How Long Should My Workout Be? 30, 45, 60 Minutes? Over An Hour?

QUESTION: I was wondering how long my weight training workouts should be? I’ve heard people recommend anywhere from 30 minutes, to 45 minutes, to 60 minutes, to 90 minutes or sometimes more? What amount of time do you recommend?

I’ve also heard some people say that your hormones start to go out of whack after about 1 hour of lifting, so if you’re in the gym longer than that you will end up losing muscle. Is this true?

ANSWER: I must get some version of this question at least once or twice a week. In fact, the exact question you see above is actually a combination of 3 different questions from 3 different people, all of which were asked within the last two days alone.

I don’t know about you, but I take that as a sign that it’s probably time to give it a full and proper answer once and for all. Let’s do this.

First Things First… Just What The Hell Are We Timing Anyway?

This is always the first thing that pops into my head when someone asks me exactly how long their workout should take. What do you mean by “workout?” What exactly are we timing?

I mean sure, we’re only looking at weight training workouts here (not cardio or anything else). But even still, there’s a ton of stuff happening between the second we arrive at the gym and the second we leave it.

So, tell me. What specifically are we talking about here?

  • Total time spent inside the gym?
  • Time spent doing actual work sets?
  • Time spent doing warm-up sets?
  • Time spent resting between sets?
  • Time spent doing pre workout mobility stuff?
  • Time spent foam rolling?
  • Time spent spotting the person who asked me for a spot… 3 sets in a row?
  • Time spent in an engrossing conversation about the weather with some gym buddy whose name I don’t know?
  • Time spent searching my phone for the perfect song before my next set?
  • Time spent unloading the weights the a-hole before me left on the bar?
  • Time spent waiting for someone to finish using what I need to use?
  • Time spent searching for the other dumbbell?
  • Time spent trying to figure out if the random towel on the bench I want to use is there because someone is using it and just walked away for a second, or if the owner of that towel left the gym about 6 hours ago?
  • Time spent waiting for the cleaning guy to finish squeegeeing the mirror that’s 2 feet in front of me?
  • Time spent in the locker room waiting for the old naked guy lingering in front of my locker to put some pants on so I don’t accidentally graze against anything while putting my stuff away?

I hope you get my point, because I can keep going.

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Seems Kinda Stupid Now, Doesn’t It?

There’s just a whole lot of stuff going on at the gym, some of which isn’t even fully in our control, but all of which can add up and make a significant difference in terms of how long your workouts end up taking.

I mean, you can send 3 people into 3 different gyms (or even the same gym at 3 different times of the day) with the EXACT same workout program, and I can guarantee you that they’ll all end up being in the gym for different amounts of time.

And this variance will of course be WAY bigger when those workouts aren’t the same, or when the person’s goals aren’t the same, or when the person’s individual needs/preferences aren’t the same. Think about it…

  • A basic full body workout for a beginner will be short as hell. It may take just 30 minutes to complete. A full body workout for someone advanced could take twice as long… maybe even three times as long.
  • An upper body workout will usually last longer than a lower body workout, just based solely on the fact that there is more stuff to train (chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps vs quads, hams, calves).
  • An upper body workout will usually also take quite a bit longer than a push or pull workout, because an upper body workout is essentially a combined upper body push and pull workout.
  • All of these types of workouts will take much longer than a “chest day” or “back day.” And both of those will take longer than an “arm day.”
  • Someone stronger will need more warm-up sets than someone weaker, thus significantly extending the length of their workout in comparison.
  • Some people do better with more or less training volume than others, thus significantly reducing or increasing the length of their workouts in comparison.
  • Someone with one goal might rest 1 minute (or less) between sets, while someone with another goal might rest 3 minutes (or more) between sets. This would again make a significant difference in terms of how long their workouts are.
  • Two people might use the exact same workout, but one might do it with supersets and the other person might not. That first person will finish that same workout quite a bit faster than the second person will.
  • [insert dozens of similar examples here]

For all of these reasons and all of the reasons mentioned before (what the hell are we timing?) — many of which are out of our control — it becomes pretty obvious that the concept of there being some universally ideal amount of time everyone’s workouts should take is, well, stupid.

Really stupid.


There is no such thing as an “ideal” amount of time that everyone’s workout should take. There are too many factors at play that can change things significantly… from the exact workout split being used, to each person’s individual experience level, training needs and goals, to factors that we aren’t even in control of (e.g. how crowded the gym happens to be, etc.).

So Why Do People Claim That There IS An “Ideal” Workout Length?

