One of the biggest myths I deal with as a personal trainer is that many people still believe it takes hours in the gym to build muscle and get a lean, muscular physique. Not true. In fact, the best results I’ve seen, both with my own training as well as clients, come from spending no more than 3 to 4 hours a week in the gym. I spend no more than 3 hours a week weight training while my online clients spend the same amount of time as I do.
Muscle growth occurs from stimulating the muscle with heavy weight (overload), then allowing the muscle to rest and recover. Proper rest and nutrition during this time is vital. By working out too much and too often, you don’t allow your muscles the needed rest. And this is the time in which the muscle repairs itself from the effects of intense training. If a muscle does not recover, it does not grow or get stronger. Therefore it’s important you spend no more time than necessary for muscle stimulation to occur.
I’ve used this analogy a lot before with clients, but let’s do it again. Suppose you want to get a tan. There’s a certain amount of sun you need. Too little sun and you will not get a tan. But too much sun and you’ll get burned and not attain the nice dark tan you desire. So, what happens when you get burned, but continue to go into the sun nonetheless? That’s right, you can get seriously injured with 3rd degree burns and you certainly don’t increase your chances of getting a tan!
Too much sun in this case does not bring about the desired result. Same applies with gaining muscle. If you’re after more muscle growth and you’re already lifting a lot, the last thing you want to do is spend even more time in the gym.
The main goal of all the human body’s systems is to keep the body in equilibrium, or balance. By lifting too much too often, you throw off this balance mechanism and as a result, your body will actually start working against you. So you have to find that balance that works for you.
With your weight training, too much lifting will prevent your muscles from recovering and they will not get bigger. Too little and they will not grow either. Again, you have to find that balance that works for you. You can use the “3 hour a week” time limit as a guideline, but learn to “listen” to your body.
If you’re weight lifting 3 hours a week but you feel drained, tired, sore, or sluggish, that may be too much time. Others can work out longer and still get results. Everyone’s different so the time spent in the gym will vary. You have to do what’s right for you. So start making better use of your time spent in the gym. Shoot for quality over quantity and you’ll build more muscle in less time spent.