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Last Friday me and a friend of mine went to the local gym for a workout. It took us 2.5 hours, cause we pushed each other and made a lot of things. After that another friend of us has called us and said that it is not worth it to go for a workout over 1.5 hours, cause then you won't build some hormones or something like that.

Is it true that you won't you make more progress (in terms of muscle build-up and loosing weight) if you do a longer workout or will even make less progress?

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I think it depends on what hte workout looks like. Can you post it? – DForck42 Aug 28 '12 at 14:07
At the very least, after you hit a certain point, you're no longer benfitting from the additional time doing the workouts. The minimum amount of time you need to put in to actually make significant gains isn't that much. – Robin Ashe Aug 29 '12 at 1:04
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Pushing each other is good, within reason. In order to properly answer your question, you have to consider a few factors:

  • How much time was spent exercising and how much time was spent talking?
  • When you were done, did you feel like you could hardly move?
  • Is your belly expanding despite all the work you are doing?

Training with a partner usually generates a lot of talk. This talk is good, particularly when you are discussing the merits of training styles, checking technique, etc. But it will extend training time a bit. If the 2.5 hours is a result of the talking, then you probably are OK.

The second point has to do with making sure that you don't push each other to the point of hurting yourselves. Motivate, but when form starts breaking down, intervene. If you are constantly pushing yourselves past the point of being able to train with proper technique, you are asking for injury.

The last point has to do with the hormone Cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and it is the body's natural reaction to any sort of stress--both physical and mental/emotional. Cortisol is a natural part of training. After you are done training, you will also have an increase in Testosterone. Cortisol is catabolic, with a focus on getting rid of muscle tissue that has been broken down, and converting it to energy. Testosterone is anabolic, with a focus on helping your muscles recover, triggering human growth hormone, which in turn builds muscle (assuming you are eating properly). The longer the training session the more Cortisol will be built up in your system compared to the Testosterone. The absolute amounts don't matter quite as much as the relationship. The common threshold for when the balance becomes more catabolic than anabolic is about 1-1.5 hours.

I wish I had studies to back up that figure, but even the articles I've found describe the phenomenon, but don't provide any sources for that information. The question is whether its the overall volume of training, or the time that is more important. And that I don't have an answer for. In general, if you belly is getting larger even though your eating is in good shape, that is an indicator of the type of effect Cortisol has on your system. Shortening your training time to about 1-1.5 hours should help curb that. If you still need 2.5 hours overall, you always have the option of splitting the training into morning and evening training to stay within the ideal time frames. If your belly is staying the same size, then I wouldn't worry too much about it.

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Thanks for the great answer! But do I understand this right: at the point where Crotisol > Testosterone more of the muscle gets converted to energy than it can recover meaning no or less training effect? How can one keep track of this? (making progress/improvement = workout is fine?) Or is this more of a "getting the most out of the workout"-Thing and not highly important if one does not have the goal to maximize workouts? – Lerkes Aug 31 '12 at 7:04
Basically when you get into a more catabolic state, you will have other signs of overtraining such as reduction in what you are able to do. You will probably notice this before you notice changes in your wasteband. The solution is to lower the volume enough to recover. – Berin Loritsch Aug 31 '12 at 13:44
Ok thank you for clarification. – Lerkes Aug 31 '12 at 19:33

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