When Training…Go Long or Go Hard, but Not Both

Resistance Training Effort

Effort Matters

Fact…you can work long, or you can work hard, but you cannot do both.

At least not effectively or efficiently.

One place where this is, without question, true…exercise!

While we think this is common sense, we will say it anyway. Your workout routine should be built to match your goals. For example, if you are an endurance athlete, you will most likely be training with little to no resistance, for longer durations. However, if you are someone looking for increases in quickness, strength, power, muscle size, etc…you will need to work in shorter bursts at or near maximum levels.

While we could, and probably will at some point, write specifically on both of those types of athletes and their training, this article is meant to squash something a little bit different…how much time is really needed, to benefit from resistance training and “cardio” training for fat loss, for the average individual.

The key, as you read on, is to understand, your “intensity” matters!

How Much Gym Time is Needed

Let’s cut to the chase…45-60 minutes maximum is all you need if you are training properly, irrelevant of your goals, starting point, etc.

You do not need hours of cardio AND hours of resistance training in order to create the results you want. You do not need to be in the gym for two hours a day.

You can almost certainly achieve your fat loss and/or muscle gain goals in half that time…cardio and resistance training included.

What Does the Health Department Say

Of course, the Department of Health and Human Services has recommendations. They should right?

Considering that obesity is currently at an all-time high, is it quite obvious that people need to be reminded of the importance of exercise. They need to hear and know that there are known minimums in order to benefit overall wellness.

Good news too, the recommendations are extremely reasonable for anyone genuinely making their health a priority.

Aerobic Recommendations:
At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.

Moderate aerobic exercise includes activities such as brisk walking, swimming, and leisurely bike riding. Vigorous aerobic exercise includes activities such as running, rowing, high-intensity interval training, etc.

Simple math means roughly 10-20 minutes per day depending on your effort level.

Resistance Training Recommendations:
The Health Department says you should train all major muscle groups at least two times a week. Resistance training can include the use of bodyweight exercises, bands, machines, free weights, or even activities such as rock climbing.

These guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise during the course of a week. While more exercise time will undoubtedly provide greater health benefits and overall fitness levels, even small amounts of daily/weekly physical activity are helpful.

Imagine now…just 3-4 resistance training workouts per week, lasting no more than 45-50 minutes.

Being Active is Key

It goes without saying, finding activities that you actually enjoy will go a long way towards maintaining your fitness regiment.

As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. If you want to lose weight, maintain weight loss or meet specific fitness goals, you may need to exercise more. Want to aim even higher? You can achieve more health benefits if you ramp up your exercise to 300 minutes or more a week.

Reducing sitting time is important, too. The more hours you sit each day, the higher your risk of metabolic problems. In other words, sitting too much can negatively impact your health and longevity, even if you get the recommended amount of daily physical activity.

Short on long chunks of time? Even brief bouts of activity offer benefits. For instance, if you can’t fit in one 30-minute walk during the day, try a few five-minute walks instead. Any activity is better than none at all. What’s most important is simply making regular physical activity part of your lifestyle.

Too Long, Not Hard Enough

If you have been in a gym, anywhere in the world, you have undoubtedly seen a couple of different types of individuals and their very different approaches to their gym time.

You have those who are there to workout and those who are there to socialize.

Make no mistake, we have no issue with either. Well, unless the socialites are taking up equipment or space for those trying to workout.

If however, you are looking to get the most bang for your gym time buck, you need to accept…you DO NOT need more than an hour of time, 45-50 minutes of resistance training followed by 10-15 minutes of properly performed cardio (HIIT preferably).

If you are taking longer than this, there is either too much talk, not enough effort, or worse, a combination of both.

A Sample Week

Obviously, we could create any number of training splits based on goals, needs, schedules, etc. To keep things simple, we will use a four-day split that just about anyone could implement and see results with as our example.

Four-Day Training Split
Day #1 – Chest, Triceps, Abs, HIIT Cardio (10-15 minutes)
Day #2 – Back, Biceps, Calves, HIIT Cardio (10-15 minutes)
Day #3 – Shoulders, Traps, Abs, HIIT Cardio (10-15 minutes)
Day #4 – Legs, Calves, HIIT Cardio (10-15 minutes)

Following this split, your resistance training sessions would/should be completed, with ease, if you are working (not chatting) and still have 10-15 minutes of High-Intensity Interval Training on cardio equipment of your choice immediately after.

If you then simply added a nice jog, ride, walk, etc 2-3 times a week, wherever you so choose…BOOM, your weekly goals have been met.

Have a Plan

One of the most important suggestions we can make when it comes to an exercise program…HAVE A PLAN!

In other words, know, before you begin, exactly what you intend to do, to accomplish, during the session. Know what exercises you will be doing. Know how many sets and reps you are going to complete. Know what weight you intend to use, both for your warm-up sets and your work sets.

Yes, you can adjust any of the above, during a workout, if needed, but without a plan, you almost destined to come up short. After all, a plan is required to reach any goal right? It is no different when it comes to achieving the level of fitness you desire.

If you want to see success from the time and effort you put into your exercise program, it is important that you know, in advance, what success would actually mean to you. Once you know what you want to achieve, it is possible to design a plan to get you where you want to be. Without a plan that meets your goals needs, you are simply hoping to reach your destination. Hoping is leaving things to chance. We don’t like chance!

Now let’s get to it. Get in, get it done, get out!

Always Remember…

You only have one life to live, one body to live it in, so take care of it. Progress, not perfection. Good, better, best with your food intake and some form of movement daily. Get your nutritional foundation from food, supplement where necessary, and drink plenty of water. We are here to help so feel free to drop us comments or questions as often as you’d like and always consult your physician before making any changes to your diet or exercise regiment.