I think there are primarily 3 main reasons that these common, very specific (exactly 30, 45 or 60 minutes usually) workout time length recommendations exist:

  1. The first is to stop you from doing a ton of unnecessary and/or counterproductive crap you shouldn’t be doing. Too many exercises, too many sets, too much volume, too much everything. Basically, it’s to prevent you from doing a stereotypical bodybuilding workout. You know, 4 sets of bench press, 4 sets of incline press, 4 sets of decline press, 4 sets of dumbbell flyes, 4 sets cable flyes, 4 sets of dumbbell bench presses… and then 20 sets of triceps.
  2. The second is to make sure you’re in the gym to train and not excessively screw around talking to your pals, flirting/stalking, playing with your phone or whatever other time-wasting stuff you commonly see taking place in your gym (gotta love the guy sitting on a bench reading an actual newspaper between sets). You know, the stuff that distracts and prevents people from actually training hard and making progress.
  3. The third is to prevent “bad things” from happening with cortisol and testosterone levels.

Let’s ignore #3 for a second, because it’s horseshit. More on that below.

But preventing #1 and #2? That’s perfectly fine by me. #1 IS terrible and SHOULD be prevented. And #2 is a problem for many people as well.

But as long as you’re not doing either of those things, is there any other legitimate reason for why your workouts MUST last exactly 30 minutes or 45 minutes or 1 hour and not a second longer?

No, there isn’t. Not even a little.

Unless of course your schedule will only allow for you to be in the gym for some specific amount of time. That’s pretty much the only case where your workouts truly NEED to last a certain amount of time. But this has nothing to do with an amount of time that’s magically best for results and effectiveness. It’s about an amount of time being best for your schedule.

But beyond that, it really doesn’t matter at all if you’re in the gym for 30, 45, 60, 75 or even 90 minutes or anywhere in between. And no, being in the gym for 91 minutes won’t matter, either.


As long as A) your workouts are designed intelligently rather than filled with unnecessary stuff that will only be detrimental to your progress, and B) you’re not excessively screwing around between sets and wasting a bunch of time you shouldn’t be wasting, and C) you’re not rushing through your workout just to get it over with ASAP… then you probably don’t need to care about how long it ends up taking.

But I Heard Bad Things Will Happen If I’m In The Gym Too Long!!!

Yeah, I know. I heard about those “bad things” too.

In fact, I gave a very realistic, not-sarcastic-at-all example of them in a previous article when discussing what supposedly happens to ectomorphs/hardgainers if they’re in the gym longer than 45 minutes:

At 46 minutes exactly, the cortisol fairy will supposedly show up, drink your testosterone, make your muscles fall off instantly, and add 1 pound of fat to your body for every additional minute you’re still inside the gym.

Or some crazy shit like that? I honestly can’t even keep track anymore. But whatever the claimed reason is, it’s nothing you actually need to care about.

So you know all of those claims you’ve heard for why everyone MUST workout for EXACTLY a certain length of time and NEVER exceed it under ANY circumstance EVER because your hormone levels will break and cortisol will increase and testosterone will decrease and muscle will be lost and fat will be gained and all sorts of other terrible things will happen to your body?

That’s all meaningless nonsense you can ignore.

For additional details, Christian Finn does a nice job looking at the science and history behind this meaninglessness right here.


The hormonal problems (i.e. cortisol levels skyrocketing and testosterone levels plummeting) that are claimed to occur if your workouts last “too long” have been shown to be nothing more than silly myths or simply too insignificant to actually matter.

So Then How Long Should My Workouts Be?

The very best answer I can possibly give you to this question is actually another question. And that question is: who cares?


The amount of time your workouts take is something that just doesn’t matter at all, and it’s not something you need to be paying much (if any) attention to.


Because the one and only thing that matters is that your overall workout program and each individual workout within that program is designed correctly and intelligently for your specific goals and needs.

As long as that has been done, your workouts will take exactly as long as they should be taking.

So the people who first figure out the magical amount of time they should supposedly be in the gym for during each workout (30 minutes? 45 minutes? 60 minutes? 90 minutes? 2 hours?) and then think “alright, now I just need to fill in that amount of time with stuff and I’ll be guaranteed to get awesome results!!” are wrong and stupid.

The same goes for the people who finish their workout, look at their watch and think “hmmm, looks like I should have been in the gym for another 15 minutes… let me do some extra stuff” or the reverse version of that… “dammit! I’ve gone over the 45 minutes Dr. Fitness Guru PHD said I must NEVER exceed… I better take some stuff out of my workouts to make sure this never happens again!”

Wrong and stupid. And completely ass-backwards.

The only thing you need to do is find/design the intelligent workout program you need to get the results you want (or just use any of the proven workouts I’ve included in Superior Muscle Growth), and then make sure you’re in the gym for whatever amount of time is needed for those workouts to be completed properly.

