How long can you train for in the gym?
There are so many different opinions on this subject. There are people who swear by 45 minutes, no more. Others say they spend 2 hours in the gym everyday… So what’s right and what’s wrong?
How long should you train for to really build muscle and achieve the goals you’ve set? People come up with many reasons to why you should only train for 45 minutes a day.
People talk about science and how after 45 minutes you are no longer productive. Others will tell you that 45 minutes is way too short. Let us tell you that most of the natural lifters we have seen out there with a great and solid physique were training a good 8-10 hours a week. That’s after a few years of experience in training.
In bodybuilding, personal experience is sometimes more reliable than science
There is an issue with science in bodybuilding, and it is that it’s not always accurate. Most of what is said is true but most of the studies are conducted on beginners or animals. We often forget about human experience and understanding that everyone is unique and their bodies will react differently to training.
It’s like the debate on whether to train until failure or not. People reach a yes or no conclusion based on the science but what about adapting it to your current level and individualization?
Imagine having to carry out a study with similar individuals in terms of muscle mass, age, body-morphology, same motivation ethics etc…that could become a real pain!
So when it comes to science and bodybuilding, don’t just accept everything that you read straight away. The issue with 45-minute training sessions is that it would have to be very intense. You can of course improve with short sessions and there is always a way to do so.
But only doing intense sessions which do not give you any time to implement some strength work and pretty heavy, high-volume type of training won’t be optimal to build your muscle mass…
Okay, so … this article is meant to give natural bodybuilding some power back!
Let’s stop with the “I’m natural so I can’t do this or that” … blah blah blah.
You can do a lot more than you think!
When starting out, you will usually be fine with 3–4 sessions a week for an hour to an hour and a half. Maybe even less if you are a real beginner, 45 minutes to one hour sessions 2-3 times a week. You should not rush too much and get used to the movements first. Let your nervous system get used to training.
This also applies if you are re-starting the gym after a long break. Just because your body is capable of training for many hours does not mean that you don’t need to take it slowly when necessary.
If you are a bodybuilder and want to progress, you will have to get stronger and do enough volume training to build muscle.
This variable always has to increase overtime. Not because you’re just saying, “Okay, now we go from one hour to an hour and a half”, but because to reach the next level you have to be better than you are now. The whole system of progressing makes it that at some point you will have to do more volume, more work.
If you are improving, it is usually noticeable by gaining strength – more strength also allowing you to do more volume over time. As you keep getting stronger and hitting more volume to improve in the long run…you will need more time.
You can do more if you have the time
It has to be said that the better you get in the gym, the more time you have to invest in the discipline. If you have been a video gamer, for example, did you only play 30 minutes a day to reach the best levels out there?
No, you probably had to invest more time as you got better.
Gaining that XP (experience) required many more attempts at a game to reach the next level, and more games means more time practicing. It isn’t really any different in the bodybuilding world. Longer sessions are required because your level requires that you now do more strength, sets, reps.
It is even possible for someone to work out for 3–4 hours or even more… without being enhanced! This is also the type of training where you mix strength and volume together. Doing a lot of heavy sets requires more resting time too, which forces you to do longer workouts.
It’s not that you can’t make it shorter, but if you really want to get the strength and the volume in, you will have to take some rest. If you are at the point of working out this much, you are doing it for a reason anyway, so it should not be a problem!
3 or 4 hour-long sessions are only realistically possible to very advanced lifters. This requires years of practice. It has to be your ‘full-time job’ and you would be looking at a professional career to make it to that level. An issue often discussed by natural bodybuilders is ‘natural limits’.
The ‘natural limit’ myth
Usually, people say they’ve hit their natural limits after 3, 4, 5 years of training. These people train a good 5 times a week, 1.5 to 2 hour sessions. The reality is that people get stuck with the idea there is this a natural limit or that it is not possible to progress beyond a certain point.
But that is not true. The real issue is not having the time to go to the gym more. If you have a busy life, it will be hard to train more than the usual 2-hour sessions 5 times a week routine that most advanced lifters reach. But the truth is, if you stopped working or maintaining a busy social life to make more time for the gym, you’d be able to smash 2, 3, 4-hour sessions almost every day.
It’s just about not getting fatigued from external activities like a side job etc. Of course, not everyone wants to do this. It has to be a true passion or a full-time job. Training 2-3 hours a day is possible and does not necessarily put you more at risk of injuries, you simply need to do everything proportionally.
Your workouts are longer, you eat more, you warm up more, you sleep more… You have to optimize every aspect of your fitness. Practicing good form and trying to target the muscles and alleviate pressure on the joints will be essential in the long run if you are planning on working out a lot.
We are not necessarily saying that it is healthy to work out 2-3 hours a day, but it is possible. It means trading your social/work life for the gym. All these long hour sessions can be done, and at a natural level.
Don’t join the dark side
When people reach that barrier of working out 4-5 times a week for a good hour or two per session, they might become tempted to take steroids. They either don’t want to train more than they currently do because it’s tough, or they just don’t have time.
When you reach the point of training 5 times a week for 2 hours per session as a natural bodybuilder, you have to accept that you will improve at a slower pace. If you decide to increase your gym lifestyle to tougher and longer sessions, going from a 200kg squat to 240kg could take you 3 years as opposed to 10 years if you decide to stick to your current routine.
Both are fine, it’s just about what your priorities are and deciding whether or not you want to push it further – and by further we don’t mean taking steroids.
Deciding what you really want out of bodybuilding
So the decision is either accepting slower progression or dedicating more time to the gym. You will be surprised, for example, how 3-hour gym sessions won’t feel much harder than 1-hour sessions felt at first.
You are just at another level and your brain is accustomed and conditioned to it. It’s just like getting into running. The first few runs are tough. 30 minutes feels like hours but when you get used to it, you’re thinking, “How the hell was I struggling to run for 30 minutes?”
If there is a natural limit we can talk about, it is probably when you reach a certain age and testosterone levels drop naturally. But by then, plenty of room for massive pecs!
We hope all of this makes sense.
Let us know in the comments how long you train for! Do you feel like you’re hitting that point where you have to make a decision to keep improving?