What is the Optimal Duration of a Strength Training Session?

BySteve Howard

What is the Optimal Duration of a Strength Training Session?

Will too short a workout limit your results? On the contrary, is too long a weight training session counterproductive? It’s hard to find the ideal duration , the balance between too much and too little.

The answer to this question will differ from practitioner to practitioner. That’s why we’re going to see what factors will determine the length of your sessions and how to improve the quality of your workouts.

Summary:

From 45 minutes to 1h30: Should we trust this average duration for a bodybuilding session?

In bodybuilding, we always look for the little detail that will make a huge difference later on. It is therefore legitimate to ask the question about the duration of training .

If you do some research on this subject, you can quickly come across values, time ranges: 45 minutes, 1 hour 15 to 30 maximum, not to be exceeded on pain of catabolizing , seeing your testosterone drop and screwing up a weight training session. Fortunately, this is more of a myth than a reality.

The duration of a workout is not a critical factor in anabolism / catabolism. For example, in the golden age of bodybuilding, some bodybuilders could train for more than 3 hours!

séance musculation épaules arnold schwarzenegger

In any case, when we talk about physiology, it is always difficult to give precise values. Instead, let’s take a look at other, much more important factors to consider.

The duration of the training varies depending on the volume and intensity of the physical effort

Most importantly, the intensity and volume of your workouts. Not all sessions require the same effort.

For example, workouts dedicated to large muscle groups such as the pecs or thighs will generally be much more intensive and energy intensive than those dedicated to the arms or deltoids. As a result, it is this consistent effort that limits your sessions due to a lack of energy in addition to nervous fatigue. It can also be a matter of choice in relation to your bodybuilding program. Which way does the scale tip, intensity or volume?

durée séance musculation comparaison volume intensité

Usually, a lack of intensity is filled with a higher volume of training, but be careful to favor quality over quantity. There is little point in doing lots of exercises and sets (long workout) without really putting in your work, at least if you don’t want to stagnate in your performance and results.

Bottom Line: Mechanical tension (intensity) and metabolic stress (volume) must be sufficient to cause muscle hypertrophy.

The exercise tolerance threshold, meanwhile, also depends on many parameters such as genetics, age and lifestyle. Therefore, the maximum duration of a session varies according to the type of effort required but also according to the practitioners.

Adapt the duration of your sessions to your bodybuilding program and the frequency of your workouts

Beware of overtraining! The risk of achieving this is magnified if you train too often, too long, and too hard. Ultimately it is counterproductive, because of the lack of nervous, hormonal, muscle, energy and joint recovery. This fatigue effect is felt from session to session and can only get worse if you do not change your habits.

Indeed, it’s difficult to last over time if you go to the gym 7 days a week without properly distributing the amount of work over the week. You must know how to limit the duration of your sessions according to the training frequency so as not to penalize the following ones.

Again, nothing beats experience to know your own limits. Then, you can refine your weight training program, to finally know a time range adapted to your training routine.

How to adapt the effort and duration of your sessions according to your training plan?

If your training frequency is low (3 or 4 sessions per week) and your sessions are too long or too intense , in this case you can build your program on a split routine . Thus, you will be able to spend less time in the gym, spreading the work over the week, while maintaining the same quality (or even better) and the same quantity of work.

Do you already train 6-7 days a week? In this case, other alternatives exist. As you know, intense weight training involves using heavy weights. Indeed, the tension of stretching and contraction (thus the weight) is essential to gain muscle mass , but it is not the only way to gain muscle!

We also find:

  • Muscle congestion
  • Muscle burn
  • Time under tension

These other factors are much less exhausting on the nervous level, it is an opportunity to test other ways of training or to try on muscles that are usually resistant to growth.

You can therefore alternate between all these different muscle growth factors, in order to extend, maintain or reduce the duration of your sessions without ending up over-training and limiting your progress.

The time available for training in the gym

It seems so obvious! Remember, it is up to bodybuilding to adapt to you and not the other way around, whether during or outside of your workout. By that I mean that there is no point in forcing yourself to stay in the room for an hour and a half in order to meet this optimal (false) “standard”.

If you have 30 minutes a day, don’t spend more time. If you only have one or two days a week that doesn’t force you to exercise high, you’re doing what you can.

