Should you be spending an hour in the gym?

This article is about training duration. I will be discussing if 60 minutes is an optimal amount of time to spend in the gym. This duration can suit most people, however, lots could benefit from longer or shorter sessions. These are the top reasons why 60 minutes may not work for everyone, and what you can do to use your time in the gym more efficiently.

The training volume does not warrant the duration.


A personal training session typically lasts an hour however, that hour is strategically planned by the trainer to make the most of this time. In one of my sessions, depending on the training method my clients can perform 8-10 main exercises. But I have seen countless amount of times when people are in the gym for an hour and they have completed less than 4 exercises. If the 4 exercises were not of an intensity that called for long periods of rest in between, then the session should not have taken an hour. This person either needs to plan more exercises or train for less time. Even if the person trains for 30 minutes they could still complete the same amount of exercises, which is a more productive use of time.


However, in opposition to this, a session with less exercise volume may also require more than an hour. For example, if someone is training for strength and are executing compound movements such as squats and deadlifts. If they are lifting a heavy weight and focusing on form and technique, they might only get 2 exercises done in the first 60 minutes. This is because the lifting intensity is so high that the lifter needs adequate rest in between. Also when strength training the lifter typically performs less than 5 reps, meaning that more than 3 sets may be required.


So in my first example, the training intensity and volume of exercises did not warrant a 60-minute session, and the lifter should aim for 30 minutes, or increase training volume to have a more productive session. And in my second example, the training volume and intensity was so high that the lifter would need more than an hour to provide enough time to recover in between sets, and a session of 60 minutes would result in a sub-par performance.

You are spending too long on isolation exercises


Unless you are a bodybuilder and have a specific reason to be spending an hour training biceps, you are probably wasting your time. 60 minutes is a long enough duration to be able to train a mixture of compound and isolation movements. Isolation movements are great for building strength in a specific muscle group and creating definition, but doing these for 60 minutes each time your in the gym will just lead to plateaus in strength gains and fat loss. This is because if you are spending all your time building t-shirt muscles (biceps), you may think you look better aesthetically, but you may be causing structural and muscular imbalances that hinder you in the long run. So instead of spending an hour on one muscle group, aim to hit a minimum of 2 muscle groups per session and add in some compound movements.

You are doing High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).


Sometimes it may be applicable to do a 60-minute HIIT session, however you need to be careful of a few things:


That it is a high intensity – It is very physically demanding to work at a high intensity for long periods. And if you feel your energy dipping then you are not at a level to sustain high intensity for an hour.


That you are following a full-body approach – HIIT workouts are usually full-body, as these workouts burn the most calories and reduce localized fatigue. If you are spending 60 minutes doing HIIT then you should focus on multiple muscle groups.


That the training duration’s are correct – Most HIIT workouts involve the use of a timer. This method of training is focused on completing as many reps as possible during each interval. To maintain that high intensity, the duration of each set needs to be set according to the lifters ability. If you are a beginner you will need shorter duration’s so that you can maintain a high intensity throughout e.g. 20 seconds, but the more advanced lifter could be doing rounds of 40 seconds and maintaining a high intensity the whole time. So even with the same amount of exercises, a beginner would not need an hour to train whereas an advanced lifter would.

So there are my top 3 reasons to help you consider if you truly need to spend an hour in the gym. If you can manage to fit your workout efficiently in a 30-minute session then why not try that? And if you find yourself rushing to complete each exercise, then try scheduling a time to train when you can stay longer than an hour. As long as your time spent training in the gym is at an intensity that you are comfortable with and that is providing results, then you are using your time productively.

Happy training! ABC x

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