Time In The Gym: Just How Much?

Time In The Gym

I've been lifting for about seven years, and I just generally look like a muscle head that people stereotype to spend all my time working out. Co-workers, friends, and jiujitsu training partners know I workout and at some point, some of them will say something to the effect of "So you must be in the gym every day, right?" I also talk to people about getting strong or losing weight or just generally exercising, and I hear "I don't really have time to workout. I'm too busy."

Many of these people are surprised to find that I only workout three or four times a week depending on my program and only six or seven hours in the gym every week. That comes out to roughly two hours a workout. My current one rep max for squat is 450lb at a bodyweight of 220lb. For males, having a two times bodyweight squat is considered strong. I am what I the Starting Strength model considers an 'intermediate' trainee, meaning that my programming is based on weekly planning and weekly increases in strength. Because of this, I spend a little more time in the gym than a novice would. A novice makes workout to workout increases in strength, which is much faster than weekly.

The majority of people are novices, which means it's a reasonable assumption that any given reader of this article is a novice. So, what does time in the gym look like for a novice? A novice trainee would spend roughly three to four hours in the gym a week with only three workouts a week. With preparation and a drive of about twenty minutes to the gym, this comes out to about five to six hours a week devoted to this endeavor. This may seem absurdly low, but the reality of the situation is that most people in the gym are doing one or both of two things that draws out their workout time: either they're doing exercises that are not time effective or they're spending too much time talking. Both of these are counter-productive for efficient time management in the gym.

At the intermediate level, this timing changes a little. Some workouts are a little longer than others, some are shorter, but the weekly total will increase to roughly six to seven hours a week. The reasons these workouts are longer are simple. First, the trainee must perform more work to sufficiently stress the muscles: more sets. Second, the trainee must rest longer: a novice trainee might be able to rest five minutes in between each set of a three set workout. The intermediate trainee, by contrast, might need eight to twelve minutes to rest in between each set of a five set workout. This may seem extreme, but it is necessary at the more advanced levels of strength training.

Never a Good Time

It seems like there's never a good time to make a positive change in one's life. This is true if the subject is trying to get strong, lose weight, quit smoking, eat more vegetables, call mom more often, clean the house, or fix the gutters. There always seems to be some reason why now is not the right time for this change. An excuse can always be found to push the change back. "I'm tired", "I have a headache", "I just got home from work", "I did so well this week, I'll wait to start that next week." The list goes on. This is not to say that there's aren't legitimate reasons for putting something off for the time being, but more often than not, that's not the case. It's easy to push work back. It's difficult to do something hard now so you can be better later. Because now is never the right time, the goal must not be worth it. If it were truly worth it, then now is always the right time. Now is the right time to start strength training. Now is right time to get strong and healthy. After all, it's only about five hours a week.