How Long Should Your Workout Last?

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Training

draper-midcityWhen 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 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.

You should be at the gym to work, no putz around, talk and watch TV. Always push the pace.

Another benefit of shorter 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.

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27 Responses to How Long Should Your Workout Last?

  1. Jack April 20, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    So the maximum time for the strength portion of your workout is 45 minutes and the whole thing altogether is an hour?

    • Jason Ferruggia April 20, 2012 at 10:20 am #

      Yes sir. That’s what I’ve adhered to for years.

      • austin April 20, 2012 at 11:25 am #

        more importantly, who is that girl!? and where do you find these pictures!!??

      • Brian January 19, 2015 at 12:04 pm #

        Sorry I know this is an old post, But could you give me a day example of what you did then/do? How long do you rest for? some websites are saying as much as 5 mins rest so that mean I should aim for around 8 sets all together for a day?

  2. Aaron April 20, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    So what constitutes a warm-up. You say no more than sixty minutes total excluding warmup. On squat day, for example, I might take an hour to warm up, before I really get to putting weight on the bar, maybe 30 minutes on press days. I feel like your less is more rule would be good if I didn’t really like being in the gym and wanted an excuse to get out quickly. My warm-ups are a long methodical process, and I enjoy it, like some people like meditation. Particularly, now that I am approaching 40, I feel like really warming up my knees, hips, and shoulders is crucial. So overall I’m in the gym about 2 hours, 4X a week. People might not guess that, but I also eat a lot, which is another issue.

    • mo April 20, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

      The max o/t warm up protocol is good-4/5 sets of descending reps whilst increasing weight-last warm up is about 70% of working set utilisin 1 or 2 reps.Working sets of 2 sets squats,2 sets leg presses,2 sets of barbell lunges and 2 sets of stiff legged deads-all working sets in 4-6 rep range to failure-2 minutes rest between sets-35-40 minutes total workout including warm ups.
      Produced some of the best natural bodybuilders of all time.

  3. Aris April 20, 2012 at 11:18 am #


  4. Chuck April 20, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    So what would you recommend as a way to shorten workout times? I find myself going over an hour fairly often and I either rush or skip things I had planned. Thanks.

    • Jason May 28, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

      Do Circuits or Intervals, etc… However, in most cases I have seen, people in your situation can usually benefit from doing a bit less, and being more consistent…
      If you are consistent already, then great job!
      Most people I run into in your situation aren’t that consistent, and they tend to try to make all of their gains in one day…
      Just something to think about, it case that applies to your situation…
      Anyway… less more consistently has helped me, and a lot of people I know a ton!

  5. Niel Rishoi April 20, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    This was the first change I made after 20+ years after reading Jason’s book “Muscle Gaining Secrets” : best advice I ever got, and he said it first. 2 hour workouts? fuggetabotit.

  6. Carl April 26, 2012 at 1:38 am #


    Short, focused bursts are the way forward for most things in life (workouts, work, writing, learning something new etc) in my book. I can get a whole body workout in in the time it takes some other guys to get through a bench or curl fest!

  7. beleninus December 4, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    that makes sense, but I will be able to do
    probably one or two sets of each exercise? don’t
    I have to do more to gain muscle?

    • Mo December 4, 2012 at 11:36 pm #

      A leg workout of squats,leg press,stiff legs and split squats-2 sets each using heavy load to failure will take less than 40 minutes and will be very taxing if one is doing the sets to proper failure.
      The quads and hams will be absolutely fried! Similarly other body parts work beautifully with short workouts.

    • billa July 16, 2013 at 3:27 am #

      i am doing workout from two years but i am not gaining muscle or size eventually i am a hard worker of doing gym i go for heavy weights .i have taken whey protein even though its not built ,so what should i do to gain muscle and size.
      some people r telling that do light weight n more rips n some were r heavy weight with few reps …even i did that but no use
      so, please tell me any feedback that posses to my body growth
      thanking you

  8. wayne moore December 28, 2012 at 7:24 am #

    the most effective workouts that ever worked for me is tghe arthur jones mike mentzer and dorian yates protocol countless hours in the gym and all that lactic acid bulid is just foe not friend 10 to 15 min cardio 1 set to failure add 30% more 2 negs rest 10 seconds and 1 re max for 4 reps and rest 10 seconds between reps known as the rest pause but remember do not expect to run a marathon doing this workout

  9. WAYNE MOORE December 28, 2012 at 5:20 pm #


  10. Rob May 17, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    interesting proposition you have sir. I work out for 2 and a half hours BUT, nearly half of it is spent running, the other time is spent with weights and abs. What do you think of that routine? For weights I do slow controlled exercises while with abs I go all out and do as many crunches and v-ups for around a minute 8 times.

  11. Theodore June 3, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    Ok, the whole thing is one hour… But I got a question: Do the stretching before and after you workout counts for working out already or steal warming up the muscles after running 10-15 mins?

  12. Benjamin August 10, 2013 at 8:05 am #

    How many hours can i use in a gyn

  13. wayne moore September 29, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    1/2 hour weights 1/2 hour aerobics

    • wayne moore September 29, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

      no pre stretch just post stretch,my best gain were made when I used the mentzer and Arthur jones method

  14. Deima November 1, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    I spend 10-15 minutes doing abs, does this count into my 1 hour workout?

  15. james November 1, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    I sit on my butt all day at work, so I have to do at least 30 minutes of cardio when I get to the gym, then abs 2 days in a row, one off, that is at least an hour there, sometimes more, then I move onto the weights, I can’t possibly do this in under 2 and a half hours, tried many times to cut this down but I can’t get everything in.

  16. ted November 25, 2013 at 6:10 am #

    I am a skinny ectomorph and i can train for only 10 minutes. What should i do?


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