There is this debate, amongst many trainers and professionals, on which is the optimal length of time a natural athlete should be training to increase strength, performance, muscle size, etc. In this post, I want to focus on weight-lifting and the gym environment. I read many articles that state that training more than 1.25 hours in the gym is detrimental because your body releases cortisol. Of course there are key factors such as diet, experience etc; so I want to refer to myself. I am a 21 year old male with around 4 years of experience in weight-lifting. Right now I am “cutting” down so I’m in a caloric deficit but my workout consists on mostly strength training. This means that the reps are low and sets are high. The length of my workouts are around 2 hours, but this is due to the fact that I have 2/3 minutes of rest between sets (also I implement cardio at the end) so it’s around 1/1.25 hours of actual working out. I want to add that I don’t feel fatigued on rest days and I can’t say too much on the performance because I just started this “cutting-phase”. I am afraid I might lose too much muscle size by training this long during a caloric deficit . Do I have to worry?

I forgot to add, I train 4 times a week:

Monday: Chest/Shoulders/Cardio

Wednesday: Back/Traps/Cardio

Thursday: Arms/Cardio

Sunday: Legs

On rest days if I’m feeling energetic I might do some cardio. On working days cardio is about 15 minutes (uphill walking on treadmill).

  • If you're spending 2-3 minutes resting between all of your sets, and you're going for two hours at a time, then it might not be too much. That begs the question though, "Why?". You mention doing cardio every day except for legs, why not focus on intensity (0.5-1 minute of rest between sets, and at least getting close to failure) instead of length? That would save you a lot of time and get cardio in at the same time. I'm trying to understand what you're trying to accomplish. Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 1:46
  • @JustSnilloc I want to keep my strength as I lose weight, or at least try. So, if I reduce the time between sets I would be training with lower weight which is not what I want. Also, I don’t think reducing time between sets (and increasing intensity) is a good substitute for cardio. For example: if I 5x5 of bench press and I start with 315 lbs (a weight I am comfortable with) I cannot sustain this weight for other 4 sets. Fast twitch fibers require more time to replenish ATP so 1’ wouldn’t be enough. My goal is to shed fat, keep a decent amount of size and not loose too much strength.
    – Denis
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 2:08
  • @JustSnilloc - HIIT is not a magic pill, there are many ways to achieve the same goals.
    – JohnP
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 14:33
  • @JohnP Sure, but “high intensity strength training” and “high intensity interval training” aren’t the same thing. Regardless, neither seem useful as an answer here, it just took a bit of clarification. Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 15:53
  • True, but their value in "cardio" training is vastly overrated, unless by cardio you mean "just enough cardio to do the thing". It really won't help endurance athletes, which is what most people think of as cardio.
    – JohnP
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 16:38

1 Answer 1


Why don't you adjust your training depending on the improvements/regressions that you see ?

In training, it is stupid to have absolute rules based on my experience. You start with educated guess based on science/common practices/experience and you adjust based on what you observe and your objectives (diminishing mile time, muscle mass gain, ...)

If your body develops as desired, keep going. If not, adjust (split your sessions into smaller ones, do less sets, ...).

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