How Long Should You Workout? Set Quality vs. Quantity

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I get asked a lot of general questions when it comes to working out. People are curious about:

  • What is the best exercise to work a certain muscle?
  • How long should cardio be done?
  • Should cardio be done before or after lifting weights?
  • Is it better to workout in the morning or later in the day?

The list goes on.

Related: How to Build a Rock Solid Workout Program

But I want to help answer maybe the most general and simple question I get asked: How long should you workout?

I guess the best way to answer this question is to put emphasis on what you DO NOT need to do. Then you can take that for whatever it is worth.

I have been on both sides of the spectrum. As a single guy who had all the time in the world I would hit the gym 5 to 6 days a week for a couple hours at a time. Now as a husband, father and other awesome things (I moonlight super hero work as well), my time is very limited. But this is where the whole “quantity versus quality” concept comes in.

How Long Should You Workout?

Workout FatigueWhen I look back at my two hour workout sessions, how much time was devoted to actually working out? Not the whole two hours.

I went in the gym with the mindset that I had time, so I took my time. I talked a little bit more. I even had a lifting partner here and there (which I do not do very often and do not recommend if you are pressed for time).

Now that is to not say my workouts were not effective. I modeled and got my body in awesome shape so something was working, but time was not an issue. You see, we have the mindset in our culture that if a lot of time is not put into something, then it is being short-changed.

I will use parenting as an example. My kids would rather have me play with them for 15 minutes with all out craziness than sit down with them for 2 hours through a movie where there is limited interaction.

I use this argument with my wife when it comes to showering but I do not succeed for some reason. I told her I can get clean in 3 minutes. She respectfully disagrees.

I know you have heard certain bodybuilding personalities talk about their three hour bicep workout. “You got to put the time in baby!” You do, but nothing beats intensity, quality and consistency.

Fast forward to where I am now in life.

I have on any given weekday maybe 45 minutes to one hour to get my workout in. This to me is what separates the wise from the unwise. This MAKES me not only workout harder and faster, but I have to use my brain and only do the movements that work.

Say hello to quality.

Longer Workouts Do Not Equal Better Workouts

Now I like to remind everyone that I am not dogging out the folks who have the time to go in and workout for 2-3 hours a pop. All I am saying is I highly disagree with anyone that says longer workouts equal better workouts. I have had people actually say because they missed working out for two days then they will double or even triple up on time for their next workout.

It does not work that way my friends.

The body is not designed to “change” that way. All you have is now. If you missed a workout, than you start from today. Do not ever devote any part of today to try to make up for yesterday. You will find yourself chasing shadows of your goals.

Guys like Dorian Yates and Frank Zane (both former Mr. Olympias) have been known for their shorter yet more intense and thought out workouts. Arnold was also known for not being a big fan or cardio because he took short breaks in between sets and just knocked out what he needed to. Lee Labrada also says if he knew then what he knows know (with the body he had then as well) his workouts would so much shorter.

Listen, if you can be in the gym for hours on end and it is a part of your social life-that is fine. You put just as much thought into what you are going to wear as what body part your are training-that is fine. But do not think by simply being in the “house of gain” longer that you will be subjected to its entire splendor in more abundance (pretty deep wasn’t it).

Do a personal “time inventory” the next time you are working out. How much time is “working out”? Nothing beats hard work. Nothing beats quality.

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