Live a 3D life…Decisions Determine Destinations!

10 thoughts on “When Training…Go Long or Go Hard, but Not Both

  1. Christine says:

    The title says it all, going long and hard is a double effort on your body, pushing it to its limits. That’s how I see it. When you train long, you cannot keep on pushing yourself over the top. 

    I think that 2 hours in the gym can be a little too much. Like you mentioned, 45 to 60 minutes is ok, and I agree with that. I don’t go to the gym, but I am always moving around, always walking (I have a large property), always carrying things, that’s my work out, lol. I have been thinking of joining a gym though, for some light exercises. I’m not sure yet which gym to pick. There are so many … 

    I recently started drinking alkaline water. Is that a good combination when you do a lot of exercise? I mean, together with a good work out and keeping an alkaline environment in your body it can only be good, can’t it?

    • The 3D Labs Team says:

      Christine, there is certainly nothing wrong with drinking alkaline water. There are certainly enough outside forces that are taking our bodies out of balance these days. 

      As far as a gym choice, choose the one that you feel most comfortable in. That may sound silly, but try a few out for a week at a time and the one in which you feel truly most comfortable in, that’s the one you will visit with the least excuses to miss. You can almost certainly get the work you need in, in any reputable gym.

  2. Jagi says:

    Previous to my job now, I was a personal trainer. It’s pretty amazing how many people came with unimaginable ideas fo what working out should be like. But then I had to break down their notions, not the easiest thing to do. 

    Some people seriously did not respect their bodies ‘ capabilities. Did too much too soon, then burned out. Great post. 

    • The 3D Labs Team says:

      Jagi, we couldn’t agree more! We are certain, with your time in and around the gym, you too have seen it all!

      One of the battles we fight constantly these days…the social media sensations! Those goofy, gimmicky workouts people follow simply because they are shared by a pretty face or nice body. Low and behold, not one of those bodies was created with the most recent crazy exercise shown. 

      Our goal is simple…real-world education to dispel and undo this very madness! Wish us luck! 😛

  3. Hi Jessie says:

    I like the simplicity in which you present your topics with the knowledge to support it. I used to work out some but not to the degree to which I would stay committed for very long. Now that I’m older, in my 50s, I can definitely tell a difference in my overall changes to my body and I must say I do feel weaker, I have a job that entails staying seated for most of the day answering the phone and entering data on the computer. So, with that being said, I know I need to come up with a plan to at least do some form of exercise because I surely don’t want to have health problems in the future that could have been avoidable. Thanks for your website. It made me think again ….


    • The 3D Labs Team says:

      Hi Jessie! First and foremost, you are absolutely not alone, so don’t be too hard on yourself yet! 

      We certainly recognize that life and responsibilities get in the way for most. But we also feel that everyone makes time for what they want before they make time for what they need. This is what we hope to change, one reader at a time.

      With that said, one simple suggestion, since you already recognize the sitting issue and the muscle atrophy taking place. While you are at work, just…MOVE! Even if it just a little bit more than you do now.

      Progress is progress!

      Seriously! We don’t care what the movement is. Stand a couple of times an hour. Walk to the bathroom or fill your water bottle every hour. 

      Outside of work, maybe starting first thing in the morning, take 5-10 minutes before showering and getting ready to do a little bodyweight exercise! Everyone has this time…if they make it a priority.


  4. Rhain says:

    To be frank, I have come across some articles pertaining the intensity of a workout session, I don’t believe I’ve come across any with this much needed details. I engage in active soccer, so you might understand how much value I found in it. Most of what I’ve come to integrate as part of my personal regime, for fitness improvement, is a combination of both high intensity but short sessions and low intensity but long sessions. This method has not only been effective, it has also helped me stay motivated. Any specific advice? 😟

    Thanks for sharing 

    • The 3D Labs Team says:

      Rhain, having a soccer background as well, we can certainly approve of the benefits. Soccer does, in fact, incorporate but high-intensity, short-duration, and lower-intensity, longer-duration bouts, both during training and during gameplay. You are lucky to have a fondness of this sport for sure.

      As far as specific recommendations, obviously without a great deal more detail on your routine itself, the one thing we would absolutely suggest, if you arent already doing so…be sure to incorporate some sort of resistance training during your week.

      While your legs are certainly benefiting from your soccer, it is important to get some full-body resistance training over and above the pitch. You could and would most likely benefit from 2-3 full-body workouts per week. 

      Hope this helps a little. SCORE! ⚽️ 

  5. Gomer says:

    I recognize that I have this problem of sitting for long hours in front of my computer and not having exercise at all. And you’re right, I must increase my physical activities and have the habit of exercising regularly not only to lose weight but also to prepare myself for working out and building muscles. I always wanted to change my lifestyle but due to lowered income, I can’t live the life that I want. It takes money to have the freedom that you want, like having enough money to hire a staff that will take my work.

    So, it is okay if I sit in front of a computer for one or two more months to make this online business profitable and after that I will be able to live the lifestyle that I want? A lifestyle full of physical activities and fitness.

    • The 3D Labs Team says:

      Gomer, while we cannot tell you exactly what your priorities should be, we can tell you this…there is more than enough time in the day to MOVE!

      Even if you are not someone who can get to a gym, or spend 30-60 minutes at a time on your fitness, we are absolutely certain you are more than capable of setting an alarm to go off every hour, on the hour, while you are working…thus taking 5 minutes to do some pushups, jumping jacks, bodyweight squats, etc. 

      You see, any movement more than you currently get is a step in the right direction AND the benefit you will see with such hourly movement to your focus will surprise you beyond your belief. 

      Give it a try sir!

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