How much time should I spent at the gym?
Short answer is half an hour to one and a half hours three times a week to see substantial changes based on your goals over time. Read further for details.
If you come to my blog regularly you will already know that I make this point often, still it is always where everything starts. Your goals and the plan on how you achieve these goals will determine how much time of your life you will steer towards becoming a better athlete. Looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger takes more time and effort than looking like Miss Piggy (and I am not talking about make-up and fancy dresses here).
The more ambitious your goal is based on where you start from the more time you will have to spend to reach it. It is a simple, but apparently often forgotten concept. More of than not I see advertisements which promise you maximum results with minimum effort. If you fall for that it is your own fault.
If you want to get a better grip on your goals learn about SMART goals. Next step is to think about this goal in terms of Goal, plan, challenges and timeline to break it down even further.
I will go in detail through these methods in a different post, to help you formulate better where you want to go. Once you have to path, it will be easier to follow and hold yourself accountable against.
Duration of session
Whatever you do research seems to point towards that you should stay active for at least 20 minutes a day to get beneficial results. The book “The first twenty minutes” has some interesting inside on this topic and discusses it in more depth.
The better your plan and the least time you waste the less time you have to spent in the gym as a mere mortal. I get my session done in one hour which includes:
- 100 Double unders
- Agile 8 Warm up
- Box jumps or medicine ball throws
- 6 sets of lower body Wendler 5/3/1 training
- 6 sets of upper body Wendler 5/3/1 training
On Stronglifts 5x5 and 531 I actually only spent half an hour in the gym to begin with. Only recently I bumped my program up with the additional warm up to work on my agility and mobility.
If you spent more than two hours a day in the gym and you are not getting paid for throwing a ball through a hoop or beating the crap out of your opponent, than I personally think you should question yourself on what you are doing wrong. Exception from the rule of course is if you have nothing else better to do.
Duration of program
I’ve seen any results on any program for myself which I did only after 30 days of consistently doing the work. Anything less than this did not affect real change for me. Your biological clock might tick differently. Try it out for yourself, but even with 30 days I am at the lower end of the spectrum. The most satisfying results so far for me were returns from programs which I ran more than six months.
Most programs I know are based upon three sessions a week which is good for beginner’s to intermediate athletes. I would not do more than that unless you are preparing for a marathon. When I was doing that in 2013/14/15 I ran five times a week. In this period I finished three marathons, one in Vienna, Frankfurt and Dublin.
I have not tried one time a week, so I cannot comment whether you will make any progress on such a program, but I doubt it. I’ve done seven days a week and could not cope. Six is ok if preparing for a main event for me. 3 – 5 sustainable if you do not travel for work. Three sessions a week is my goal when I am travelling a lot.
The more intense your session are the more rest you will need to recover so keep that in mind in your planning. For example having your 20 mile long run on a Sunday directly followed by 8x800m interval run training where you go full throttle is not really the best idea.
Same goes for hitting main muscle groups on consecutive days with very taxing loads when weightlifting. Have a day of rest after main sessions and achievement. If you do not rest at least train a different aspect the following day or take it down a one gear. This will keep you in the game for the long haul.
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