Whatever amount of time that takes… THAT’S exactly as long as it should have taken.


Instead of worrying if your workouts are too long or too short, you should be focusing entirely on making sure they are designed properly for your specific needs and goals. As long as you do that, your workouts will take exactly as long as they should.

How Long Will A Typical Workout Typically Take?

I’d say, on average, somewhere between 30-120 minutes depending on the specifics (goals, rep ranges, rest periods, type of training split, total volume, overall training approach, 100 other factors, etc. etc. etc.). Narrowing that down even further, you’ll probably be looking at something like 45-90 minutes most of the time, especially with workouts aimed at common goals (such as building muscle).

You can expect most of the workouts I’ve designed for you in Superior Muscle Growth to fall into this range as well.

But again, I’m only telling you this because I know certain people won’t be happy with this article unless they see some kind of specific guideline. So, there it is. It’s not a recommendation or a suggestion or the amount of time that I think is “best.”

It’s just a typical estimate for how long, on average, a typical workout for a typical goal might take a typical person in a typical gym.

Yeah, that’s right… I just set the world record for most ‘typicals’ used in a single sentence. Someone alert Guinness.

But seriously, the amount of time your workout takes just doesn’t matter. There is nothing better about 60 minutes than 90 minutes, or 90 minutes than 60 minutes, or 45 minutes than 75 minutes, and on and on and on.

Basically, there really is no such thing as an optimal workout length. There is only optimal program design.

As long as your program is designed correctly, that’s all that truly matters. Whether the workouts in that program take exactly 1 hour instead of 1 hour and 15 minutes or whatever else is something that just doesn’t matter at all.


A typical workout for a typical goal will usually take between 30-120 minutes to complete, most often between 45-90 minutes. But more importantly, this doesn’t actually matter. What does matter is whether the workouts are designed the way they should be.

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About Jay
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.

97 thoughts on “How Long Should My Workout Be? 30, 45, 60 Minutes? Over An Hour?”


  1. I only count how many exercise and set/rep. If I do chest/triceps I will do certain amount of set/rep. Let’s say 3 set bench, dip, triceps pull , fly etc. Gym is very bush at rush hours, so 30 or 45mins wont do much.

  2. Excellent write-up, like always. I love the no BS approach, and feel that I can trust your write-ups more than any others that I am bound to come across.

  3. Jay,

    I don’t blame people for asking this question. Even I needed to know a time frame, thinking there must be. I blame the health care professionals too, besides the fitness gurus. “Do you exercise? How many times a week? It must be 30 minutes to an hour”.

    But thanks for opening up the curtains. Great article.

    • The health care industry is talking about “activity” and it is good and proper for them to set a “target” aimed at people who are overweight and in a danger zone. Telling them to be “active” for 30 to 60 minutes a week gives these people some sense of goals, targets and directions.

      That is not a bad thing. We need to understand that for a whole lot of people, just getting moving for 30 minutes would be a HUGE step forward.

  4. This is very funny – the style used to answer the question and I’m still laughing. But seriously, it made me relax from all the negative things I’ve heard about long workouts. The truth, for me, is I must do strength training after every cardio and I find that alone takes one hour between using one machine, wiping it with alchohol for hygienic purposes and moving on to the next.

    • Ha, that reminds me of these two guys who I used to see at my old gym who’d bring a bottle of some kind of disinfectant spray and spend 10 minutes wiping down every bench/weight/machine before they’d use it. I’d imagine their workouts took quite a while longer than most people’s.

  5. Love this article! Thank you for all of your humorous, guru wisdom 😉

    I was discussing this exact topic with someone last night. I wish you would’ve touched on nutrition a bit in this article. Meaning if a person is supposed to be eating 2000 net calories for fat loss…works out for 2 hours…burns 1000 calories…then they should NOT just end the day @ 1000 net calories. Also, if doing a heavy duty (carb utilizing) workout for 2 hours…should one have some nutrition intra-workout? If so, roughly how much & what?

    I was very disturbed with this person in a deficit. Working out for 2-3 hours. Not refueling. Keeping extremely low (kid-like) net calories. Then wondering why they were having troubles binging every few days.

    I will of course share this article with all my friends. Thanks again, Jay! You rock!!!

    • Glad to hear it Carla!

      This one was looking more at weight training workouts aimed at muscle growth, strength, etc. rather than cardio or metabolic training aimed at fat loss, endurance, conditioning and that sort of thing.

      But generally speaking yes, if someone is doing some kind of extra long workout aimed at these other goals (specifically endurance type stuff) that’s when during-workout nutrition becomes important (ideally some combination of carbs and protein).

