This is a question that I’ve been asked several times before by numerous clients. And the answer is usually always the same.
I know, I know. It’s a terrible answer because, well, it’s not really an answer at all. But the length of your workouts depends on several things, so telling you that there’s a definitive time frame that will most benefit you is simply untrue.
Take into account all the factors that might affect how long you train for…
Hectic personal or work schedule
Do you have deadlines to meet? Need to work overtime to make ends meet? Sometimes work will force you to cut into your training time.
Familial or social obligations
Do you have kids? I’ll tell you firsthand that when you have kids, sometimes their needs will take priority over your workouts. Same thing can be said for a spouse, parent, sibling, etc.
Do you have access to the latest and greatest equipment known to man? Or do you have a single kettlebell in your garage?
What are you training for? Maximum strength? A marathon? Getting rid of some belly fat? Improved mobility? Certain goals require longer dedicated bouts of training while others can be accomplished in shorter amounts of time.
Training to be as strong as possible? Your rest periods will need to increase to accommodate the heavier loads and higher intensities you’ll be training with.
Does your program require higher volume? You may need to train for longer. Are you looking to just break a sweat? A 20 minute strength circuit might do the trick.
Crowdedness of your training facility
An unfortunate reality for a lot of folks, but sometimes your gym is gonna be crowded as hell, making getting the necessary equipment tough. Are you willing to wait around?
‘Flexibility’ of your training program
This kinda goes hand in hand with crowdedness of your training facility. If you need a bench but the line to use them is out the door, how flexible are you willing to be with your training program? Are you dead set on completing what you had planned, or can you adapt on the fly in order to save some time?
How you’re feeling
Do you feel like hot garbage? Cutting down on your workout might actually benefit you
As you can see, there’s lots different factors in play when it comes to the ideal training time frame. But typically, here’s what sessions will look like depending on the available time you have.
Metabolic conditioning sessions (steady state cardio, tempo work, high intensity intervals)
Mobility sessions or active recovery
Limited dedicated strength training (maybe enough time for a couple sets of one major lift like deadlift or back squats)
10-30 minutes might not be long enough to see optimal strength gains as you’ll be fairly limited with your rest periods and exercise selection. It’s still possible to complete a high volume of strength movements, but only if loads are kept lighter or rest periods shorter. This can be ideal for beginners, people with busy schedules, or if you’re feeling ‘off’ on a given day. 10-30 minutes is still plenty of time to get in some quality metabolic conditioning in the form of intervals, as well as tons of quality mobility work. Usually in 10-30 minutes, you’ll need to identify what’s important to you, and perform the highest bang for your buck movements.
(Multiple) strength circuits
Full strength training routines that will hit most aspects of a well rounded program (major lifts, accessory work, multiple planes of movement, etc.)
Longer bouts of dedicated cardio
30-60 minutes is what I deem ‘the ideal’ amount of time spent training for most people. It’s long enough to accomplish most training goals (increased power, increased strength, fat loss, etc) without dedicating your entire day to working out. It’s totally doable to perform dedicated mobility work, an appropriate amount of strength training, and even some metabolic conditioning all within the same session. Most people have lives outside of the gym, and this time frame allows you to achieve most goals while still having a social life.
Complete strength training sessions (warmup, major lifts, accessory work, multiple planes of movement, corrective movements, mobility fillers, etc.)
Longer rest periods necessary for maximum strength and power development
Endurance training (half marathons, triathlons, etc.)
60-90 minutes in a given training session will definitely allow you to cover most, if not all aspects necessary to help you reach your goal. From a pure strength development standpoint, 60-90 minutes may be ideal as higher intensities will require longer and more complete rest periods (2-5 minutes after every set). This is why 10-30 minutes for pure strength work might not be ideal. You will without a doubt be able to complete a full dynamic warmup, a complete strength training session, and whatever else necessary to achieve your goals.
Maximal strength training
Literally anything you want to do
If you can dedicate over an hour and a half to every training session, more power to you my friend. The sky is the limit as you can accomplish damn near anything in this time frame. You might, however, run the risk of overdoing it if sessions regularly extend beyond this. But quite frankly, I don’t know many adults that have 90+ minutes to strictly workout. Life, with its many obligations and responsibilities, just won’t allow many adults to do this.
So again, how long should you workout for?
It depends. Make sure you know what your goals are, what your schedule looks like, what equipment and spacing requirements you have available to you, and then plan accordingly. 45-60 minutes is usually a nice amount of time to allot for training as it will allow you to accomplish most goals.