How long should you train for muscle growth? Not until you drop

Scroll this

f you are a natural bodybuilder, how long should an average workout last?

The main points:

1.   Do a maximum of 10 sets per muscle group and a maximum of 15 to 25 sets in total per workout. The latter amounts to a maximum of 60 to 90 minutes of training at normal rest times.

2.   In principle, there is no minimum height for a workout. Yet it is advisable to do at least 2-3 consecutive sets per exercise.


How much, how often and for how long you should train as a natural bodybuilder for optimal muscle growth is tied to

  • muscle growth potential: you can only build a limited amount of muscle mass within a certain period of time;
  • recovery capacity: your body can only fully recover from a certain amount of sets;
  • fatigue during a training session – both central  and local.

Very generally, an average natural bodybuilder can gain about 200 grams of muscle mass in a week. To do this, you usually have to do 10 to 20 sets per muscle group, based on a ‘normal’ training intensity.

The foregoing means that training for a natural for hours a day makes no sense and has the opposite effect. After a certain number of sets you will no longer grow and only challenge your recovery capacity. You then do junk volume.

Steroids users, on the other hand, can go about their business more or less without restriction and still reap the benefits. After all, their muscle growth potential and recovery capacity are many times greater than that of a natural. In addition, they will tire much less quickly during a workout.

For enhanced bodybuilders, therefore, more is better, while for naturals this only applies to a certain extent.


How long a training session should last for you on average also depends on you

  • volume requirement (e.g. 15 sets per muscle group per week);
  • exercise frequency (ideally each muscle group at least 2 times a week);
  • number of different exercises per muscle group (usually 2-4);
  • rest times between sets (ideally 2-5 minutes).

In addition, there is a maximum number of sets you can do during a training per muscle group, and to the number of sets in total


The growth stimulus for a muscle group stagnates around 10 sets. So do a maximum of 10 sets per muscle group per session, depending on when you train the muscle group in question again. For example, if you train it again tomorrow, you may have to limit yourself to 3-5 sets, especially if that includes a heavy compound exercise. Beginners need to rest longer before they can train a muscle group again (at least 48-72 hours) and can also suffice with ~10 sets per muscle group per week and 1-5 sets per muscle group per session.

You should end your training when your central fatigue has reached such a degree that you can no longer exert sufficient effort. The latter means that you can no longer train the target muscle to near muscle failure during a set, because the central fatigue, as it were, wins out over the local one. This is also accompanied by increasing values ​​of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol and decreasing values ​​of the anabolic hormone testosterone. As a result, you no longer produce enough stimulating repetitions and thus basically do junk volume. It is better to only start that set in the next training, when you are fresh and fit again.

According to coach Mike Israetel, that breaking point is usually somewhere between 15 and 25 sets i ][ ii ][ iii ] . If you mainly train large muscle groups, such as the back and quadriceps, during a session, you are often ready around 15 sets. If you mainly train smaller muscle groups, such as biceps and forearms, you can usually do at least 25 sets without any problems.

At normal rest times , this usually means that a workout should last no longer than 60 to 90 minutes iv ] .

In all of this, keep in mind that the individual differences can be very large and that there are also large differences between studies of training volume v ] .


In principle, there is no minimum training duration other than that you must of course do at least one set, apart from warm-up sets. It is advisable, because efficient, to do 2-3 consecutive sets per exercise.

Ultimately, it’s about doing enough sets on a weekly basis to stimulate muscle growth, that you don’t do too many sets per muscle group per workout, and that your muscles can recover sufficiently between workouts.


Do you have little time and can you only train for half an hour a day? Then apply a more metabolic training style, with short rests and/or supersets. On balance, you will then create fewer stimulating repetitions than if you use longer rest periods (and therefore achieve muscle growth less quickly), but you will get the optimal return from your training time. More tips for people with limited time in this article.


If your agenda allows a lot of space and flexibility, then you may be able to train twice a day on some days, for example in the afternoon and evening. However, do not train the same muscle group twice in one day, because the trained muscles already start the recovery process after the first training (even though the most important part of this takes place during the night’s sleep). For example, train your legs in the afternoon and your chest in the evening. The advantage is that by the evening the central fatigue of your leg training is a lot less than if you would train your chest directly after your legs.


As a natural bodybuilder you can only build a limited amount of muscle mass within a certain period of time and recover from a limited amount of training. The credo more is better therefore only applies to a certain extent.

Thus, there are restrictions on how much you should train in a day, not to mention that you are limited by fatigue during a training (central and local). The latter is increasingly at the expense of set quality during a training session.

Advice: do a maximum of 10 sets per muscle group and a maximum of 15 to 25 sets in total per training. The latter amounts to a maximum of 60 to 90 minutes of training at normal rest times.

In principle, there is no minimum height for a workout. It is advisable to do at least 2-3 consecutive sets per exercise.

Last updatet July 24, 2022.


Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *