how long should you workout to gain weight

How Long Should You Workout To Gain Weight? (It Depends!)

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Are you looking to pack on some weight, but don’t know how long to spend at the gym? Well you’re in luck. Because today I’ll be answering: how long should you workout to gain weight.

The workout duration required to gain weight through muscle growth will vary depending on your current training level. Recommendations for beginner lifters are to train no longer than 30 minutes. Intermediate lifters between 30 to 60 minutes. And advanced lifters between 45 to 80 minutes.

Throughout my 10 year weight lifting journey, I have risen through most ranks in the weight lifting hierarchy.

And my journey has taught me many important lessons.

One of which is this- people with different capabilities demand different training approaches. And this couldn’t be more true when it comes to workout duration.

In fact, I still remember trying to keep up with my 200lb jacked buddy, as a 130lb skinny guy.

Needless to say, that didn’t produce fruitful returns….

That’s why today I want to share my personal research and advice on how long you should be training per session.

So without further adieu, let’s jump right in!

I use to train for 45 minutes per workout, but now I train for 1 hour and 15 minutes for workout

Workout durations vary depending on your training experience!

First, here’s Max Posternak’s well-rounded opinion on the matter. Take note of training volume (I will be exploring this later!).

How Long Should Your Workouts Be? (45, 60, or 90 min)

For the lazy skimmer-type skinny dudes- heres the crux of my post!

how long should you workout decision chart

How To Workout To Gain Weight

In order to determine how long you should workout to gain weight, first you must know how to workout to gain weight.

This is because different training goals will determine different workout methods.

For example- a person aiming to lose weight will train very differently to a person trying to gain weight.

If you are on this post, then you will likely belong to the latter group (i.e. your goal is to gain weight).

And I’m assuming you are wanting to gain weight exclusively through gaining muscle (unless you are training for the annual amateur sumo wrestling championships).

So how what’s the best kind of workout to gain muscle?

Resistance Training Workouts To Gain Weight

Gaining weight through muscle growth will require resistance training.

This is basically any exercise which involves your body pushing or pulling against a resisting force.(2)

The most common type of resistance training is weight training (free weights, weight machines, and kettlebels).

But resistance band and bodyweight exercises can be equally effective.

how to workout to gain weight

Furthermore, resistance training should focus on the compound movements. And these are exercises which utilise multiple muscle groups around multiple joints.

By focusing on compound movements, you will effectively work more muscles. And the more muscles you work, the more muscles will grow.

Therefore performing compound resistance workouts are ideal for gaining weight.

Check out my other article to learn more about the compound movements!

Summary

Working out to gain weight requires resistance training to promote muscle growth. Furthermore, resistance training should concentrate on the compound lifting movements. These exercises engage the most muscles and will lead to the fastest weight gain.

How Long You Should Workout To Gain Weight

Now I will explain how long you should workout to gain weight.

And the short answer to the question is this:

The necessary workout duration to gain muscle depends on your current fitness levels and resistance training experience (amongst other factors).

Kal

Probably not the exact answer you were looking for right?

But allow me to explain.

Training LevelRecommended Workout DurationRecommended Number Of Training Days
Beginner (0-6 Months Training Experience)30 mins3 days
Intermediate (6-12 Months Training Experience)30-60 mins4 days
Advanced (12+ Months Training Experience)45-80 mins5 days

Beginner Lifters Should Keep Workouts Short

If you have just started resistance training, then it makes sense to keep your workouts shorter.

In fact, it’s recommended to keep workouts as short as 30 minutes per session, 3 days a week.(3)

how long you should workout to gain weight as a beginner

That’s because muscle shows an adaptive response to training.(3)

To put it simply- the more you workout, the more your muscle adapts. And an adapted muscle recruits more muscle fibres and metabolic machinery (allowing you to workout for longer).(4)

Consequently, the reverse is also true. In other words, untrained individuals are simply unable to work at the same training duration and intensity as a highly trained person.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for beginners.

Despite a short workout duration, your muscles can still experience significant gains. Take a look at the Lyle Mcdonald model for muscle growth (see below).

line chart to show beginners can work out less and still gain muscle

As a beginner, your body actually has a greater capacity to gain muscle compared to trained lifters.

That’s because of a phenomenon known as “newbie gains”.

This refers to the capability for untrained people to gain significant amounts of muscle mass in a short duration of time.(5)

Therefore as a beginner, you should keep workouts to ~30 minutes, thereby giving your muscles time to adapt safely, and enjoy your newbie gains!

Summary

Beginners should limit workouts to 30 minutes, 3 days per week. This will allow your muscles time to safely adapt to your new training programme. As your muscles begin to adapt, they will also grow. And once your muscles have adapted, you can extend your workout duration.

Intermediate Lifters Can Workout Longer

As you transition from a beginner to an intermediate lifter, you should increase your workout duration.

