The age old question of ‘how long should you spend in the gym?’ has been highly debated over the years, with the majority of strength coaches and authorities stating that 45min is about the optimal time to be training as natural testosterone levels will peak around 20-22min and be highly diminished by 45-50min. While there will be some individual difference most of the writings on this end up with the majority of people end up finding the optimal training time in relation to natural testosterone levels sits around 45-60min.
What about those who train 2 or more hours?
For most who train for an excessively long time they are simply spinning their wheels and creating an unnecessary amount of fatigue that they will struggle to recover from, however there might be some genetic marvels who can sustain this level of work capacity naturally, more often than not though people who workout for this amount of time and make progress (size, strength gains) usually have some form of help.
There has been a lot of talk that if a person can train multiple times per day and have 30min – 3 hours rest between sessions (depending not he type of session) they would yield the most results, this would be due to increased protein syntheses and a higher total volume being achieved.
When it comes to increasing volume you can add sets or reps, this will take your workout time up, possibly conflicting with the ideal workout time of 45-60min (45min hard work, 15 min mobility/warm down), this is indeed a conundrum but the answer is simple, plus it’s already mentioned above – more frequent workouts.
Training multiple times per day is not something everyone can do, but if you have the option to do 2x45min sessions you will find you start to make faster progress and can amass more total volume, however there will come a point when you look at your life and need to make a choice. If you want to keep improving in your sport or the gym you will need to dedicate more time to training, much like Weightlifters (they train 30-45min then rest and repeat for 8-10 hours per day). If however you simply want to look good and enjoy the gym while making progress you’ll do best to increase your work capacity (doing more in the same amount of time), the easiest way to do this is as follows:
1 – Increasing Reps – turning fives in to eights and eights in to twelves before adding weight.
2 – Increasing Sets – adding one, two or three more sets for example.
3 – Increasing Weight – simple adding more weight when you can.
1A/2A – Decreasing Rest Periods – Increasing sets is good but that can lead to a massive increase in your time in the gym, if you add a set decrease your rest period to compensate.
You will see options 1 and 2 are pretty simple but they will need to be regulated with option 1&2A to help keep your training time in the gym down.
in short increasing your workout frequency to increase your total volume is the best route to the beat the leprechaun to the pot of gold, but for those without the luxury of being able to train multiple times per day, increasing your workout capacity each session (doing more in the same amount of time or less) is the way to go for you, just be sure to manage your fatigue and track each workouts RPE accordingly, this will help you auto-regulate and stop yourself from digging too deep a hole that you can’t recover from.
If you’re looking to delve in to this further you can read The Science & Practice of Strength Training, Body By Science and also anything by Dr Fred Hatfield as those books will help you further understand these principles if you want to increase your knowledge base. Not to mention they’re written by people far smarter and more articulate than me.
You will find there is nothing new when it comes to fitness, for the most part. There is a lot of info that hasn’t changed over the years and is simply proven as being more or less effective by scientists. You will see that what worked or what was mostly relevant years ago is still relevant today, for the most part.