Hey, folks. Coach Alex here. So today I’ve got a really fun, kind of interesting message from a reader. Basically… “help. My training sessions are too long“, I’m gonna jump into it, explain why long sessions kind of suck, and offer some practical solutions for making your training better.

Just before I do, If you’re new here, I’ve spent the last 10+ years as a professional strength and conditioning coach, and I make my living by providing an online coaching service where I guarantee athletes and lifters measurable improvements in their performance (or they don’t pay) so I literally put my money where my mouth is when it comes to stuff like this.

Anyway. Let’s jump into the message.

The Readers Problem: Training Sessions Taking Too Long

So the message is titled strength and conditioning programming. Too busy.

Hi Alex, I’m trying to build some sessions I’ve tackled RFD and SSC. So rate of force development and stretch shorten cycle, high velocity lifts and overall strength. I need a few other things, but could you review this for me?

Okay so this is already sounding pretty busy as a session…

The big issue I’m having is that the lifting part alone takes me something like 2 hours. So with the warm up and stretching, each session is taking two and a half hours.”

Oof. Big oof. Okay.

And then they run me through the individual session. Now the nuts and bolts of this session are that they have lots of plyometric supersets at the start. They have some speed left lifts like sled pushes, push press, power clean. Then they have strength work afterwards. Bench press, squat trap bar, deadlift, overhead press, some weighted pull ups.

This is, this is one session, right?

First Principles: Why Long Sessions Are Probably Limiting Progress

So, You don’t want your sessions to be two, two and a half hours long if it’s a strength and power session. Strength is your ability to produce maximal forces and power is your ability to produce sub maximal forces very quickly. You cannot do either of those things if there’s too much fatigue in the system. It’s just not possible.

Which means that if your sessions go on for too long, the quality of that session is going to go down significantly. Your nervous system is going to get tired. You’re not actually going to be training the qualities that you want to train anymore.

man tired from training too long

How Long Should A Training Session Actually Be?

So I really like to say if you’re doing a strength and power session, I like about 90 minutes as a cap. In an ideal world, sort of around the 60 to 75 minutes mark I think is kind of bang on. And that’s including your warm up.

It’s better to have more sessions per week than to have humongous two and a half hour sessions.

So if your sessions are too long, we need to sort this.

Solving The Problem – The 2 Approaches I use to Keep My Athletes’ Sessions Shorter

If your session is too long, what are your options?

  1. Divide work across the week
  2. Divide work across the broader training plan, a.k.a. periodisation

My first approach – dividing one long session into 2+ shorter sessions

Okay, so when sessions are too long, it usually comes down to people thinking that they need to do too much. So this chap here has got all these things that he thinks that he needs to include.

He might be absolutely right that these are things that might be part of his sport, and so he probably should train the all over the long term. But that doesn’t mean that he needs to include them in every single session, right?

Let’s say that you want to train strength and you need to train rate of force development and your power work and you need to do some endurance training and you need to do some, I don’t know, some speed training or whatever, right? You don’t need to put every single one of them into the same session.

“You Don’t Need to Train Everything At the Same Time in Order to Make Progress”

Coach Alex – Me – Said Right Now.

You can divide those up across your training week. So if you’ve got four sessions in a training week, make one or two of them your strength. Make maybe another session a power session, and then make another session your endurance session, divide those up.

If you’ve got a really busy training structure, you’ve got 10 or 11 sessions a week like some of my professional athletes, try to intelligently divide them up so that you have a clear focus in each one.

training session too long divide it

Bonus Tip: You Don’t Need Multiple Exercises That Do the Same Thing

If I was to jump back into this reader’s email, I notice that some of the exercises perform really similar or overlapping functions. Take his choice of strength work for example. Both bench press and overhead press in one session. But they train similar muscle groups. Your anterior (front) delts are going to get hugely worked in overhead press and in bench press. So if you just did bench press that day, you would be totally fine. You could then do overhead press on a completely different day.

The same goes for squats and trap bar deadlift. Squats are very quad dominant with plenty of glutes too, trap bar deadlift, is also quad dominant with glutes as well. You could just pick one and then do the other movement on a different day.

What that would do is it would introduce a bit more variation across your week, which is good from an injury prevention perspective and from a training adaptation perspective.

My second approach – Dividing Work Into Periodised Phases

Another approach you can take is periodization. Right. Let’s say you’ve got three things you want to develop. You want to develop strength, power and endurance.

Well, okay, you start with endurance trading. Do maybe a four week training block and then you move more onto strength and then you move onto power.

And you just put the other qualities to maintenance levels of training whilst you focus on one quality.

Periodised training approach

This keeps your workouts WAY shorter, keeps them way more focused and allows you to actually deliver enough quality training to make progress.

Coach’s TLDR:

So keep your session short, think about prioritisation, reduce the amount you’re going to do and then if you have a big session, look at the work, see if there’s anything that can be trimmed down and see if it can be spread out over two sessions to enhance the quality. If needed, consider using specific phases to target specific training adaptations.

Next Steps

Share, Join My Email List, And/Or Ask a Question (Completely Free)

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To Your Performance!

Alex Parry

FAQ: Gym Training Sessions Too Long

Why do my gym sessions feel too long?

You might be doing too many exercises or spending too much time on each set. Focus on quality over quantity and make sure that each session has a clear focus.

How long should a gym session be?

I like to keep my athletes’ sessions under 75 minutes where possible.

Can long gym sessions be harmful?

Too long gym sessions aren’t neccesarily harmful, but can be really inefficient, as the quality of your work (and ability to adapt to it) will go down.

How can I make my workouts more efficient?

To make your workouts more efficient pick one or two clear things to work on and focus on those.

Should I split my workouts into different days?

Yes, splitting workouts (e.g., upper body one day, lower body the next) can make your sessions shorter and more focused. I like to split my athletes’ workouts based on the desired adaptation, e.g. strength, power, endurance etc.

Can too much rest between sets lead to longer sessions?

Yes, too much rest can lead to longer sessions. Take enough rest to properly recover between sets, but don’t spend 10 minutes chatting or playing around on your phone.