      • FYI: This person was doing a 2-3 hour workout because they “believe” you need to do a million sets on each muscle, in order for the workout to be effective SIGH!!! Can someone just push me off of a bridge? Perhaps, that would be easier to digest…

        Again, great article!

        • Ha, yeah, I think most people go through the “blast the crap out of my muscles with 100 sets of 100 exercises” phase at some point. Results are terrible… but it sure is fun!

  6. The usual guidelines for the post-workout meal is that you have about 30-45 minutes to get it in before “it’s to late”, or atleast not optimal anymore. But since workouts can differ alot in time – does this rule apply equally to a workout that takes 90 minutes in relation to a workout that only takes 45 minutes?

    I guess the longer the workout, the shorter timeframe you have for the post-workout meal.

    • First, the “you must have a post workout meal within 30 minutes or else it’s too late” thing is mostly bullshit as long as you had a sufficient pre workout meal some sane time before your workout.

      Having a post workout meal RIGHT AWAY is still perfectly fine and definitely not a bad thing (I still do it and most likely always will) and for all we know can potentially still be better than having it significantly later. But, it only becomes semi-required to have it ASAP if your pre workout meal either wasn’t there, or the pre workout meal was there but was a significant period of time before training, or your workout went really long (let’s say over 2 hours), or all of the above.

  7. Great article as always. I see you mentioned Christian Finn. What other dudes do you approve most of the time?

    • Honestly not very many. There’s a lot of people who put out good, accurate, high quality stuff, but VERY few who put out good, accurate, high quality stuff 100% of the time and are (what I’d consider to be) 100% trustworthy.

      Lyle McDonald, Alan Aragon and Christian Finn are probably my top 3 people fitting that description.

      • Hello Jay,
        I bought your book past November and since then have changed my workouts following your routines with great success but I’m still reading different fitness stuff.
        Just because you mentioned other people related to the fitness world, I dare to ask your opinion about Marc Perry’s builtlean system.
        Thanks for everything! I’m happy I found you!

  8. Hi Jay, I read all your stuff and have learned so much since starting to work out 5 months ago. Thanks for this!
    I am curious about something…how come you don’t post your last name?


  9. Clock-watching is the worst thing to do, in any time of your life. People just need to focus on what they’re doing and the time will fly.

  10. 1) 10-12 minutes of dynamic warm-up (at 7:00 am is well needed)
    2) 5 warm up sets with 1 minute rest + 3 minutes rest at the end before starting the exercise done twice (on the first and second exercise).

    Thanks god I don’t have only 45m to train because as I usually spend 30-35m only warming up it will be pretty difficult to do something else (and things get worse when leg day arrives as I do 7 hamstrings and quads sets only for warming up)

    This leads me to a question, I tried some time ago to combine the warm up sets (but not the exercises) when I was on a hurry, for example, 1 for the chest, 1 for the back, 1 for the chest … then I did the first exercise (completly) and then the second. I didn’t feel any difference on the first exercise but when the second came it really didn’t feel like I have warmed up (even if I did one more warm up set at that point it didn’t feel fine). It seems like the warm up protocol gets you ready for doing the exercise at that moment but if you wait 10 minutes doing another one it’s like you haven’t warmed up that part of the body. Sounds logical? Anyway, I haven’t tried to repeat that since then as it didn’t work for me.

    Man, I believe compliments are starting to become not enough … this is becoming the Bible of Good Bodybuilding (plus receiving tips from Batman is pretty cool :D)

    • That’s definitely what I’d expect to happen. It would have likely been similar (although to a lesser extent) even if it wasn’t warm up sets.

      You could have done all of your warm up sets and let’s say 2 work sets out of the 3 total you planned to do but then stopped before that 3rd set to go spend a bunch of time doing all of your sets of some other exercise. When you then returned to the original exercise to do your 3rd set, it would probably feel like shit.

      Next time you’re in a hurry like this, keep alternating between exercises throughout all of the sets (not just warm ups). Additional details here.

  11. How long should rest be for optimal strength gains (a la Starting Strength)
    I was thinking 3-5 mins. Too short or too long?

  12. Hi Jay, love your work. I think one of the bigger reasons the work-out length questions are popping up more often now is due to a relatively new trend in fitness emphasizing that shorter, but with higher intensity work-outs are more effective and efficient than the traditional longer work-outs (everything else being equal). Thus, 30-45 min at high intensity will be as productive (or more) than 60-90 min at low intensity.

      • Which, of course, is a bunch of garbage for cardio too. I love how these articles tell you that it’s better to run at a higher intensity for shorter distances vs. lower intensity for longer distances. Really? What is “higher intensity?” What is “lower intensity?” Also, how are you going to run 2 miles in 15 minutes if you can’t run 3 miles in 30 minutes? You know what would be even better? If I could run 3 miles in 15 minutes. But how will I do that? By training for it which is hard work and there are no shortcuts.

