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8 Steps to Crushing Your First Gym Session

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Stop Stressing About Your Workout Length (Understand This)

This is a question that loads and loads of beginners and even intermediate lifters ask when they first start out at the gym.

Lots of people want a definitive, solid answer as to how long they should be spending in the gym each session.

30 minutes?

An hour?

2 hours?

It's definitely a popular question that many people want answered, and it's also pretty important for you to understand if you're serious about reaching your goals in fitness and getting to where you want to be.

Keep on reading to find out what the best workout length is and how this information is going to apply to you!

Weight training workout with fitness class and muscular man


First of All: What is Even Meant By Workout Length?

By the term 'workout length', what are we even referring to?

Are we talking about the total time spent in the gym?

Because that's going to include things like rest periods, toilet breaks, chatting with others and scrolling through your phone.

Or are we talking about the time spent actually working out and exercising?

For the sake of this post, we'll keep it to the total time spent in the gym.

This is because it's much easier to measure, and it's actually pretty difficult to work out just how long you're actually spending doing exercise during a workout.

Please note: This post is primarily talking about the length of weight training sessions in the gym. This is because the exercise choices you make actually have a very large impact on the length of your workouts, and it would be too much to cover in this post alone.

What's the Ideal Workout Length?

We hate to say this, but there's no definitive, one-size-fits-all answer that's going to work for everybody.

We're all different.

We each have different goals, experience levels, training preferences and so on.

It would be literally impossible to come up with a completely solid answer for everyone.

What you see your favorite influencer doing likely isn't going to be the most optimal for you.

You might see huge bodybuilders going through 3 hour workouts, whereas some professional athletes might be done in just under an hour.

Even if they were all world class athletes, it would be completely acceptable and expected for their workouts to vary greatly in length.

Weight training workout compared to rowing machine cardiovascular and aerobic exercise workout

And depending on your choice of exercise, your workout lengths are going to differ even more.

For example, a full weight training session full with rest periods and changing weights is generally going to take much, much longer than an aerobic exercise session such as a 5 or even 10km run, or a session on the exercise bike.

Unless you're doing an EXTREMELY long session such as a marathon row, a regular weight training session is going to take much longer than your cardio session.

And even in weight training, the length of your workouts is going to differ depending on your exercise schedule and routine.

An 'arm day' workout where you only hit the biceps and the triceps is going to be finished and completed MUCH sooner than a 'push day' workout would be (since you have to work larger and more muscle groups).

But don't worry, we'll get into that in the later sections below.

Your workout lengths are going to depend on lots of factors, and you're going to have to weigh them all before choosing the right workout length for you.

How to Know the Right Workout Length For You

When it comes to picking the right workout length for you, there are several factors that you have to consider.

They are:

  • Experience level

  • Exercise choices

  • Rest periods

  • Surrounding workouts

  • Time availability

We'll briefly explain each one and how it affects you and your workout lengths.

Experience Level

This is probably the factor that's going to have the biggest impact on your workout lengths.

A beginner's full body workout routine is going to finish much, much quicker than an advanced lifter's upper body workout would. Maybe even longer.

A beginner could be done in around 30-40 minutes, whereas an advanced lifter might need 2-3 times as much time to get through a proper workout.

This is because advanced lifters naturally require more workout volume and workout intensity in order to keep on making gains.

Put in the most basic terms, our bodies grow by adapting to the stress that we put them through.

A beginner's body hasn't experienced that much stress yet, and therefore it's not going ot take a lot of a challenge to make it grow.

Now compare this to an advanced lifter who has trained for upwards of 3 years.

It's going to take much more workout volume and intensity to give the body a challenge and force it to grow.

Therefore, the advanced lifter would require a much longer workout.

You experience level is going to have a huge impact on your ideal workout length.

Generally, we'd say most workouts should be between 30 and 120 minutes long.

Closer to the lower end for beginners, and higher up the spectrum the more advanced you get.

For intermediates, the ideal workout length might generally be somewhere around 60 and 100 minutes.

Exercise Choices

Your choice of exercise is also going to have a pretty big impact on how long your workouts are.

For example, if you're doing an 'arm day' workout consisting of mainly curls and tricep extensions of some sort, then your workout isn't going to take very long.

Man doing bicep curls with barbell and building muscle in his arms

Not only as the exercises quicker to set up and get started with, they're also less taxing on the body and wouldn't require the rest periods to be that long.

Now compare this to a 'push day' or full body workout, where you're doing compound exercises for the majority of your workouts.

Exercises such as the bench press, dumbbell overhead press or incline press are going to take much longer to set up, much longer to prepare for and are also a lot more taxing on the muscles and central nervous system than curls and tricep extensions.

The workouts are naturally going to take much longer.

Plus, you'd also likely need more exercises to hit all the muscles effectively as the chest and shoulders are larger muscle groups than the arms.

Especially if you've got barbell squats or deadlifts in your workout, the session is going to take much, much longer.

Generally, the more muscles you're hitting and the larger the muscles you're hitting, your workouts are going to take longer and longer to accommodate.

Rest Periods

This is going to be a little dependent on your exercise choices and your goals, but your rest periods are going to also have an impact on your workout length and how long you spend in the gym.

A set of heavy deadlifts is likely going to require upwards of 3-4 minutes for you to be ready for another set, whereas a set of calf raises really might only need 90-120 seconds for you feel ready to go again.

It's important that you understand this and know that rest periods take up a HUGE portion of your workout, and they will have a large influence on how long you spend in the gym in total.

Surrounding Workouts

The scheduling of your workouts is also going to have a pretty big impact on how long you spend in the gym.

For example, if you've got a heavy deadlifting session lined up, it might not be the smartest idea to spend three hours hitting your legs or your back the day before.

It wouldn't make sense for you to do a ridiculously long or a ridiculously tough cardio session either.

You have to know your recovery and understand just how capable your body and you are of recovering from previous workouts before hitting the next one.

Time Availability

This should come as no surprise.

We all have other commitments outside of the gym, and it wouldn't make sense to try and fit in a 2 hour weight training session before work if you've got to be in the office by 7 AM.

Busy man in suit with tight schedule, not much time to commit to fitness and workouts

It's good to find time to commit to your health and fitness, but it shouldn't become a huge problem in your everyday life either.

It's completely okay for your family and your career to come first.

So your time availability is going to have a big impact on how much time you spend in the gym each session.

Take a look at how much time you're actually able to commit and put aside for the gym, and work from there.

But Really...

The length of your workouts doesn't matter that much.

It's not something that you need to be worrying that much about (if really any at all).

If you program your workout correctly and execute your pans correctly, then your workouts are going to take as long as they need to, and everything should fall into place.

If you pick the right exercises, don't waste time scrolling through your phone or chatting to friends during your sets and you actually do everything you're supposed to, you're going to be at the right workout length.

Whether this turns out to be 75 minutes or 2 hours, as long as you're confident that your workout has been programmed correctly and you execute it right, you're going to be in the right workout length.

If you would like our team to create a fully personalized workout program for you with you and ONLY you in mind, check out our custom programs page to get started!

Or, go take a look at our premade workout programs by clicking here.

Wrapping It Up

The right workout length for you is not something that you need to be spending so much time worrying about.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer, and it's going to be dependent on several factors that are individual to you.

Don't just believe and follow everything that you see on social media, because remember: what works for your favorite influencer might not (and probably won't) work for you.

If you found this post helpful remember to share it with your friends s that we can reach more people and help more achieve their goals in fitness!

And go check out Gympulsive Pro for exclusive access to loads more content like this to become the smartest and more efficient athlete you can be!


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