Obviously, your progress will be slower, but how long will you last by forcing yourself to respect all these obligations? In the long term, you will be a winner, you will keep your determination and regularity in your training. Patience is one of the most important keys in bodybuilding to achieve your goals.

So I encourage you to determine how much time you have available to go to the gym and how many times a week.

The level and experience of the athlete determines the duration of a weight training session

For fear of not doing enough, we tend to do a little too much to be sure that we have done something useful.

As a beginner, you will never need to have the same amount of work as an advanced practitioner. The more experience you have, the more difficult it is to progress and gain muscle. Therefore, you have to do more sets, more exercises and therefore spend more time in the gym , another reason not to copy the program of an experienced athlete.

To sum up, if you are new to weight training or only have a few months of experience, the duration of a session will not necessarily be long because the amount of work is less.

Daily energy expenditure limits training

No day is alike. Wanting to determine a fixed training duration does not take into account these two essential factors, namely diet and daily activity: What did I do and what did I eat today?

You must therefore constantly adapt the duration of your session according to what you have done around your training. For example, depending on your work, physical or sports activities that you performed on the same day…

To guarantee productive work and optimal training time , you must ensure:

  • eat enough to provide your body with everything it needs
  • recovery (sleep …)

Some days the lights will be red. In this case, it is better to limit yourself. Lack of motivation to finish a session and an abnormal loss of strength over time are good signals for when to stop. This can be interesting to structure your bodybuilding program, in order to fit the biggest sessions during your days off for example.

the duration of weight training depending on the objectives: mass gain and lean

We all have different reasons for training. Generally, in bodybuilding, practitioners want:

  • gain muscle mass
  • lose fat (dry).

Therefore, you must adapt your program and your training to your goals . The exercises can be similar in both cases but the intensity, volume and the way of training will be different.

For example, when you are in calorie restriction during a cut, your workouts will probably be shorter (varies by training method) and less intense than in mass gain. As the risk of injury or muscle catabolism is higher, you need to know how to stop at the right time.

You need to spend more time on certain muscles!

Setting a time limit for your sessions does not take into account your strengths / weaknesses and the functional characteristics of the target muscle. The amount of work and the time spent in the gym must therefore be adapted according to the muscles used.

If you have some experience in bodybuilding, you can analyze your strengths and weaknesses (lack of mass or strength) in order to better distribute the time necessary to spend in the gym.

On the other hand, if you’re a beginner, it’s hard to take a step back on this subject. Know that in general, you will need to spend more time on the following muscles:

  • Pectorals
  • Back
  • Thighs (quadriceps / hamstrings)

Food supplements to improve the quality and increase the duration of your sessions

shaker pre workout

Finally, it is not really interesting to define a duration of your sessions, it is rather what you will do there and how you will do it that is the most important.

A healthy lifestyle is essential to be strong and enduring during training . Despite our good will, it is sometimes possible to be poorly tolerant of effort, you feel a big hit and finally end your session quickly.

In the long run, it is crippling to progress in bodybuilding. You must limit this situation at all costs. Is your diet correct? Are you recovering enough? Is your program right for you? If all the answers to these questions are positive it may be that the problem is around your training.

This is where dietary supplements can be effective, whether before or during your session to improve your performance or after to better recover.

Boosters can give you a big boost if you’re not in shape. I actually wrote an article so you can do your own homemade Pre Workout.

Filling up on amino acids, consuming carbohydrates and getting some caffeine have always helped me to train longer and harder.

The conclusion and tips to get closer to an optimal training duration

A workout actually lasts between 45 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes before going flat, but this is by no means an “optimal session duration”.

You will have understood it, the duration of a training does not matter , it is especially your schedule, your level, the type of training, your objectives, the form of the day and nervous / energy exhaustion that limits you. To achieve your goals, the most important thing is to progress during your sessions by following a program adapted to your goals.

Remember, training alone is insufficient. Eating and recovering is just as important to improving the quality of your workouts and ensuring results, otherwise you may stagnate quite quickly.

For an athlete, food supplements are not essential, but can contribute to better recovery, to fill certain gaps in the diet and to improve performance during your sessions.

To recap, in order to best distribute the time spent in the gym, you must determine:

  1. The time available over a week
  2. Your strengths / weaknesses
  3. Your goals

All you have to do is write your personalized weight training program and develop it over time based on your results and your feelings.

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