How Long Should Your Workout Last if You Want to Build Muscle & Get Ripped?

Posted by Jason Ferruggia

How long should your workout last if you want to build muscle and gain strength at the fastest rate possible?

When it comes to workout duration less is more.

To increase muscle hypertrophy 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, including 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 you workouts 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 where it should be you should be able to get a lot of high quality work done in 45 minutes.

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

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That means working hard to set new PR’s on big compound exercises like:

You don’t need to do more than 5-6 total exercises per workout to get a great training effect.

Iron Game, legend George Hackenshmidt was a big proponent of short workouts:

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 30-45 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 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.

Warm Ups

Now we know that the main strength training portion of your workout should be 30-45 minutes. What about the warm up?

I recommend starting every training session with a good ten-minute warm up consisting of mobility drills and various activation exercises and stretches.

If you’re older or have a laundry list of injuries you may need more than that, especially if you train early in the morning. Be smart and do what you need to do to prepare for your workout.

Some of my favorite warm up drills and exercises are:

  • Jumping jacks
  • Bodyweight squats
  • Cat-camels
  • Bird-dogs
  • Scap pushups
  • Shoulder dislocations
  • Band pull aparts
  • YTWL’s
  • Kettlebell halos
  • Crawls
  • Hip flexor and glute stretches
  • Ankle mobility drills
  • Glute bridges
  • Side lying clam
  • Thoracic extension on roller
  • Scap wall slide
  • Overhead banded distractions
  • Banded split squats
  • Hip capsule mobilizations

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Conditioning workouts don’t need to last long to be effective. All it takes is about 10-20 minutes, and never more than 30 minutes. If you want to do conditioning as a finisher pick some type of high intensity movement like a sled push, bike sprint, jump rope sprint or kettlebell swing. Do 4-6 rounds of 30 seconds, hard and fast. Rest 60-120 seconds between rounds. Done.

If you want to do conditioning on off days or as a separate workout on your strength training days you can extend the total time to 20-30 minutes.

You don’t have to stick with just one exercise or implement. You could do a circuit of kettlebell swings, sled sprints, jump rope and sledgehammer strikes Do a hard 30 second interval, rest, move on to the next exercise, rest, move to the next exercise, etc.

And that’s a wrap, my friends. Go hard, go fast, and keep it short and sweet.

Now go kick some ass.