UNLESS YOU’RE LUCKY enough to work out for a living, you might find it challenging to try to fit your training into your day-to-day life. Balancing your job, family, other hobbies, and much-needed down-time can leave little room for exercise, depending on what you prioritize. So if you want it all—great relationships, success at work, and some size and strength—how much time do you need to schedule in for the gym?
Unfortunately, there’s no magical “hour and a half” or some other answer, says Mike Nelson, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., an associate professor at the Carrick Institute. Getting results in the gym, on the bike, on the track, or wherever else you get sweaty is less about a set period of time than it is about the work you’re able to accomplish, he says.
Shawn Arent, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., chair of the Department of Exercise Science at the University of South Carolina, agrees: “You need to be less caught up on time, and more about what you’re doing in that time,” he says.
The more quality work you can fit into your session—no matter its length—the fitter you’ll be. Here’s how you can use the time you have more wisely for more gains in fewer hours.
How You Should Actually Measure Your Workouts
“The math problem is your set [multiplied by] your reps,” rather than minutes spent in the gym, Arent says. “That’s what dictates the adaptation.”
He’s talking about your training volume: The total amount of pounds you lift across all your sets and reps for an exercise or body part. A mountain of research has shown that for both strength and size gains, increasing the volume of your workouts is the key to growth, not increasing time.
So the answer to how long your workouts need to be