How long should a weight training last? And a cardio one?

There are those who make it last a few minutes and those who resist hours. But how long should weight training or cardio take to be truly effective?

Eugenio Spagnuolo

– Milan

There are those who slip physical exercise between one engagement and another and stay with their eyes on the clock all the time. And those who, on the other hand, also recognize social value in physical activity and never look at the time. But there is a general rule about how long should a workout take to be effective?

How long should a workout last?

While it is true that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, so is that it is our goals that determine how often we should train. Those who just want to keep fit will have different schedules and times than those who train to participate in the Ironman. But, on a general level, there is a minimum (and sometimes maximum) amount of time that those who want to improve their fitness should devote to physical activity to optimize results.

How long should a weightlifting workout take?

The goal of weightlifting is to increase muscle strength, endurance and muscle mass. Results that are obtained by gradually overloading the body to be able to lift more and more weights or do it for a longer time. Improvements in weightlifting are driven by multiple factors, including:

  • age
  • training intensity
  • number of sets
  • number of repetitions
  • weekly frequency
  • rest between sets
  • experience

For years, science has been trying to determine how much we should exercise to improve strength. For example, a 2020 study on the minimum effective training dose showed good strength improvements when participants performed only one set of 6-12 reps per exercise. But recent reviews have revealed that you get better results by doing more sets per exercise than just one. But the more sets we perform, the longer the workout will last.

Recovery times in weight trainingThe length of rest periods between sets should also be considered. And there are different opinions about it. For example, one study recommends 2-5 minutes of rest between sets to increase strength. While another recommends 60-90 seconds to increase hypertrophy, and 20-120 seconds to improve muscle endurance. Using these criteria, a weightlifting session with 7–9 exercises can take 20 to 60 minutes.

Some studies have evaluated the appropriate length of a strength training session, noting that you can benefit from weightlifting sessions that last between 45 and 60 minutes. Of course this is a general rule to which due exceptions must be ascribed.

How long should a cardio workout last?

The duration of a cardio workout also varies depending on our goals. A triathlete or ultramarathoner will likely spend a lot more time training than the average athlete who is trying to lose a few pounds or improve their overall health. In this case the guidelines are those of the American Centers for Disease Control (CDC) who recommend doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, such as walking faster than 5.6 km / h. Or try 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week, which roughly means running at a pace of 9.7km / h. Recommendations that we can change based on our schedule, capabilities and needs. For those looking to lose weight, the amount and intensity of cardio exercise could be even greater. For example, according to a study in the latter case, the ideal in a week would be to find time for 3 30-minute walks and two 30-minute runs.

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