It’s human nature to want the “perfect” solution.

Trying to figure out how long your workouts should be is no exception to that rule.

It’s natural.

I mean, if you’re going to do something, it might as well be the “best” way, right?

There are definitely “optimal” workout lengths, but make no mistake, the only “perfect” workout length is the one that you can fit into your schedule.

In a perfect world, the length of your workout would be decided by your goals alone.

Nothing more, nothing less.

But, the time you have available will ultimately be the deciding factor.

First, let’s look at the things that go into your gym trip:

  • Pack gym bag (3-5min, see the picture below to see what’s in mine)

 

 

 

  • Commute to gym (10-15min)

  • Park/Check in to gym (5min)

  • Change into gym clothes (5min)

  • Workout (30-90min)

  • Change clothes/grab a protein shake/walk back to car (5min)

  • Commute home/back to work (10-15min)

You may not have to do all of these, or maybe you normally hit all of these steps and then some.

The point of the list is to show you that there is a lot more time that goes into working out than the workout itself.

Aside from the actual workout, it’s possible that you have an extra 30+ minutes of things to do just to make the workout happen, and that’s on the low end!

Why does this matter?

It matters because that “30 minute” workout you had planned isn’t just 30 minutes anymore.

You must plan accordingly!

It’s easy to see why it’s so important to have a plan before heading to the gym.

Not only is your 30 minute workout now an hour, you could be stuck trying to figure out what workout you’re going to do if you’re not prepared.

For this reason, it’s important to know where you are in your fitness journey and the types of workouts that best mesh with those goals.

Check out my post, “Where Are You On the Fitness Continuum”, in it I talk about common goals and what workout programs best fit with those goals. Most of the goals have free training programs attached to them for you to download, too.

Here is a general workout structure for different workout lengths:

30 Minute Workout –

5          minutes warmup/mobility/core

15        minutes strength

5          minutes strength accessory

5          minutes cardio/HIIT

45 Minute Workout –

10        minutes warmup/mobility/core

20        minutes strength

10        minutes strength accessory

5          minutes cardio/HIIT

60 Minute Workout –

10        minutes warmup/mobility/core

25        minutes strength

15        minutes strength accessory

10        minutes cardio/HIIT/cooldown

90 Minute Workout –

15        minutes warmup/mobility/core

40        minutes strength

20        minutes strength accessory

15        minutes cardio/HIIT/cooldown

Now, taking into account the precious minutes it takes to make it to the gym before you even start your workout, where do you fall?

Say you have 60 minutes, and we know that ~30 of that is what it takes just to make it there.

Sure, that sucks because your “hour workout” just got cut in half, but, now we know you need to have an action packed 30 minute program that covers all of the bases and includes everything you need with no fluff.

A 30 minute full body workout could look like this:

5          minutes warmup/mobility/core

Air Squats 3×10

Inch Worms 3×5

Quadruped Planks w/ 3sec Hold 3×3/side

15        minutes strength

Charles Staley EDT (read his post about it here: https://www.t-nation.com/training/escalating-density-training-revisited)

Set timer for 15 minutes and complete 5 reps of each movement. Choose a weight that you can normally get 10 times (your 10RM) as your starting weight. Your goal is to complete 5-6 rounds, so if you are getting significantly over that you should up your weight accordingly.

Trap Bar Deadlift x5

DB Bench Press x5

5          minutes strength accessory

Batwing Row 2-3x 8-12

DB Suitcase Carry 2x:30sec/side

5          minutes cardio/HIIT

Set timer for 5 minutes and complete 5 reps of the following AMRAP (with perfect form) of:

Tables

Back Widows

Battle Rope Jump Slams

If this workout is your style, download my workout manual, “Lean Body Project”, for FREE by shooting me an email to [email protected] In it you’ll find 20 workouts inspired by the EDT method popularized by Charles Staley.

But what if life happens and you don’t have 30 minutes?

Will you ever get results if you don’t spend the amount of time you planned to spend in the gym?

Is life ruined now?

Breath. You’re going to be fine.

Want to know why?

Because *Something* Is Always Better Than Nothing.

Have you ever planned on working out but something comes up and you end up not having as much time as you thought?

Me too.

And I’d be insane to act like life isn’t going to throw your workout schedule off at some point or another.

What I am here to say, though, is that no matter how little time you have, doing something is always better than doing nothing at all.

Thought you had thirty minutes in your schedule to hit the gym but it got cut to twenty because your boss is terrible?

Make it a damn good 20 minutes!

Can’t make it to the gym at all?

Take a walk.

Only have 5 minutes?

Throw some bodyweight movements together and do those with a running clock for 5 minutes or give one of these 5 Minute Core Workouts a shot.

There’s always a way to do something.

If there really isn’t time in the day, though, you have to realize that it’s okay.

Missing one workout won’t derail your progress if you get back on track the next day.

Check out this video where I break down the idea of something being better than nothing a little further:

Planning reigns supreme.

But when the plan falls through, and it will, having a backup plan and the willingness to show yourself a bit of grace is huge.

Make no mistake, I am a big believer in being prepared but I also know that overanalyzing the situation may lead to delays or not starting at all.

How do I know this?

Because I am the overanalyze everything kind of guy.

My point is that you just need to start. You can iron out the details as you go, but never take for granted what getting the proverbial “ball rolling” can do for your momentum.

There will never be a perfect plan or perfect day to get started.

It never pays to wait until you’re “ready.”

Be prepared, but not at the risk of not of starting at all.