Why to Keep your Workouts under an Hour | Erin Stern

Posted on September 27, 2018 at 12:00 AM

With any workout, it’s important to pay attention to the overall quality of the workout rather than the quantity. There are a few reasons why it can be beneficial to keep your training sessions to an hour or less for example. With any training advice, this isn’t a “must do” rule, rather it’s something to try to stick to 80% of the time. If you’re crushing a heavy leg day, training for powerlifting, or working on sport-specific skills, you can easily be in the gym for longer than an hour and be fine. But a normal lift day should usually be kept to that 60-minute cap. Let’s get into why:

Cortisol Levels

Logging in marathon-length training sessions can be tough on the body. Anytime you’re under stress, cortisol (the stress hormone) is released. Increased cortisol levels can cause a variety of issues from weight gain in the torso and face, to anxiety to muscle weakness. Intermittently tossing in a long training session won’t have this affect, but consistently training for over an hour might put you at risk. I think it’s important to listen to your body when it comes to this, too. You may be able to sustain intense, long-duration workouts for a while. But if you start having trouble sleeping and experience a bit of bloat, it might be a good idea to de-load for a few days to a week.

Excessive Volume/Overtraining

More is not always better – especially if you’re training to sculpt your physique. Stay in tune with your body during your workouts. If you do, you know there’s a time where your mind and muscles start to check out. When this happens, it’s time to go home. If you’re not getting the intended muscles to fire properly at the end of your workout, there’s a good chance that other muscles or muscle groups are doing the work. Excessive volume can actually cause the body to put up a fight. You can get weaker, experience brain fog, and fatigue. Overtraining affects both the muscles and the central nervous system (CNS). It can take the CNS twice as long than the muscles to recover from long, intense training sessions. 

Glycogen Depletion/Muscle Loss

This depends on your meal plan and current level of leanness. If you’re relatively lean and/or trying to get leaner, there’s a chance that lengthy training sessions can actually cause muscle loss. The theory behind this is that long workouts deplete glycogen levels in the muscles. Once depleted, the body searches for another source of fuel. The body can, of course, burn fat for fuel. But, when it becomes depleted, there’s more of a chance that it will burn muscle. If you’re looking to maintain strength and lean mass, this is a good reason to eat well and keep those training sessions to less than an hour. 

Increased Risk of Injury

Excessive volume can be taxing on all body systems. We think about how our muscles feel, but rarely consider the CNS or tendons or ligaments… unless there’s an issue. Prolonged workouts can be hard on tendons and ligaments. It can also be tough on your brain. As we become fatigued, we’re less able to focus. In the gym, we need that focus. The chance of pulling or tweaking something is much higher when you’re mentally and physically fatigued.

Again, there aren’t many hard and fast rules when it comes to training. The biggest thing is to listen to your body. If you start feeling fatigued all the time, weak in the gym, have trouble sleeping, or feel like you’re holding water, it may be time to shorten the duration of those workouts. 

I rely on PEAK ATP to help me maintain my intensity throughout my training. It helps me, especially towards the end of each workout. I don’t seem to experience the same sense of fatigue when I take it! Thank you for reading – until next time, train hard, y’all!

  Erin Stern, 2x Ms. Figure Olympia






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