In the last video we asked the question ‘How often should you do Strength Training’ and I discussed the ideal frequency of strength training (the amount of strength training sessions per week) for the desired outcome. Taking into consideration the training goal, whether you train for size / hypertrophy, strength development and / or maximum strength, power or strength endurance. The right amount of strength training sessions for athletes depending on their sport, goal and additional responsibilities (family, study or work).

Today’s question is ‘How long should a strength training session last?’

This video discusses

  • the duration of strength training sessions designed to improve strength, power, strength endurance or maximise size
  • the right amount of strength training sessions for athletes depending on their sport, goal and additional responsibilities (family, study or work)

We all know the importance of strength training but do you know how long should the strength training session be? There’s a simple answer, ‘As long as it has to be, and as short as it needs to be’. It’s not one size fits all approach. Duration of the Strength training session depends on your goal and desired outcome. The goal dictates the training methods and training modes you choose, leading to the variable duration of the strength training session.

Another influential factor in the determination of the duration of the strength training session is where you are in the season. Depending upon your fitness level and goal, session duration varies.

How long should the strength training session be for muscle size?

If you want to gain muscle size, the work to rest ratio is lower. Work to rest ratio refers to the amount of work you do in relation to the rest. An applied example could be your set lasts 20 seconds and you rest for 40 seconds. This is a work to rest ratio of 1 : 2 (for every second work, you rest 2 seconds).

How long should the strength training session last for strength and power development?

For strength and power development, the work to rest ratio is a bit higher. We might do 10 seconds of work and but because it’s so strenuous on the nervous system, we need to give the nervous system as well as the energy system enough rest to recover and to replenish energy.  We need to rest three minutes, four minutes, or five minutes.

So, what does that mean for the work rest ratio?

If we use the example from above and the set lasts 10 seconds and we rest for 3 minutes (180 seconds), the work to rest ratio is 1 : 18.

How long should the strength training session last for strength endurance?

If your goal is strength endurance and you desire to endure efforts for longer, in most cases you will choose to do some kind of circuit training. These strength endurance circuits are designed to do either work for a given time or work until you have achieved a certain number of repetitions and then rest for a prescribed period of time.

Popular strength training circuits are 30 seconds work followed by 30 seconds rest, 40 seconds work followed by 20 seconds rest or 20 seconds work followed by 10 seconds rest.

The work rest ratio is 1 : 1 like the example of 30 seconds work and 30 seconds rest or can be 2 : 1  like in the example 20 seconds work followed by 10 seconds rest.

Usually, these strength training workouts can be finished quickly due to the high density of work.

How long should the strength training session last for power endurance?

The structure of a Power Endurance workout has a lot of similarities with a strength endurance workout.

As I have outlined in the article 3 Steps to Develop your own Power Training Method that Power is effectively trained with short durations due to the high involvement of the Phosphagen System / ATP-CP energy system.

Consequently, the duration of a set is lower than during a strength endurance workout, for example, 6 – 10 seconds and followed by (just) enough rest to move to the next station. Therefore work to rest ratios have to be a bit higher, 10 seconds of work followed by 20 seconds of rest equals a 1 : 2 work-rest ratio.

Similarly, the exercise selection will be adjusted to choose exercises with either a dynamic effort, ballistic effort or plyometric effort. For more information on the different efforts, have a look at the articles

How long should the strength training session last for developing maximum strength or power?

Maximum strength training or power training requires a high neural effort as well as a strong contribution of the Phosphagen System / ATP-CP energy system.

The duration of the set or work is short, followed by a long rest to allow the nervous system to recover and the energy system to replenish.

The duration of a set can be anywhere between 5 – 20 seconds followed by a complete rest of 3 minutes, 4 minutes or 5 minutes. The longer the duration of the set, the longer the rest period between the sets.

Therefore the work to rest ratio is 1 : 20 or higher, for example

  • 5 seconds work followed by 180 seconds rest (equals 1 : 36)
  • 10 seconds work followed by 240 seconds rest (equals 1 : 24)
  • 15 seconds work followed by 300 seconds rest (equals 1 : 20)

A quick word to work to rest ratios, the numbers and ratios I have presented are guidelines and not written in stone. It is much more important to understand the concept and principle.

How long should the strength training session last if your goal is maintaining strength?

If you are an athlete, where you are in your season strongly determines how long a strength training session should be.

In the off-season you most likely want to build strength, power and size and the duration of a strength training workout might be 1.5 hours to 2 hours in total.

If you are in the in-season or preparation phase for competition the emphasis of the strength training shifts from building (strength, power or size) to maintaining (strength, power or size). Then the duration of a session is lower and the strength training workout might last 60 minutes to 75 minutes in total.

How does the work to rest ratio influence how long a strength training session should be?

The higher the work to rest ratio the lower the density of work, which explains the work to rest ratio is directly related to the length of a strength training session.

For example, a strength endurance session might last 30 minutes or 40 minutes in total, because the density of work is high.

A maximum strength training might last 2 hours because the density is low and has to be low.

How long should the strength training session be if your goal is maintaining strength?

Another important factor, if you are an athlete is, where you are in your season strongly determines how long a strength training session should be.

In the off-season you most likely want to build strength, power and size and the duration of a strength training workout might be 1.5 hours to 2 hours in total.

If you are in the in-season or preparation phase for competition the emphasis of the strength training shifts from building (strength, power or size) to maintaining (strength, power or size). Then the duration of a session is lower and the strength training workout might last 60 minutes to 75 minutes in total.

The last word on what science says to how long a strength training session should last.

Science states that the longer a session last, the larger the change in the hormonal environment. I have touched on the topic on how strength training influences the hormonal environment in the article Xxx

If the session last longer than forty-five to sixty minutes, stress hormones increase and the hormones that positively support the adaptations to strength training like testosterone and growth hormones decrease.

This has led to the conclusion that our sessions should not exceed forty-five to sixty minutes. However, that is not always possible. As I have outlined above, sometimes we need to train longer than 45 minutes or 60 minutes. In these cases, it’s a balancing act from what we know as practitioners and what science states.

Concluding How Long The Strength Training Sessions Should Last

The length of a strength training session depends on various factors and can’t be answered with a ‘one size fits all answer’.

The length of the strength training session is dependent on your training goal, whether you want to build strength, become more powerful, gain muscle mass or what to endure longer. Another important factor is the emphasis, whether you are in the off-season and the strength training has a high priority or whether you are in the in-season or preparing for competition, where the emphasis on the strength training session is lower and the sport-specific training becomes more important.

More information on strength training

The Fundamentals of Strength Training 

The Ultimate Guide to Strength Training for Beginners

The Importance Weight Training Has On Power

Power Training vs Strength Training – what is the difference?

What is Strength Training

How Strength Training works

Why Strength Training is important

Why Strength Training is important for athletes

How often should you do Strength Training

How long should a Strength Training Session last

How Strength Training works – accommodating resistance

How often should you do Strength Training to lose weight

How many Strength Training sessions per week

How to do Strength Training at home

How much Strength Training

or the Strength Training video library