Going to the gym is very rewarding and exciting. As the years of your lifting experience increase, you might hit a little plateau occasionally. Sometimes, the mood just isn’t there, motivation is lacking, or you feel like you’re not making much progress.
Even though the results can be connected to all these factors, sometimes, you may simply be spending too much or too little time at the gym. We know, lifting some iron for hours may seem like the smart thing to do to get some gains, however, too much can do too little for your actual progress. Let’s consider how long to workout for optimal results and to utilize the lifting potential of your body to the fullest.
First, let’s look at the basics of muscle growth and recovery associated with it. After you exercise and damage the muscle fibers, your body will attempt to repair the fibers using protein and other nutrients.
If muscle hypertrophy is achieved (growth), the muscle fibers will increase in size and have a higher potential in terms of strength and volume. However, the body is responding to the exercise for about 24-48 hours after your lifting session.
That being said, you might want to look at your workout routine and see if you’re giving your muscles enough rest for protein synthesis and full recovery before working them out again. In addition, factors such as nutrition, age, genetics, and overall physical shape also play a huge role in the amount of time you will need for your muscles to get fully recovered after an exercise.
Other factors to consider
As previously mentioned, many other factors determine the effectiveness of your post-exercise recovery. One of the largest contributing factors is nutrition. For example, a diet high in processed foods, sugars, and saturated fats can affect the amount of inflammation in the body and slow down the overall rate of recovery of your body after exercise.
In regards to nutrition, refraining from refined sugars and processed foods and including an abundance of healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits, and drinking plenty of water will have a positive effect on the function of your body.
How Long to workout?
If you’re just starting out, getting enough rest between your training sessions and starting off with a sound lifting program will increase the effectiveness of your physical improvements. Starting at 2-3 strength training sessions per week, focusing on compound movements, and aiming for 45-60 minutes per session is a good place to start.
Muscles get fatigued after prolonged exercise for numerous reasons but the research on the specifics of muscle fatigue and what exactly affects it the most varies. Giving yourself the day off between the training sessions and focusing on different muscle groups each workout will help your body to get used to the physical strains of weight-lifting and will provide your muscles enough time to recover.
For the more experienced lifter, the same basic physiological rules will apply. Even though your muscles will be more used to resistance training and will be able to handle much more stress, 24-48 hour recovery window for muscles to fully regenerate should be a good estimate.
In reality, based on your training program, you may focus on 3-4 sessions per week and allow yourself to have at least a full day before getting back to the gym and doing biceps curls for the 3rd straight day. As muscle resistance increases and your body adapts to a higher volume of strength training, your workouts will most likely get a little longer. As with the recovery, the time your body allows you to exercise will vary upon many factors of your personal physiology. Don’t overcomplicate it, just get it done and have fun doing it.
Putting it all together
Training frequency and length of your workouts should vary greatly based on numerous factors such as experience, volume lifted, and your current lifestyle.
For most of us, rest is usually out of the question when talking to your gym buddies about building some serious muscle. Although, as research indicates, rest is just as important to the growth of the muscle as the actual lifting sessions. Considering ample rest between you exercise the same muscle group again is a key to preventing injury, maximizing your gains, and progress on your fitness journey.
Try to experiment with a variety of training splits that require a different frequency of the workouts and see how your body adjusts to it. Generally, sticking to the 24-48 hour rule after an intense strength training workout is a good place to start. Experiment, give it your best and see some serious results. Oh wait, and don’t forget to Fuel Your Ambition with some quality Myprotein supplements and clean nutrition. Happy lifting.