When it comes to the factors that make a workout effective, there are two that people usually consider: quality and quantity.
While it may be tempting to spend hours in the gym daily to sculpt your dream body, most people ponder a simple question: “Why am I working out every day and not seeing results?”
The truth is, sometimes it’s not about how much you’re working out as it is about how you’re working out.
In the short term, working out for hours on end with minimal rest may help you achieve better results, but long term, it leads to burnout and a greater risk of injury.
It’s similar to the concept of eating less to lose more—short term, you may see results, but long term, it’s going to leave you with a wonky metabolism and weight gain.
When it comes to health and fitness, it’s really about quality over quantity. So, we’re digging into the research and giving you the reasons hitting the gym 2-3 times a week may be more effective than following the “no days off” mentality.
Why Quality Of Exercise Is More Important Than Quantity
Most people think that training 5-6 days a week for 1 or 2+ hours is more effective than training less frequently for a shorter duration—but that’s not the case. A new study published in The Journal of Applied Physiology sought to investigate the effects of workout quality and diet compared to quantity 1.
A group of 57 overweight male and female volunteers were recruited and divided into three groups: the first completed an intense resistance training program for four weeks; the second completed a diverse exercise program that alternated between endurance exercise, resistance training, HIIT, and yoga; and the third completed resistance training only. Each group consumed 60g of whey protein daily to ensure adequate protein intake.
While all three groups lost weight, body fat mass, and abdominal fat, the group taking part in “multi-dimensional exercise” (i.e. resistance training, endurance, HIIIT, and yoga) saw a more significant decrease in weight and body fat percentage and a greater increase in lean body mass. On top of that, they also saw greater improvements in blood glucose levels.
Based on the results of this study, it’s evident that diversifying your workout can have a massive impact on the results you achieve. While you may think resistance training is the most ideal for building muscle and losing fat, including high-intensity work along with lower-intensity activity can be more beneficial than a single style of training.
Regardless of what training style you do, focusing on the quality of movements you do rather than how long you do them for is key to maximizing your results.
If you’re training at a high intensity and elevating your hard rate to 80-100% HRmax for 15 minutes, you’ll see better results than if you’re working at a low intensity for 2 hours.
In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) states that adults should engage in moderate-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise training for at least 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week; vigorous-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise for at least 20 minutes per day, 3 days a week; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity exercise, along with 2-3 days of resistance training 2.
How Long Should I Workout?
Most people aim for a minimum of one hour per workout, but the truth is that if you’re doing high-intensity training (and even adding in resistance exercise), workouts under 30 minutes can be immensely effective.
In fact, studies show that HIIT training, which comprises 20 seconds of maximum intensity followed by 40 seconds of rest, can burn up to 25-30% more calories than other forms of exercise in just 30 minutes 3.
And when you’re performing HIIT, it’s not sustainable to do for an hour plus. For most people, 20-30 minutes of HIIT training a few times per week is enough to promote amazing results.
However, there is no one-size-fits-all model for training. The ideal workout length and frequency for you is going to depend on a few factors:
- Training experience
- Fitness goals
- Training approach
- Rest time
That said, regardless of age and training level, you don’t have to train for 1+ hours daily to achieve your dream body.
When you focus on the quality of your workouts rather than the quantity, you can chisel your body and build muscle in minimal time. Use your time effectively and focus on consistent improvement rather than the time spent in the gym.
Top Tips To Maximize Your Workouts
If you want to take your training one step further, here are 4 tips to maximize your workouts and results.
- Consume enough protein: When it comes to exercise results, it’s not all about your time in the gym—diet matters, too. In order for your body to recover and perform, you need to be consuming adequate dietary protein. Protein forms the basis of your muscles, and if you’re not consuming enough through diet, your body is going to break down what it already has to repair what was damaged, which means you’re not going to gain muscle. On top of that, muscle is metabolically active and burns calories, whereas fat does not.
- Change up your workouts: As we saw in the study, performing multiple types of exercises is more effective for weight loss, fat loss, and muscle gain compared to performing one type. Change up your workouts. Alternate higher-intensity resistance training with low-intensity activities like yoga rest days.
- Allow for sufficient recovery: Recovery is one of the most important factors in achieving your dream body. You can work out as much and as hard as you want, but if you’re not allowing sufficient time for recovery, you’re not going to see the results you want. And recovery isn’t just about taking time away from the gym—it’s also about sleeping well, eating well, managing your stress, and more.
- Stay focused: Regardless of whether you spend 30 minutes or 2 hours in the gym, stay focused on what you’re doing. Avoiding distractions is key to maximizing your results and preventing injury in the gym. But sometimes, it can be a challenge to keep your head in the game. For times like this, rely on Pre Lab Pro—an ultramodern pre-workout formula designed to turbocharge your workouts. With moderate dose caffeine, hydrating factors, and restorative essentials, Pre Lab Pro elevates your workout to a new level of intensity with peak muscle power and efficiency, extended endurance, laser focus, and calm clarity.
When you break it down, how long you work out is less important than the quality of your workout. If you’re doing 30 minutes of high-intensity training using compound movements and impeccable form, you’ll see better results than training for 2 hours at a low intensity with poor form.
Change up your workouts, have fun, and make sure you’re training all aspects of performance—strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, and coordination.
- Arciero PJ, Baur D, Connelly S, Ormsbee MJ. Timed-daily ingestion of whey protein and exercise training reduces visceral adipose tissue mass and improves insulin resistance: the PRISE study. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2014;117(1):1-10.
- Garber CE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR, et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43(7):1334-1359.
- Falcone PH, Tai CY, Carson LR, et al. Caloric expenditure of aerobic, resistance, or combined high-intensity interval training using a hydraulic resistance system in healthy men. J Strength Cond Res. 2015;29(3):779-785.