  13. First off tremendous site Jay. Found this place about 2 weeks ago and have read every story.

    Most of my questions I have found in your blogs but the one question I do have kind of fits this topic.

    I am about to graduate from newbie stage into intermediate.
    As most newbies do I have done a full body workout 3 times a week.

    I spend upwards of 3 hours per workout.
    Its basically as detailed as a split workout except I do every body part all in the same day.

    I love the gym and have the time so the 3 hour thing is not an issue for me.

    I am buying your workout EBOOK tomorrow and im going to start doing one of your intermediate programs.

    SO my question is if you have an intermediate program that calls for working each body part 3x a week on a split program can I just convert that same program into 3 separate full body routines?

    SO instead of doing the same amount of sets and reps over a 5 day period I just combine it all into 3 full days.


    • 3 hours? For a beginner full body workout? That sounds pretty insane.

      As for your question, I don’t currently have an intermediate routine in the book that calls for working each body part 3 times per week (past the beginner stage I just don’t think it’s ideal).

      • I’m doing your beginner workout (the one with the few extra items on it) currently. 3 hours? I’ve done your beginner workout and run 6 miles in less than 2 hours.

        Frankly, I find your workouts to be more effecient as well as effective. Because I’m concentrating on form and the muscle required for the exercise (instead of simply throwing weights around), it takes less weight and time to accomplish the same goals. In my experience, anyways.

          • Fewer injuries too. I had to give up lifting for a while because I injured myself throwing around too much weight which I had no business lifting (other than my ego). Getting back into it using the beginner routine has kept me within my limits.

  14. I suppose I’m turning into a mini-Jay because the article is exactly what my answer would’ve been to a question on timing. Great article as usual and keep up the great work. Thank goodness there’s sensible info like this out there. All hope isn’t lost. 😀

  15. The other day, I was at the gym and exactly at the 46 minute mark, I could literally see my right bicep shrinking. I rushed out and the moment I stepped out of the gym door, the shrinking stopped. Can you explain that? I think it’s really all about the cortisol, testesterone, insulin, glucagon, adrenaline and the other hormones that I hear about from random fitness gurus and have no idea what their function is.

    • I can’t explain it, but I can tell you that the key to preventing this is to watch the time. At about 44 minutes into your workout, start taking the equipment outside of the gym. This way by 45 minutes you can continue training without technically still being “in the gym.”

  16. Hmmmm, I get up, get in my truck and drive to the gym….I do my workout, sometimes it takes longer due to machine or weight availability, sometimes I do not catch all the lights, sometimes it goes quicker. Bottom line, as I tell my wife when I leave “I will be home when I am done”. It that is in 60 minutes, then I was done in 60 minutes, if it is 120 minutes well….you get the picture.

  17. If you lift intelligently and intensely you can leave the gym after 25 minutes (of lifting) and be totally zapped, especially if you’re hitting legs or deads.
    My total gym time is probably half that of the average attendee at my gym but my time under tension is probably twice theirs.

    • 30 minutes is pretty quick. If you have five exercises with three sets each and rest only 60 seconds between sets, you’re looking at 15 minutes in rest time alone. You push rest time up to 2 minutes, and now you are at 30 minutes just in rest time.

      I keep the workout to Jay’s recommendations and rest approx 2 minutes between sets (and I do try to keep track). It takes me about 45 minutes to complete the workout, which includes time to setup and put back the weights, benches, etc. If I’m at the gym during peak times, it may take me longer to get access to certain machines. You try to work around that, but sometimes you just have to wait.

      • Your math is good yes.
        All I’m saying is it’s entirely possible to push a muscle to complete failure in less time.

        I really like Jay’s routine though. I have used it many times and will probably end up using it again in the near future.

        • I suspect most people are zapped after three sets of properly done squats, which is why I see so few people doing them.

          • I HATE when people do other exercises taking up a machine or rack for no reason. Like curls in the squat rack or sitting on a flat bench with bar rack for chest to do concentration curls when other free benches are available. I hate that almost as much as guys who stand two inches away from the free weight racks to exercise so they can watch in the mirror…and we cannot get to weights until they are done….just my two cents…

      • I think the amount of time you spend at the gym and the amount of rest you can afford in between sets cannot always be controlled unless you happen to have a home gym setup. More often than not, I find that I cannot take 2-3 minutes rest between sets, I am forced to curtail it to 30-40 seconds as there are others waiting in line to use the equipment and whenever they see someone taking a break but not letting the equipment go, they will keep pushing you to finish your sets fast. I can sympathize with them since I myself feel frustrated when someone refuses to let go of an equipment I am waiting to use. We all have work to do and cannot waste unnecessary time inside the gym.

