How Long Should Your Workout Be?

Many lifters will brag that they lifted for 90 minutes or even 2 hours. Some will stand proudly and announce their workout was 3 hours. Does working out that long actually put you in better position to attaining your goals vs. a shorter lift? Do more minutes dedicated to lifting equal better outcome or performance?

The honest answer is no. Lifting longer than 60 minutes does not equate to better results. Let’s look at what the experts in the field say.

Bulgarian weightlifting coach Angel Spassov is one of the world's top strength & conditioning specialists. Here are some of his accomplishments:

• Participated in seven Olympic Games
• Trained countless athletes from all over the world to record results

US weightlifting coach Dragomir Cioroslan is another recognized expert:
• Three-time Olympic weightlifter for his home country of Romania (bronze medal winner)
• Three medals at the World Championships in 1983 and 1984
• Two medals at the European Championships in 1979 and 1983

Both Spassov and Cioroslan believe in training sessions not lasting more than 1 hour. In fact, they recommend 45 minutes is ideal.

To paraphrase Spassov and Cioroslan:

Testosterone levels will achieve their highest levels in about 15 minutes into the workout, and maintain the level for approximately 30 minutes. After a total of 45 minutes, testosterone levels will decrease as well as the quality of the workout as well. Thus, having your lift around 45 minutes long.

Charles Poliquin, a world renown personal trainer who is responsible for hundreds of medals, wins and personal bests for many elite athletes in over 17 different sports including athletes from summer and winter Olympics, the NHL, and NFL, explains:

The bodybuilders I train respond best to brief workouts. Former Mr. Universe Andre’ Charette made his greatest progress on two 40-minute workouts per day whereas bodybuilder Mike Payette made his best gains by training only once a day for about 52 minutes per workout.

At a seminar, Poliquin also discussed the importance of human growth hormone (hGH) and the production of it during your workout.

What is Human Growth Hormone (hGH)?

TNation explains what hGH is:

Human Growth Hormone (hGH) is produced and secreted in the brain by the pituitary gland. Once released, it stimulates the liver to make insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), and this hormone then triggers the growth and repair of bones and body tissues including muscle, skin, organs, and more.

The body's natural growth hormone production is controlled by the neurohormone Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GHRH), Growth hormone-releasing peptide (GHRP), and somatostatin, and is normally released in pulses or bursts throughout the day. There are often as many as 20 daily surges, with the largest release occurring shortly after you fall asleep.

To paraphrase Poliquin:

When you are working out hard, in addition to testosterone, your body is producing human growth hormone (hGH). Which triggers the body to burn more fat than normal and develop more muscle than normal. While this production of hGH is great, your body releases it in pulses or bursts, of heavy lifting/workouts/sprints lasting in excess of 45-60 minutes. Because of this, you want to truly push or challenge yourself during your lift. To maximize hGH production furthermore, exerting yourself longer Thant 45-60 minutes yields diminishing returns. In fact, hGH production is being replaced by cortisol. (Remember cortisol is a stress hormone which negatively breaks down muscle fibers…which is just the opposite of what you are trying to gain by producing hGH).

What are you to do?

Instead of having a 90 minute or even 2-hour plus workout, cut it down to 45-60 minutes at the max. Understand that not only are you training your muscles, you are training your hormones. While you may be able to endure past an hour-long workout, testosterone and hGH both diminish after approximately 45 minutes. Push yourself during your lift but keep it timely.

For information on 1on1 Personal Training or Nutrition Coaching, feel free to contact me at

Steven Zahn
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
Pre and Post Partum Certified
Dragondoor Publications: HKC Russian Kettlebell Certified