How much time should you be spending in the gym?

In order to answer this question we will need to define your goals.

I ALWAYS hear people say, “I spend 3 hours in the gym a day, why don’t I see more definition in my legs??”

The question is not how much time you’re spending in the gym, but how you’re spending that time.

I’ve had to learn this lesson as well. I used to spend my time in the gym going to different classes, doing way too many exercises during one training session and sort of just doing what I felt like that day. have a structured plan to follow that supported my goals.

I found myself tired and sore after I would exercise so I figured I must’ve been doing something right but I wasn’t really making the progress I was hoping to make.
Fast forward…. I reached out for help and learned a thing of two about why I wasn’t seeing the results I was working so hard to see.

This is what I learned….

Exercise Selection


Most people choose too many exercises to do in one session..

To give you an example, an advanced physique athlete aiming to put on lean muscle might perform 4-6 different exercises for the same body part within one training session.

A beginner might only need 2-3 exercises for a specific body part to achieve some great results over time.

The key here is doing what YOU need to do and doing what’s right for YOUR body. Most of the time, more isn’t always better when it comes to exercises, reps and sets. This is also referred to as “total volume”, but that’s a topic for another time =)


Intensity vs Effort

Now, I want you to REALLY think about this. Are you intense in the gym? Now, many of us are quick to answer “uh, of course”.

BUT…are you really?

When I say intensity you might be thinking about how much you sweat or how high your heart rate gets.

That’s not what I’m referring to when I talk about intensity though. Instead, those things would be referred to as effort.

Intensity for the sake of this conversation directly refers to the load you are moving. One way to define intensity is using the RPE scale.

RPE stands for rate of perceived exertion. You typically scale this from 1-10. One being easy and ten being as hard as possible.

When you’re weightlifting with the goal of developing your physique (like figure, bikini or bodybuilding), it’s crucial that you work at a high enough intensity to force your body to change.

Intensity is variable. It can change depending on what you’re trying to accomplish with an exercise and where it is placed within a training program. For example, you wouldn’t want to go to failure on every set of every exercise on the same day. Utilizing different ranges of RPE would be called managing the intensity.

I will be completely transparent and tell you that it probably took me almost a year to learn how to train my muscles properly. You might be thinking, “what?!”

Yes, I didn’t realize that MENTAL failure and PHYSICAL failure are different. This is something you learn with time, the more you practice. Knowing what your body is capable of is a skill. As you get more practice with weight lifting you’ll be better at knowing when you’ve given it all you have.

Effort on the other hand, should be constant. The effort you put towards an exercise should be the same whether you are warming up or doing your 3rd working set of squats. Effort is directly correlated with where your mind is when you are training.

This is a great way to hold yourself accountable. Instead of going through the motions and just reading a workout, you’re actually considering how you’re FEELING while you exercise. Is the load heavy enough? Did you reach the recommended RPE? Could you have tried harder?

Effort is also a learned skill. You will become better at exerting more effort the more confident you are doing the movements. The first time you squat or deadlift you might not realize you had more effort to give. You will realize over time what maximum effort feels like to your body.


What are you doing with your time?

Of course, some other factors that would impact your time in the gym would be:

  • Are you socializing with others?
  • How long are you resting in between sets/exercises?
  • Do you warm up/cool down?
  • Do you do cardio on the same day?

I could write several articles on each of those topics. As you can see, the time you spend in the gym can be greatly impacted by what you’re doing and how you’re choosing to do it.

Time Spent in the Gym

So, how much time should I be spending in the gym? I hate to say this but, it depends. In most cases, if you allocate forty-five minutes to one hour during a training session, that is plenty. If you have intensity and effort managed correctly, that hour should get the job done.

Bottom line, you want to make sure your exercise is difficult enough to force your body to change and you want to use your time wisely. Most beginners don’t need more than 45 min in the gym to see significant changes to their physique.

With all that being said, time does NOT equal the work being put in. The intensity and effort should ALWAYS be the determining factors of your workout, assuming the exercises you are doing support your goals.

Want more info on how to design the perfect training program for you?

Just email me, I’d love to help!!