  18. Hi Jay,

    Long time fan.
    What’s your take on alcohol and working out?
    Do you just count their calories ?
    For me I found it impossible to lose weight while drinking some alcohol on the weekend.

    • Some alcohol on the weekends is perfectly fine. Fit it into your calorie intake like anything else.

      If you find it impossible to lose weight doing that, then I think your definition of “some alcohol” might be a bit different than mine.

  19. Thanks, your articles are inspiring. As for timing your workouts, I love the ‘jefit’ app on my phone for keeping track of my workout times. I find it a great motivator, and it also forces me to complete proper rests between sets. Sometimes us beginners need this kind of structure to know if we’re doing things properly. It is totally customizable. My workouts take at least an hour, because I put in a lot of stretching that has helped with back pain and arthritis in my lower back. When you’re done your workout, the app will show you exactly how much time you’ve spent working, resting, and wasting time (if you do). Your site is a breath of fresh air, I’m so sick of reading through some guys articles only to get to the “women’s” sections and find some sissy dumbbell/band routine that tells me the exact opposite of any serious weightlifing advice he’s giving the guys! I love having muscles and I don’t care if I get bigger ones, because I’m way stronger than I used to be and don’t need any pain killers anymore. That’s what it’s all about after all!

  20. I’ve been lifting off and on nearly my whole life and I remember reading about this ‘Bulgarian Training’ method that dealt with short workouts spread out over 2-3 times a day. It was posited that shorter, more intense workouts were more testosterone-saving/boosting than the long multiple hour workouts. I followed this routine when I was in high-school many moons ago and it did in fact help me to push past some of my strength plateaus. I didn’t stay on that routine forever because as you know, going to the gym 3x a day is nearly impossible unless you’re actually employed by the gym.

    The thing that always stuck with me though was that shorter workouts were better for natural lifters to avoid CNS stress, excess cortisol, and eventually a temporary reduction in free testosterone. The juicers of course can work out all day and night because they have a backup supply of test. ;P So are you saying that science has since proven that the length of exercise period (let’s say 2 hours of moderate weight lifting versus 45 mins of moderate lifting) has no effect on free testosterone and/or perhaps going into a ‘catabolic state’.

  21. hey coach, ok so I´m doing your ABA-BAB beginners training, couple of questions:

    for workout B, when doing pull ups (first day was today) i did my first rep of 10 but second rep i only got to 8, so in order to prevent failure i switch to lat pull downs with 35 kilograms and did the remaining 10. is this allow? or should i had continue the pulls up to whatever i could have done?

    for the deadlift, i look up the exercise and it seems i only need to carry it to the height of my belt, i wanted to make sure this is correct, because back in high school (like 8 years ago) they used to make me lift it all the way over my shoulders and head.

    and for workout A i only got one question with sub question hehehe: can i do reverse grip on the bench press? is true the reverse grip will focus more on the upper part of the pectorals than normal grip?

    thank you very much for your time, and patience.


    • 1. In this case, just do whatever amount of pull-ups you can do in the third set and gradually work on getting an additional rep in that set until you’re within the 8-10 range.

      2. Not really sure what you’re talking about here. The barbell during a deadlift should not come anywhere near your shoulders.

      3. No and no. Stick with a normal grip.

  22. Hey jay, I was wondering, you said that you always have to progress your workout to get results and gain weight….but when you have the body you want…what do you do? you do the same workout or you still progress but slower?

    • Your goal at that point becomes maintaining strength levels rather than increasing them.

      Optionally, volume and/or frequency can be reduced a bit as well since less is required for maintaining muscle than is optimal for building muscle.

      And diet-wise, you’d keep protein sufficient and eat at maintenance.

  23. Excellent work Jay, and you did make me laugh at some of the stuff you’ve wrote about the old guy with no pants and reading an ‘actual newspaper’ whilst on the bench – haha!

    Just started your Beginners routine [Actually find it better then Rippletoe’s version, if you’re familiar] over the past 2 weeks and already started to see gains.

    When I first starting going to the gym I did your stereotypical bodybuilding workout – took me 2 hours and could barely lift a thing at the end of it – and then I remember wondering why the heck I couldn’t lift even less the next day as I was doing some mental full body workout for 6 days in a row and then on a Sunday will be Cardio Day and back in for another 6 – I was actually getting weaker. And then it’s the fact of being scared of eating carbs in case you get fat! Ugh, beginning days of the gym were the basis of an awful relationship with weights and food.

    Being a bus driver on shifts is the worst thing for bodybuilding but I need a job to pay for the gym [and other bills] so it’s a vicious cycle! Knowing that it doesn’t matter if my workout is “short” as long as I’m progressing is a relief in my eyes, especially trying to workout after being up at 2am.

