Debunking the 45-minute dogma
How long should a weight training session last? Most people in the gym will tell you that the ideal training duration should not exceed 45 minutes. Anything beyond that hinders any muscle growth efforts and has the exact opposite effect. But where did this popular notion begin?
Initially, this idea was popularized by the Bulgarian national weightlifting team and its legendary coach, Ivan Abajiev, who during his long career produced 12 Olympic medalists and 57 world champions in this sport. However, over the years, and as befits all urban (fitness) myths, we have all focused on dogma forgetting one small… detail.
His athletes trained 4 (!) times a day with loads above 90% of 1RM in each training session. So it’s pretty easy to see why he would recommend 30-45 minute sessions given that the daily frequency of training was higher than the weekly frequency of most average exercisers.
Determination of the duration doctrine
When someone asks, “How long should a workout be” what are they really referring to? When does the clock start ticking? From the moment we enter the gym? Once we run the first iteration? What if we want to spend 5 minutes warming up and another 5 minutes stretching?
Read also: WHAT IS THE RECOMMENDED NUMBER OF SETS PER WORKOUT TO BUILD MUSCLE?
It is difficult to find when the body starts to trigger the central nervous system, especially considering that it can easily be activated by environmental or psychological associations. Example: As soon as you leave the house to go to the gym, have you noticed that just the thought of it makes your heart rate change? The central nervous system adapts to specific patterns and situations in order to prepare for the stimulus it is about to encounter next time. So, in essence, your training probably starts as early as the time you make your pre-workout!
All kidding aside, the actual duration of a workout is affected by a number of factors such as:
1. The type of training. Some full-body workouts can last up to 2 hours. On the other hand, split workouts for a single body part can easily be completed in 40 minutes. Neither is wrong, it’s just a different style of training for different goals.
2. The time to warm up. We already know that warming up has huge benefits, but a long warm-up, e.g. more than 10 minutes, he can go to training for more than an hour. Should you stop warming up? Of course not.
3. The level of experience. More advanced exercisers are obviously forced to perform more warm-up sets before starting their actual functional sets, thus increasing the length of the session.
4. Superset training. If you choose to convert the bulk of a session’s exercises into Supersets, you will almost certainly finish the workout sooner having done exactly the same work as someone else who did the same number of sets but without Supersets.
5. Maximum Recoverable Voltage (MRV). This is a term coined by Dr. Mike Israetel describing the amount of training one should do to maximize muscle growth but not exceed the muscle recovery threshold that would force them to drop the intensity in the next workout. MRV however depends on the individual – some can simply handle more training volume than others, who may require longer sessions with lower volume.
6. The frequency. If you train with a high frequency (eg more than 5 times a week), then common sense is that you should limit the duration of each session, as intensity and duration are inversely proportional variables.
7. Everyone’s preference. Finally, let’s not forget the most important factor, personal preference. If you enjoy 2 hours of leisurely full-body training on a Saturday afternoon or like to blast your chest in an explosive half-hour workout on a Monday morning, then who are we to stop you?
As you will have understood by now, the answer to the question “How long should a workout last” is: It depends. And it depends on too many things to fit into a “45-minute doctrine”. Just as there is no ideal training protocol for everyone, there is no ideal training duration either. People are always looking for something new to worry about, something new to justify their own bad workouts. Don’t be like them. Stop the clock, go in, give it your all, be better than yesterday and stop at nothing.Read more
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