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How long should you lift weights? 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or 90 minutes?

For some, lifting weights for 90 minutes or more is a must.  Following this methodology a person tends to find themselves hitting a plateau and wondering “why am I not getting bigger or stronger?”  This question of how long you should lift weights is an extremely important topic.  For many who think that more is better will find the answer surprising.

So, what does the research say…

Well, before going into the research let’s look at several hormones that affect the way you look and feel:

Growth Hormones: Growth hormones can provide a number of measurable benefits such as enhanced energy, strength, improved bone density, an increase in muscle mass, and lower body fat levels.  Growth hormones are produced by the pituitary gland and can be stimulated during weight training and interval training.

Testosterone: Testosterone is primarily secreted in the testes of males and the ovaries of females. In both males and females, it plays an important role in health and well-being which includes enhanced libido, energy, increase muscle mass, lower body fat levels, rise in immune function, and protection against osteoporosis. On average, the adult male body produces about twenty to thirty times the amount of testosterone than an adult female’s body.  Testosterone can be specifically stimulated by weight training.

Cortisol: It is a vital hormone that is often referred to as the “stress hormone” as it is involved in the response to stress.  While this hormone plays a vital role in your body, elevated cortisol levels contribute to fat storage and slow recovery times.  Also, this hormone has an inverse relationship with testosterone and growth hormones.  In other words, if cortisol levels are too high, growth hormones and testosterone will drop.

So let’s get back to the question, “What is the optimal training time for weight lifting?”

The optimal training time is between 30 and 40 minutes (Natural Hormonal Enhancement by Rob Fagin).  After 40 minutes your cortisol levels begin to rise and testosterone and growth hormones begin to fall (Journal of Applied Physiology Vol. 33, No. 5, Nov. 72).  This continued rise in cortisol can lead to over training.  Over training is a state which is indicative of high cortisol levels, higher body fat percentage, less strength and energy.  As a person continues to train too long, they can begin to reduce their growth hormone and testosterone levels substantially by spending too much time lifting weights.  This advice would apply more to men than women.  Most women don’t lift enough weights even though the benefits aesthetically are enormous.  For men or women, lift weights 2 to 3 days a week for 30 to 40 minutes.  This does not include a 10 minute warm up and a 5 minute cool down.


Less is more

From a psychological perspective, having someone train 2 to 3 times a week for only 30 to 40 minutes is a much easier program to follow compared to programs of the past.  Research also shows that in order to produce maximum results, a trainee will only need to lift weights in the gym 2 to 3 times maximum.  Anything over this can also lead to over-training and stagnation.  The American College of Sports Medicine supports this view and states that 2 to 3 times a week is optimal for both the beginner and the athlete.   This is in stark contrast to previous beliefs.  Given this new evidence, the recommendations of more is better is beginning to turn into “Less is better”.  So, if you’re lifting weights too often cutback to 2 to 3 times a week.  If you feel like you have energy to do other activities, go ahead and perform cardio training to help you with your fat loss goals.

One other point I would like to make is that resistance training or weight lifting is extremely important in reshaping your body.  Cardio training can somewhat effect your hormones with respect to growth hormones and testosterone.  Weight lifting, on the other hand, dramatically stimulates and enhances growth hormones and testosterone.  The benefits of these two hormones are listed above.

Remember, these two power hormones are involved in fat loss and muscle gain.  Fat loss and muscle gain are synonymous with toning and shaping.  So, to maximize your results and to completely change your body make sure you add weight lifting to your fitness program.  It is truly the “fountain of youth” for both men and women.