    When I’m ready to move onto more advanced stuff I’ll be buying your book, even if that means it’ll be more then £27 [Or whatever it is UK pounds?]

    Oh, and by the way, in another one of your articles about how you’re supposed to “feel” the next day, wrecked usually after one of these ridiculous steroid workouts: I’ve progressed MORE doing LESS and feeling BETTER the day after then ever doing those other workouts.

    I think a lot to do with it is exactly what you’ve said; people think by doing more they’re going to gain more. Not so. They’ve forgot about the rest and recovery period. And your timings on the ABA/BAB split is near perfect at the moment. Squats, for instance, allowing me ample time to recover just so my performance on the next set has increased. Getting some nice quads developing too.

    All the best for the future and I look forward to giving you my £27.


  24. Lovely article jay !!
    I used to be one of those guys doing chest/bi , shoulder tri and lat/legs combo 2 times a week and training each muscle for over 40 sets with 20 sets per muscle group per workout !!

    Suffered from lott of pain in joints , shoulder injuries etc , and I still wouldn’t be smart enough to change my workout , as in my mind it was more pain more gain.

    Fortunately I have been quick to realise my faults especially after I started reading , and your website and your well balanced and precise articles have actually helped me to clear a lott of doubts I had.

    When I look at u descibe your life all I can say is deja vu bro !! Its exactly what ive been through so far and would have gone through in the future too if not for reading your work here.

    A sincere thankyou from your fan , thanks a lot for helping people like me.

    Btw am a 19 year old guy 🙂 who used to be over 35% body fat at 110Kgs , and currently am at 74Kgs at 14% b.f 🙂

  25. OK, so there’s not a time that a workout should take, right? LOL

    But, what about time between sets and time between exercises (moving from bench press to shoulder raises for example).

  26. I’m a beginner and am starting to train 5 days a week (upper body 3 times and lower body 2). However, at each workout I’m not doing as much volume as what’s generally recommended. In other words, three of my workouts are up to 20 minutes each, and the other two are 10-15 minutes each. This adds up to no more than 90 minutes total a week. Am I correct in thinking that this should be below the overtraining threshold?

  27. I get to the Y and start warming up. Then hit 22 sets with zero rest. Push/pull. I don’t train legs cause I run 35 miles a week. Bench press/pullup, Incline/pulldown and finally Flies, chin ups. Take a day off then hit biceps and triceps but only 18 sets. Close grip Barbell curl/Close grip bench, Hammer curl/rope pushdown, and Finally Sitting incline curl/Dip machine. I warm up by doing two sets of barbell the bar 40 and then 20 reps. Then two sets of one arm pushdowns before I jump in. Blood is totally pumped up by then. Quicker I get out of the gym the less likely I will punch someone……. Works for me.

  28. I wanted to know the answer to this question not necessarily because i wanted to no the specific amount of time, but the maximum amount of time a workout out session should be. Is there a “max” to how long the workout should be. I know you said it doesn’t matter the time, but is it bad if someone has a session as long as 5 hours?

  29. Is it okay if I train for around 3-4 hours while training 3 muscle groups (in one day)? The reason I do it for this long is because I make sure to do my exercises properly and thoroughly, however, I haven’t been able to build muscle very quickly (in my opinion – probably around 2kg a month or so). I’m an ecto so my goal is obviously to build muscle, but am I going over-the-top by doing 3 muscle groups a day for 3-4 hours? For example, on Mondays I make sure to hit chest first, and I spend a good 1.5 hours on chest until I know that I’ve done a good session, and then I move onto Tri’s to do the same thing, however this takes less time (probably around 30 minutes), and then finally I do abs.

  30. Awesome article!

    Last year I started on Stronglifts 5×5 (solid beginner program IMO). Two things attracted me:

    Full body multijoint exercises (squat, bench OH press, barbell row, deadlift);
    That the full workout would take only 45 minutes.

    That worked fine when the weights were light (after all, squatting 45 lbs x 5 doesn’t require any rest between sets).

    The program says to increase the weights by 5 lbs on every exercise if you make all your reps.

    Not surprisingly, the weight increases steeply, requiring more rest between sets (and extending the workout time).

    Been on the program using the same basic lifts and have made steady progress on my weights (squatting, deadlifting and row more than my bodyweight for reps–weak upper body limiting gains on bench and OH press, but that will come).

    I’m still training for straight strength and see my workouts extending to around 2 hours, with warmup sets and rest between.

    Thanks for pointing out the stupidity of the ‘cortisol fairy’ coming to suck all your T out–that made me laugh out loud!

