When it comes to workout duration less is more.
To build muscle and get stronger you want to get to the gym hit it hard, stimulate size and strength gains, then get out.
That means no more than sixty minutes total, excluding warm up time.
When you start training your body will naturally boost testosterone levels significantly higher than normal. This increased output peaks somewhere around a half hour into your workout.
By taking blood samples of their athletes, Eastern Bloc researchers determined that at the 45-minute mark your testosterone levels are coming back down to baseline. And after sixty minutes your body will start to produce less testosterone and more cortisol, which is a hormone that eats muscle tissue and increases body fat storage.
Obviously this is a scenario you want to avoid.
Now, if your nutrition is up to par, especially around training you may be able to blunt the cortisol response somewhat. So it may not be as much of a concern. I’d still keep it in mind, though and wouldn’t want to push the limits of workout time just for that reason.
When your workouts drag on beyond an hour it gets easier to start overtraining, and recovery from one session to the next may become more difficult. If your conditioning is up to par you should be able to get a lot of high quality work done in 45-60 minutes.
While I usually recommend no more than 20 top end, work sets for most guys who are struggling to gain size, I’ve personally gotten over 30-36 sets in in 45-60 minutes during phases where I am really pushing the volume. You should be at the gym to work, no putz around, talk and watch TV. Always push the pace.
Another benefit of horter workouts is that they allow for more frequent training sessions, which can lead to faster gains in size and strength.
I like 45-60 minutes but Iron Game, legend George Hackenshmidt liked to keep workouts even shorter.
About thirty minutes are fully sufficient to the acquisition and preservation of strength and endurance. – George Hackenshmidt, 1908
Another reason to keep your workouts short is that your mental focus will start to wane. It’s a lot easier to have an incredible training session if you know you only have 45 minutes ahead of you. You can dial in with pinpoint focus on the task at hand and dominate every set of every exercise.
In today’s world it’s hard to turn off outside distractions and cell phones for too long. I get that. But you can certainly leave business in the car for 45 minutes.
Beyond 45-60 minutes you start losing steam and it becomes more and more difficult to really bring it on every set. Better off saving some of that and coming back fresh tomorrow or the next day.
I recommend starting every training session with a good ten-minute warm up (or more if you’re beat up) consisting of mobility drills and various activation exercises and stretches, a 45 minute strength training session and an optional ten-minute finisher consisting of sled work, jump rope, or sprints.
Get in, hit it hard and get out.