As an intermediate lifter, I would recommend keeping your workouts to 30-60 minutes per session, 4 days per week.(6)

It will take you anywhere between 2 to 6+ months to reach this stage.

how long you should workout to gain weight as an  intermeidate

So how do you know when to begin increasing workout duration?

In the early stages of your workout programme, you will find that even a 30 minute session can leave you well and truly drained.

This is because your body is untrained (as explained before).

increase workout duration when  you are ready

However, you will also find that as the weeks go by, your muscles can work for longer. As if they have more energy in the tank.

Where a 30 minute workout would have previously left you drained, you now feel like you can go for longer.

This is the best sign that your muscles have adapted to an intermediate level. And this is when you should increase your workout duration.

Additionally, you will also find that post-workout muscle soreness will subside quicker. And when this happens, you can increase the number of workouts to 4 per week.

By increasing workout duration and sessions per week, you are effectively overloading your muscles. And this will continue to challenge them for growth.

Check out my other article to learn how to weight train for muscle growth!

Summary

Intermediates should increase workouts to 30-60 minutes per session, 4 days per week. Since your muscles have adapted to your new training programme, it is time to overload them. And this will maintain the stimulus required for continual muscle development and weight gain.

Advanced Lifters Can Workout The Longest

When you stick to your training programme long enough, you will find that you can push yourself even harder.

As an advanced lifter, I would recommend limiting your workouts to 45-80 minutes per session, 4-5 days per week.

And it can take up to a year or more to reach this stage.

how long you should workout to gain weight as an advanced lifter

By now, your muscles are highly adapted. And the muscle fibres will have increased in both size and number.

Additionally, the cellular components required for energy production within the muscle fibres will have become more efficient.(7)

This is why advanced lifters are able to workout for a longer duration of time.

Summary

Advanced lifters can increase their workouts to 35-80 minutes per session, 4-5 days per week. By now, your body is highly adapted to your training and it becomes necessary to increase the workload to continue challenging the muscle for growth.

Limiting Workout Duration Promotes Muscle Growth

So why should you put a cap on how long you should workout? Why should a beginner not train for longer than 30 minutes?

Surely the longer you workout, the more muscle you will gain? And by extension the more weight you will gain?

I have already mentioned one of the reasons- untrained muscles cannot physically work for extended periods of time at a high intensity.

But another reason comes down to the way your body builds muscle in response to resistance training.

working out damages the muscle and the repair process builds muscle

During a resistance training workout, you are basically destroying your muscle fibres. And it’s only after training, that the fibres are replaced.

Additionally- the muscle fibres are replaced in greater volume and numbers.

This is what causes your muscles to grow, and for you to gain weight.(8)

However, the body can only rebuild so much muscle in a given amount of time.(9)

If you were to follow a bodybuilders routine as a beginner, you would simply overwork your muscles to the point where they cannot repair themselves.

Therefore, it makes sense to limit your workout durations in order to maximise muscle growth potential.

Summary

By limiting your workouts to the recommended durations, you provide the optimal environment for muscle growth. If you go over the recommended workout duration for your ability level, you risk overworking your muscles. And this will prevent maximal muscle growth from being achieved.

Workout Duration Should Match Your Optimal Training Volume

The other reason why you should stick to your recommended workout duration comes down to training volume.

Training volume refers to the total amount of weight lifted in a given workout. And it’s defined by total number of sets, times reps, times weight.

Take note- set number is a particularly important parameter to consider.

how long you should workout to gain weight depends on your sets

Beginners can get away with completing 10 sets per muscle per week to build muscle. But an elite lifter would have to complete upwards of 20 sets to build a similar amount of muscle.(10)

This explains why muscle gains decrease with training experience (remember the Lyle Mcdonald model above?).

And this also explains why beginners should train for shorter durations compared to advanced lifters.

Additionally, it has been shown that after completing ~5 sets per training session, a muscle stops becoming responsive to further growth.(11)

In other words, there is a point in diminishing returns with training. And these are called wasted sets.

Therefore, your recommended workout duration is a means to stay within your optimal training volume. And by doing so, you can expect maximal rates of muscle development and weight gain.

Check out my other article to learn more about hitting your training volume!

Summary

Keeping within the recommended workout duration will ensure you stay within your optimal training volume. When you do this, you create the best training environment for your muscles to grow and develop. And this will help you gain weight.

Conclusion

Done!

Today I have explained how long you should workout to gain weight.

Working out to gain weight requires resistance training anywhere between 30 minutes to 80 minutes per session.

But ultimately, it depends on your current training experience. A beginner should keep workout duration shorter than an intermediate lifter. And an intermediate lifter should keep workout duration shorter than an advanced lifter.

By staying within your recommended workout duration, you will maximise the likelihood of staying within your optimal training volume for muscle growth. And this will provide the greatest return in weight gain results.

How long will you be training for in your next workout?

Please let me know in the comments below! It would be fantastic to hear the opinions of my fellow skinny dudes!

Alternatively, signup to the Kalibre Newsletter for weekly posts!

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Thanks for reading guys!

Peace Out,

Kal

(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)

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