    I’m still making progress, so I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing–in other words, don’t fix it if it ain’t broke.

    Thanks again for blowing up the skeptics–appreciate it!


  31. Too many people make to many things too damn complicated.

    I do a full-body workout with heavy weights twice a week. Each session lasts at least two hours.

    This hasn’t affected my progress one damn bit.

    I’m 52-years old, by the way.

    What will screw you is going to failure on every single set on every single exercise, not eating enough protein and other nutrients, stress and other BS in your life, and not resting enough.

  32. In general, I’m not really all that worried about how long my training sessions take (and i never really paid a ton of attention to it), but the school year is starting in about a week (I’m a full-time student) and work part-time. I’ll be allocating the majority of my free time to studying / homework, so I have been putting more thought into how my program is going to fit into my schedule (the plan is to go in the morning before class). Do you have any recommendations for how I might go about estimating how long my training sessions might take under ideal situations (which i would then pad to allow for wiggle room)? I appreciate any advice you may have.

    If it helps, my program consists of 4 days of lifting, each with one core exercise (one of the big four) and a main accessory lift, followed by 2-3 smaller accessories. The main lifts and accessories only have 3 working sets and 1-3 back off sets (auto-regulated). The smaller accessories will be in the 3-4 x 8-12 range. Two of the 4 days I’ll also superset two of the three smaller accessories. Each session will end with 10-20 minutes (this may increase if i find i have the extra time later into the school year) of conditioning (rowing, cycling, kettlebell swings, or walking lunges). I still need to incorporate a bit of core work, but do you think this can be done in around and hour to an hour-and-a-half?

    • A typical intelligently designed workout can take anywhere from 30-120 minutes depends on the specifics. The only way to know for sure would be to get in the gym for one workout and see how long it takes.

      • Thanks for the quick reply.

        I was afraid you were going to say that, though I was beginning to come to that conclusion on my own too. Now I just need to hope that there won’t be a lot of people in the gym tomorrow morning.

  33. “At 46 minutes exactly, the cortisol fairy will supposedly show up, drink your testosterone, make your muscles fall off instantly, and add 1 pound of fat to your body for every additional minute you’re still inside the gym.”

    hahaha…..I’m your fan!!

  34. You a true pro bro, I never met any bodybuilding website that dedicates so much time answering questions. U the man

  35. What if it is under 30 minutes? I am doing your beginner program and sometimes if I am not having to wait and I can just jump from exercise to exercise I can get everything done in about 25 minutes. I always feel bad after this like I had done something wrong and need to change something up. Rest more? Make it more difficult with the weights? Just carry on as is?

  36. Hullo I’m new here. I would like to complement you on your website; it’s amazeballs – and browsing through your replies, so are you 🙂

    My question is: Would you see any advantage/disadvantage in splitting say, a three-day upper/lower split – no distractions, balls to the walls for 60 minutes – into six 30 minute balls to the walls workouts?

    Essentially, spreading the three-day split over six days with the same time spent in the gym at the end of the week.

    To clarify, instead of:

    Mon: Chest, back (60 min)
    Tue: Rest
    Wed: Shoulder, tri, bi (60 min)
    Thu: Rest
    Fri: Legs + Abs (60 min)
    Sat: Rest
    Sun: Rest

    Would it be feasible to do this:

    Mon: Chest, back A (30 min)
    Tue: Shoulder, tri, bi A (30 min)
    Wed: Legs + Abs A (30 min)
    Thu: Rest
    Fri: Chest, back B (30 min)
    Sat: Shoulder, tri, bi B (30 min)
    Sun: Legs + Abs B (30 min)

    The reason I ask is because i) I like working out, it make sme feel good, ii) while I get a good workout in a hour, I tend to crash a bit toward the end, probably sacraficing form, and iii) shorter workouts are a bit more of an incentive to exercise, being shorter and whatnot. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

    Many thanks in advance 🙂

  37. Thank you for this. I do at least 90 minutes of weighs 3x per week, sometimes more. I use to worry that I was over training but after reading your article, I feel very relieved. Namaste

  38. Hi. Great article. For what its worth I am 44 and I am doing full body workouts 3 days a week.

    It takes me 2 hours to get through my routine.

    Plenty of rest between sets so I dont exhaust myself cardio wise.

    For me – I can get through my workout between 1.45 and 2 hours but it works for me and I have decided to ignore all the standard advice I have seen about 1 hour max etc. Its great to see an article that seems down to Earth and common sense and definitely supports what I have seen.

    Thank you for giving me some confidence in my new format (3 months now on full body and its been working great).

    • You are quite welcome. As long as progress is being made and results are showing (and it fits your schedule)… the specific duration of the workout isn’t important.

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