Yesterday I wrote a post about length of workouts for muscle building and today I’m going to stick with the same topic, but this time answering the common question “how long should my workouts last for losing fat?”.

Similar to people trying to put on muscle, most beginner gym go-ers that are trying to lose weight feel that the longer they are in the gym and the longer their workouts last the more fat or weight they will lose. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as the longer your workout is the less intense it will be. And low intensity workouts are not good for losing weight.

When you are trying to burn fat you want to keep your workouts very short and intense, with short rest periods. You will be incorporating techniques such as “supersets” (back to back exercises) which are intense, but decrease the workout length.

There are a lot of different factors that determine how long you workout should last for optimal fat loss, but in general cardio workouts should last about 20-25 minutes total and weightlifting workouts should on average about 35 minutes.

Again that will depend on a lot of different factors including your fitness levels, health issues, experience, your gym schedule, your routine, the muscles you are working, rest times, etc.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at workout times for both cardio and weight lifting, as both are important for losing weight.

Cardiovascular Workouts:

Cardio workouts can include anything from running or jogging, to biking, to skipping. For the most part I recommend High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT for short) as cardio workouts for those looking to lose fat. These HIIT workouts require you to give maximal efforts for a specific duration (say 20-40 seconds) and then allow you to “rest” (go slow) for a specific duration (say 1 minute), and then repeat. Because of the nature of these workouts you shouldn’t be able to last more than 20 minutes – and by that time you will have burned a lot of calories and your body will be burning up that fat.

About once a week I also often recommend a bit slower, and longer cardio workout. For example a 40 minute jog. This will work different energy systems and will also help with optimal fat loss.

If you want to choose between either the 20 minute HIIT cardio workouts or the longer, slower cardio you would benefit greatly performing the HIIT workouts.

Weight Lifting Workouts:

As you will see at #5 on my fat loss tips page lifting weights isn’t just for those trying to pack on muscle or weight. Lifting weights is a great way to burn extra calories, and in the end melting away fat.

What you don’t want to be doing when you are performing your weight lifting workouts is doing the same routine as the person beside you who is trying to gain weight my lifting weights. Lifting weights to burn calories needs to be done with high reps, low rest periods, and sometimes putting exercises back to back with the supersets I mentioned earlier in this article.

Your rep range should be in the 10-20 range, while rest periods should be anywhere from 40 seconds to 90 seconds max.

You are going to want to be performing complex exercises that use multiple muscle groups at once. An example would be a barbell squat which uses your entire lower body and your core. An even better exercise for weight loss would be a barbell front squat + press where you will be using your lower body + core + entire upper body on the press portion of the lift.

Covering weight lifting for weight loss wasn’t the point of this article (I was just trying to give rough ideas of how long your workouts should last), so if you want to learn more about lifting weights for fat loss check out www.5WeeekMakeover.com.

Your number of sets performed will vary, but somewhere between 15-20 is ideal (sometimes lower if you are using full body exercises).

A good test to see if you are working out too long is if you aren’t breathing very hard and sweating a lot throughout your entire workout. You should be somewhat exhausted after 30-35 minutes of lifting weights if you are doing it properly.

Again this is just a rough guide, but I hope you now have a feel for how much time a workout should take if your goal is to lose weight. Good luck!

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • sudhir singh May 13, 2012, 9:59 am

    Hi Kevin
    Is strength training good for fat loss? I do supersets of 3 excercises (e.g. dead lift 75kg, Flat bench 100lbs total and dumbel shoulder press 90lb total) back to back with 5-6 reps in each set. I do 3-4 supersets with 2-3mins break between every set. I sweat a lot and breath quite heavy. My weight lifting session lasts for around 30 mins. I do alternate day upper body and lower body split. Is it ok?

    Another issue is that I am unable to do HIIT after weights, so I do it before doing weights. During HIIT I run @20kmph for 15secs and then walk @ 5-6kmph for 1 min. repeat it for 7-8 times. HIIT lasts for 18-20 mins incl warm up and cool down.

    I have been consistently loosing inches on my waist however my weight is constant at 85kg (height 5’10”, waist 38″) and body fat % is 23-24%. Is there anything wrong or is it good to loose inches at same weight

    Thanks

    Sudhir

    Reply
    • Kevin May 14, 2012, 6:30 pm

      Sudhir firstly yes strength training (weight lifting) is great for fat loss – I recommend it to both men and women.

      You sound like you have the right idea performing the supersets, but I would try to go for 8-12 reps instead of the 5 or 6. Alternating lower and upper is great, and 30 minutes should be good if you are performing the supersets or circuits. I noticed you combined dead lift, flat bench, and shoulder press – these are all big lifts and you may way to break them up a bit. For upper body maybe flat bench, dead lift, bicep curls. And then shoulder press, chins up, bicep curls in your next circuit.

      HIIT before weights is fine. If you were trying to build muscle I would recommend after weight lifting, but since your main goal is fat loss it won’t matter.

      And as long as you are losing inches on your waist and noticing fat loss it won’t matter how much you weigh. You are probably adding muscle, but 5 pounds of muscle is much smaller in size than 5 pounds of fat. You may not see the change on the scale but you should be noticing your body leaning out.

      Keep working hard bud!

      Reply
      • sudhir May 16, 2012, 10:37 am

        Thanks Kevin. Actually I am trying to mix strength training with supersets. The weights which I do are quite heavy for me, hence 8-12 reps will be difficult. Do you suggest I reduce weights so that I can go for 8-12 reps or I continue with heavy weights with 5-6 reps.

        Reply

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