m done!”