If you spend longer than an hour in the gym, you're making friends, not making gains. Or so the saying goes.
These days, you may not even be making friends. You may just be lost in the mesmerizing fairyland of your phone. Recent studies have shown that people are losing their sense of time. Basically, what you think is a quick 30-second look at your phone between sets is more like a few minutes. Fine for deadlifts, not so efficient for curls.
Time management issues aside, coach Charles Poliquin notes, "Mentally, if you can train longer than an hour then you're really not putting any effort into it." Extend a weight-training workout over an hour and somewhere thereafter you begin going through the motions. Focus wanes.
Also, remember that increasing training density – doing the same amount of work in less time – is a form of progression, like adding weight. "Training density is one of the most important factors to stimulate a maximal response from your workouts," coach Christian Thibaudeau says.
So, if you train for over an hour, it's time to tighten it up, increase your work capacity, get focused, and start making gains.
Set a Countdown Timer
Here's what to do. Put your phone to work and use the countdown timer feature. Set it for one hour if you normally train for over an hour. Complete your normal workout before the timer stops.
If the timer chimes and you're not finished, make it a rule to just stop and leave the gym. This is your punishment for goofing around.
Now, this doesn't mean to rush your workout or use poor form. Rest as needed between sets too. Only now, with that clock ticking and the sense of urgency in the back of your mind, you may realize that you don't really need as much time as you've been taking between sets. You'll build your sense of body awareness.
Or you may just stop training with a herd of bros. You know, when six dudes use one bench press and perform one set each every 20 minutes.
Likewise, the countdown will keep you in check and minimize distracting conversations or getting hypnotized by the TVs. People who've used this trick have even reported fat loss and less need for cardio. Amazing what less standing around will do.
But I Don't Train Over an Hour!
Good. But increasing training density can still be beneficial. Do you have a lifting workout that takes 40 minutes to complete? Do it, but see if you can bring it down to 35 minutes. Chances are you can.
This doesn't work with every training method of course, but for most people it'll keep them in the zone and provide a host of benefits.