Time flies before our eyes, and we never seem to have enough of it. Most of us are not full-time bodybuilders, so you might be wondering, how long should a workout last? You want to work out and stay healthy, but how much time is necessary to have an efficient workout?
Certain people do not mind spending hours working out, especially if they are meeting with friends and catching up. But some of us simply do not have the time. We have kids, one or more jobs, relationships, and all the rest of it.
How much time you should spend training not only depends on you as an individual but what kind of workouts you typically are doing. Moreover, how often you workout and your current fitness levels. In addition to your lifestyle and how active you normally stay outside of exercising.
Is There a Universal Rule for How Long One Should Workout?
Truthfully, there is no average “best” time to work out. Each individual’s goal and body are so different, and this has to be judged on a case-by-case basis. How long a powerlifter works out is very different from the duration of a runner’s workout.
In the same way, an athlete who is striving to win the Olympics will spend much more time training than a person who simply wants to stay in shape.
A world-class competing athlete is trying to push their body to the absolute ultimate. Usually, workouts are pushed longer and further as they become better, faster, and stronger. A triathlon race can take up to 10 hours! Surely, their workouts are much more rigorous and lengthy than of a person who wants a six-pack, and simply to stay in great shape.
Likewise, a person who trains calisthenics mostly with bodyweight will have a different workout duration than a bodybuilding competitor.
Another important factor is how many times a week you can and want to work out. To maintain optimal health, most people want to do at least some light exercise like walking every day. Especially if you are sitting behind a desk all day. On the other hand, if your job is very physically demanding, that is not necessary.
For more strenuous workouts, like working out in the gym, running, or calisthenics, three to four times a week is good to be healthy and keep fit.
Moreover, how each person’s body responds and adapts varies tremendously. This is not only genetically dependent but also depends on the fitness level of the individual. A 45-minute moderate cardio session might run one man to the ground and barely make a different person sweat.
How Long Should a Calisthenics Workout Last?
Calisthenics is resistance training that is mainly focused on bodyweight workouts. Exercises include push-ups, pull-ups, dips, sit-ups, and jumping jacks.
Of course, you can add resistance such as bands and weighted vests if you want to challenge yourself further.
This type of training is predominantly high-intensity training with low rest periods. A combination like this makes it a great cardiovascular workout and will help improve your endurance a lot. Additionally, calisthenics is great to better balance and coordination, as well as strength.
Calisthenics can be great if you are just starting out, or simply want to work out in the park instead of going to the gym.
Because these workouts are high-intensity with low rest periods, you will burn out pretty fast. Working out for 30-45 minutes should be plenty of time to hit your upper body and legs with bodyweight exercises.
Certainly, it can be challenging if you are just starting out because you might only be able to do a few repetitions of exercises like pull-ups and dips. Therefore you could spend up to an hour until you are able to do more repetitions, and train more effectively.
How Much Time Should You Spend Weight Lifting?
When it comes to weight lifting, there are many different types of workouts. There is crossfit, bodybuilding, circuit training, powerlifting, and many more. In this article, we will focus on bodybuilding and strength.
Not only does the type of training matter when you are considering the length of your workouts, but your lifestyle and goals too. Are you a competitive bodybuilder? Well, then you should probably be in the gym at least 4 times a week. In addition to cardio, posing, and everything else that comes with it. If you simply enjoy going to the gym and want to stay healthy, you can get away with 3 times a week.
Metabolic workouts are probably what you guessed: high intensity and low rest periods. In this workout phase, we want to focus on burning a ton of energy, also known as Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the energy source we use and store in our cells (Dunn; Grider, 2022).
Thus, there is a high production of lactic acid and metabolic waste.
Many will call this the fat loss phase, but that is not necessarily true. Yes, we will predominantly be staying in this phase when losing fat is our goal, but it can also be used as a de-load from other types of training.
For instance, if you have been doing hypertrophy or neurological workouts, you can switch to a metabolic phase to de-load from that training.
The reason is, that the body gets used to one stimulus, and its ability to adapt efficiently decreases. Therefore, if you change the stimulus, and come back again, the body will adapt faster and more effectively.
