Here's how long your workouts should last, according to #Science

Posted by Ryderwear HQ on

Whether you’re someone who’s a bit time poor and likes to sweat it out for a quick 30 minutes or prefers that marathon 2 hour burn session - does the amount of time you spend training affect the results you’re looking for?

The short answer to that is it depends - helpful, right? But there are many other questions you have to ask yourself before working out the appropriate amount of time you should be exercising for and what goals or gains you are trying to achieve. 

These questions might include:

How many times a week are you training? What is your training experience? What types of training are you doing? What specific goals are you trying to achieve? 

These three popular training methods will determine how long your training session should roughly be according to your fitness goals.  

Strength training focuses on reducing the number of reps per set and increasing the weight load to around 65% to 85% of your maximum effort and even up to your 100% single max rep. Strength training is relatively self-explanatory when it comes to its intentions. The goal is to improve strength and efficiently move more weight. It’s also more focused on improving movement patterns under tension as opposed to the growth of a specific muscle.

That’s not to say that you won’t experience muscle growth from strength training, it will definitely help you build muscle and sculpt you into a different look; however, its main objective is to lift heavier objects with more ease.   


For building muscle mass, it’s good to use the 1:1.5 to 1:3 ratio. Broken down, this simply means if your set lasts for 60 seconds, then it’s recommended you take 90 seconds to roughly 3 mins to rest. For heavy strength training, you should take the whole 3 minutes to rest to prepare your body effectively for the next set. Therefore if we do some quick math, 3 sets with 60 seconds on and say 120s rest will take you approximately 9 minutes per exercise. If you do 4 different exercises, that takes you to roughly 36 minutes. This will be the shortest duration of the training methods but one of the most intense.

Hypertrophy is when you increase the size of an organ or tissue by increasing the size of the cells. This happens when the body is stressed enough to create larger and stronger muscles to bear a heavier load. Hypertrophy uses the stimulation and repair response within the body. This means the immune system creates inflammation under stress, which repairs the muscles on a cellular level by releasing cortisol and testosterone. These hormones help to build muscle. To find your weight range of lifting, you’ll be wanting to lift around 60 - 75% of your maximum effort.   
Hypertrophy will focus on changing body composition and helps to increase the amount of lean muscle mass you have; which is why bodybuilders utilise this form of training. Hypertrophy training is perhaps more for the aesthetic goal as opposed to the lifting heaviest amount possible.

If you are working the hypertrophy method, you’ll want to be doing 3-5 sets of 8 -12 reps using that 60 -75% of max effort. You’ll need roughly 60 - 90 seconds to break in between each set, and you’ll want to complete around 4 - 6 exercises. With this method of training, it’s best to aim between 45 - 60 minutes to get the most out of your workout. However, some professional bodybuilders will spend longer than 60 minutes perfecting their bodies and targeting every single muscle in the body with extremely specific training programs and nutritional regimes. Unfortunately, not all of us have the time to be the next Arnie. 

But how long is too long? After the 45 - 60 minute duration of your workout (depending entirely on intensity and weight selection in your session), cortisol (the stress hormone) starts to rise in the body. It does this to help regulate your metabolism to ensure the body is getting sufficient energy to function properly for your session. However, this can cause the cortisol to signal your body to use the muscle protein as that source of energy which counteracts your efforts to build muscle in the first place. When your cortisol levels stay elevated, ‘inflammation increases throughout the body’ resulting in reduced insulin sensitivity (making it more difficult to deliver nutrients to your muscles for them to grow).

When we talk about endurance as a training method, we aren’t necessarily referring to cardio specific exercises such as running, swimming and cycling. Endurance training is about utilising a higher amount of reps while using a lower amount of weight selection. To help you know what weight to select, you will want to be using around 50% of your overall maximum effort.

The point of endurance training is to challenge your muscles just before they reach their lactic threshold (= point of no return). Endurance training will help increase how much lactate your muscles can take and increase the density of oxygen and nutrients within your capillary network. Pretty much meaning it will send more oxygen and nutrients to your body and you be able to lift more reps and sets without experiencing muscle fatigue or failure. 


For endurance training, it’s recommended that you perform between 15 - 30 reps with around 2 - 3 sets. Resting time between sets is approximately 30 - 60 seconds, with about 1 - 2 minutes between exercises. It’s also recommended that you do anywhere between 6 - 8 different exercises. That’s roughly 65 minutes of training and resting time without preparing equipment etc. Remember though, the longer you train, the more your energy will start to diminish as well as the quality of your workout. Movement patterns will deteriorate when you become fatigued, resulting in an ineffective workout or potential injury.

All in all, you don’t need to spend hours on end living at the gym to start achieving your goals, seeing results and living your best life. If your ultimate goal is changing your body composition then consistency, progression overload, recovery, sleep and diet are just some other external factors that will contribute heavily to this. Whereas if you want to improve your strength, consistency and progression overload will see you lifting heavier loads and reaching those PB’s in no time.

Ryderwear HQ is your lifters library of the latest training, nutrition & mindfulness insights (as well as inside looks at our latest collections). 

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