So you are into working out and you are wondering to yourself: How long should you workout for? There is no right answer to this question as it varies from person to person and fitness level. It also varies in regards to what you are doing and how intense your workouts are. This question would be a lot easier to answer if the specific goal and fitness level were known.  I am going to try to simplify the concept of “how long” by breaking it down into 2 broad, basic sections: Weight Lifting and Cardio.

How long should I workout for to obtain my fitness goals

1. Cardio:

  • How much cardio you should do depends on your fitness goals. If your fitness goals include simply staying healthy and giving your heart a little bit of a workout, I would recommend about 20-30 minutes a day. This can be in the form of a light jog, swimming, walking, biking, etc.
  • If your future goals include losing a lot of weight and burning as many calories as possible, I would recommend exercising a little more. If your fitness goals including losing weight, then cardio exercises are great. I would recommend about an hour a day of intense cardio to really try and burn those extra calories. Intensity plays a big factor here as well. How difficult and intense your exercise is plays a big role on how long you should exercise for. If you go to the gym and you go really hard for 45-50 minutes, your workout will have a much greater impact than if you went very easy and did not strain yourself too hard for the same 45-50 minutes. A rule of thumb that I like to go by is the harder you work, the less time you spend. If your exercise goals are to lose weight and get in great shape, make sure your workouts are really pushing yourself so that you maximize your time and get the most out of your workouts.
  • If you are a middle-aged adult, a child, an adolescent, an older adult, or even pregnant, and want to see recommendations from an accredited organization, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) has a great list of general guidelines for physical activity that can be of great assistance when helping you determine your fitness goals.

2. Weight Lifting

  • For starters, in the world of bodybuilding, more is not always better, unfortunately. If your bodybuilding aspirations include getting great results and gaining muscle size and strength, quality over quantity and high intensity over long duration is how to achieve them. Working out for 10 hours will not make you ten times as big and will not help you achieve your workout goals and genetic potential faster, well unless your lifting goals are to spend more time and get less results, which I doubt they are. How long you should be weight lifting for really depends on level. If you are a beginner your body will be able to take a lot more than if you are an advanced bodybuilder. As a beginner doing full body workouts 2-4 times per week, I would recommend the workouts ranging anywhere from 60-90 minutes and to work the major muscle groups primarily..(Minor and major muscle groups are described in greater detail below in the “how much should I workout” section below). If you are an advanced bodybuilder who is able to squat 400 pounds 8-10 times, then I would make sure to keep the workouts shorter and more intense. When you put that much strain on your body, there is only so much you can take both physically and mentally before you just cause yourself to be depleted. Go hard and go short; 45-60 minutes is all you need. Another reason to keep your workouts at about 45 minutes is the release of testosterone in the body. At about 30 minutes into a workout, your workout will hit a peak of testosterone and at 45 minutes your testosterone levels will be around the same level as when you started a workout. Therefore, if you try to stay within the the 45 minute mark, you will get the most out of your workout and be more effective in achieving great results.
  • If you really want to workout more than 45 minutes a day, I would highly recommend going to the gym twice a day (for example, once in the morning and once at night). This way you will give your body ample time to rest between workouts as your energy stores will be replenished. Also, your testosterone levels will be high again and you will be able to really get a great workout in. By doing this, you will enable yourself to achieve your bodybuilding aspirations more easily.

How many sets should I do for minor and major muscle groups?!

– This is a question I have been asked many times and I do not think there is a correct answer to the question. We all respond differently to the stresses put on our bodies from exercise. What works for me many not work for you. My general rule of thumb for myself is 12-16 sets for major muscle groups and 6-8 sets for minor muscle groups. Major muscle groups include chest, back and legs while minor muscle groups include biceps, triceps, forearms, and shoulders. I consider my workouts to be pretty high volume but I only workout each of the minor and major muscle groups once per week. When I switch it up and work each muscle group twice per week, I will perform only 6-8 sets for major muscle groups and 3-4 for minor muscle groups. If you read online, you will find tons of recommendations that vary. Some people say less than 10 sets, some say 10-12 sets, and some even say 2o-25 sets (many of the people that perform that many sets without overtraining use steroids).  One study consisting of 3 groups showed that a low volume group (3 sets each per minor and major muscle groups), medium volume group (6 sets each per minor and major muscle groups), and a high volume group (12 sets each per minor and major muscle groups) produced very similar results in muscle size. I would definitely take that study with a grain of salt but what it comes down to is you figuring out what is best for you. Experiment with it. Try a bunch of different workouts with a different amount of volume of sets and see what number of sets causes the best results for you and helps you achieve your fitness results most effectively. If you listen to your body, you will get a very good idea of how much it can take before you begin to over-train.

Just like I stated above in regards to cardio, intensity plays a huge role in the amount of time you spend in the gym. The greater your intensity, the less time you should spend in the gym. Be efficient and intense and you will achieve your fitness goals in no time!

Daniel Maman

Daniel Maman's two biggest passions in life are health and fitness. He is a certified personal trainer, has a degree in exercise science, and spends his free time keeping up to date with the latest research. In his free time, you can find him playing basketball, bouldering, and spoiling his dog, Luna.

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