How Long Should A Workout Last?
“Do not lift loads for more than 45 minutes” they say. “If you do, your testosterone levels will drop, cortisol levels will increase and you will be stuck in a catabolic black hole that you will never escape. Does not that remind you something?
Not more than 45 minutes, really?
The idea that you should stop workout after 45 minutes because you reach a kind of hormonal tipping point is a beautiful stupidity. In reality, workouts lasting more than 90 minutes have shown that they can increase the testosterone level above the “rest” level for 2 hours after the session is over.
The idea that the short-term hormonal response after training has a big impact on muscle growth is something that has been challenged in recent years.
In a study on the subject, researchers analyzed the data collected on 56 healthy (but untrained) young men who took part in 12 weeks of a resistance training program.
If the change in post-training testosterone levels was so important regarding muscle growth, subjects with the greatest testosterone response after training should have built the most muscle. And those with the lowest response should have built the least amount of muscle.
But, when they looked at the data, researchers found no significant link between increased post-training testosterone levels and gains in strength and muscle volume.
What about cortisol?
Cortisol is generally considered a “catabolic” hormone, which should be avoided to increase levels so as not to spoil the effectiveness of the session. If increasing post-workout cortisol levels were to stop muscle growth, you should see the men with the highest increase gain the less muscle.
Instead, the reverse took place. There was a small but significant correlation between the increase in cortisol and the gains in dry mass, as well as the growth of type II muscle fibers. The subjects with the greatest increase in cortisol levels were also those who gained the most muscles.
To dig deeper into the results of the study, candidates were divided into two groups: those who “reacted” (the men who built the most muscles) and the “non-reactive” (those who built The less muscle). And the hormonal response of those who obtained the fastest gains in strength and volume was not significantly different from those who had the slowest gains. The hormonal response of those who were in the top of the ranking, for muscle gains, was no different from those who got the least muscle.
So why do people say that the session should not exceed 45 to 60 minutes ??
A myth from the East …
The idea seems to have been launched by the coach of the Bulgarian Olympic weightlifters, Ivan Abadjiev. Over a period of 20 years, Abadjiev transformed a team of weightlifters unable to win anything in a team that won many European, World and even Olympic titles.
Rather than training once a day for several hours in a row, the Bulgarians trained several times in the morning and afternoon during sessions of 30 to 45 minutes maximum. This protocol was based on Abadjiev’s statements that testosterone elevation in the blood could only be maintained between 30 and 60 minutes, with an average of 45 minutes.
Did he really believe that? Hard to say. Nicknamed “the butcher” for the extreme devotion and commitment he demanded from his athletes, rumor has it that the need to control Abadjiev was sickly. One of his students, a little too rebellious, ended up in a military camp to break stones! Keeping his athletes in the weight room all day had perhaps far less to do with testosterone levels than with his need to impose discipline and control on his athletes.
Many of the principles used by the Bulgarians were popularized in a book published in the early 1990s. It was called “The Bulgarian Power Burst System”. The last editions have had different titles like “Big Beyond Belief”.
The book was sold to thousands of copies, with quite a bit of success in the middle of bodybuilding. It had a great impact on other writers who did not necessarily take the time to verify the accuracy of the idea of the maximum 45 minutes of workout.
So how long?
This does not mean you should train for hours!
Many people waste their time making endless sets of unnecessary exercises. Before asking yourself this question, focus first on the content and quality of your weight training session. That is what matters.
Of course, stopping your workout in the 45th minute has absolutely no sense.