Metabolic workouts can be as short as 20 minutes, depending on what workout you are doing. However, if you are spending more than 45 minutes, you are most likely not performing a metabolic workout.
Subsequently, we have the hypertrophy phase. During this phase, we are mainly focused on building muscle.
With this kind of training, we want to achieve protein synthesis to stimulate growth in muscle cells, as well as create new muscle cells.
The weights here will be heavier than in the metabolic phase, but not as heavy as in the neurological phase. Just like we said with metabolic workouts, hypertrophy training can be used as a de-load to other types of training. This way the body is not getting the same stimulus it has already adapted to.
Hypertrophy workouts can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. The rest periods are longer than in metabolic workouts, but still pretty intense.
If you are training outside of these time limits, you are probably either overdoing it, or applying a different kind of stimulus. There is nothing wrong with that, but we are simply telling you the truth. We want you to know what you are doing.
Finally, there is the neurological phase. In this phase, we want to focus on our nervous systems’ ability to contract our muscles stronger and more efficiently. Moreover, improve the stability of the weights being lifted.
Thus, increasing the adaptability of our nervous system.
Along with this, the time spent working out in the neurological phase will be the longest compared to metabolic and hypertrophy workouts. The rest periods are longer, and work periods are shorter. Repetitions are low and fewer sets are performed to failure.
Commonly, the neurological phase is referred to as the strength phase. While it can be true, this phase can be used for different purposes as well.
Increased adoption of the nervous system will aid in every single phase. Additionally, we can use neurological workouts to de-load from metabolic and hypertrophy training.
As the rest periods are longer and work periods are shorter, this is the phase where we will spend the most time in the gym.
Workouts can last for 45-75 minutes or even a little bit longer. But, it should be noted that it is unnecessary to stay in the gym for much longer than 75 minutes in most cases.
How Long Should a Cardio Workout Be?
There are so many different types of cardio workouts, and they can last anywhere from 10 minutes to many hours.
A triathlon athlete who is preparing for a competition lasting up to 10 hours, will have much longer workouts than someone who is trying to shed fat with high-intensity interval training.
Thus, a cardio workout is very individually dependent. If you enjoy going on an hour’s walk every day, go ahead! Similarly, other people like to go for a run. A 25-minute run can be a great workout for most people, depending on the terrain and fitness level of the individual.
When it comes to cardio, you have to start out by considering your goals, and what you enjoy doing.
It is beneficial to implement different types of cardio, so you can apply various levels of stimuli to your body. A walk is a low-intensity exercise, whereas a run is in the middle. HIIT workouts are high-intensity and rather short if done properly.
Whether you like to do three 20-minute runs or two 60-minute runs, is up to you. But do not be afraid of changing it up and experimenting.
HIIT workouts, on the other hand, are performed in 10-60 second MAXIMUM INTENSITY intervals if done correctly.
This very high intensity produces a large amount of metabolic waste in a short period of time. Moreover, it rapidly puts plenty of stress on your mitochondria.
Thus, to be able to go ALL OUT, you have to pick equipment and exercises that allow you to do so. Many workouts advertised as HIIT, are actually not HIIT. Rather, they are some aerobic bodyweight exercises. If it is an interval longer than 90 seconds, it is not truly HIIT.
Real HIIT workouts can for instance be done with a spinning bike because you can add a ton of resistance rapidly. Sprints and sled pushes are other great alternatives.
As a beginner, you can start out with four 20-second intervals x 4 sets, with 90 seconds of rest, and it will be plenty if you are going all out. To progress, you can increase intervals and sets, as well as decrease the rest. Do not change too much too fast, as we want to change as little as we can, to be able to continuously progress.
When we are asking ourselves, how long should a workout last, we can see that there are several factors to consider. First of all, we have to consider you as an individual and your lifestyle. How many times a week can you work out, and what are your current fitness levels? Secondly, what type of training are you seeking to do? These are essential questions you have to answer for yourself. Nonetheless, if you only have 30-40 minutes to train three to four times a week, that is enough to stay healthy and in good shape. Remember to also at least do some light activities like walking or biking every day, especially if you are sitting behind a desk at work most of the time. On the flip side, if you want to reach more advanced goals, you will have to prioritize more time on working out.
Thanks for reading our article!
– Terry Asher