Your typical personal training session lasts one hour, that’s the amount of time most trainers will prefer you to take but does a session really need to be this long? What if you don’t have time to train for a complete hour? Are there other session lengths available to you, and what are the pros and cons of different session lengths?
Well, good news my friend, I’ve trained people in London for over ten years, and I’ve recommended different session lengths to clients depending on their goals, financial circumstances, and availability, so I’ve got a pretty good understanding of the pros and cons of each.
Today, I’ll explain the benefits and drawbacks of 60-minute, 45-minute, and half-hour sessions, so you can decide which one is best for both your budget and lifestyle, all this whilst fully answering the question “How long is a personal training session?”.
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In a Nutshell
The average personal training session lasts between 30-45 minutes, however, some PTs will offer 30-minute, 60-minute, or 90-minute sessions. These are available for clients with specific training goals or limited time to train.
Here’s a sneak peek at what we will cover in this article
- How long do personal training sessions usually last?
- 30, 45, and 60-minute session examples
- Is training for longer better?
These are just a few of the points we’ll be covering today. I’ll be diving even deeper into these questions and answering a whole bunch more so you have all the knowledge you need to decide which session length is best for you, so keep reading!
How long do personal training sessions usually last?
The most common session length for personal training is 1 hour, this is down to a number of factors. To start with, many PTs believe that an hour is an ample amount of time to get a complete workout completed.
This is not always the case, and many people can neither afford the cost of one-hour sessions nor have the time to complete them. A secondary factor may be down to the trainer themselves, as hour-long sessions not only provide them with more income than shorter sessions, but they are also easier to organize.
The truth is that not every client needs this amount of time to reach their goals, and in some cases, it may even be detrimental to their motivation and progress. I’d say the standard 1-hour session should only be used in specific situations, which I’ll dive deeper into later in the article.
Of course, there are various ways you could tailor workout routines for people, so for simplicity in my following examples of workouts, each client would have only been able to train once per week with me, meaning that a full-body workout needed to be completed.
30-minute session example
30-minute sessions are great, they were by far my most popular option, and I loved teaching them too. You’d be surprised at how much exercise you can pack into such a short session. Here’s a quick example of how I used to structure my 30-min workouts for clients looking for muscle gain. The sets and reps used would depend on the client’s fitness goals.
- Barbell squats – 3 sets of 10 reps
- Dumbell press superset with dumbbell bent-over rows – 3 sets of 10 reps
- Standing barbell push press – 3 sets of 10 reps
- Low cable biceps curls superset with high cable triceps pushdowns – 3 sets of 0 reps
- Core work – 5 mins core routine
This is of course just an example of a 30-minute session, the exercises would differ depending on the client’s goals, ability level, and any injuries they may have.
30-minute sessions pros and cons
- Maximum use of time
- High intensity
- Higher quality of lifting technique due to less fatigue
- Faster recovery time
- Easier to fit into busy schedules
- High-intensity training may not be suitable for people new to exercise
- Warm-ups, cool-downs, and stretching must be completed by the client without a trainer’s help due to time constraints.
- The overall volume of exercise completed is limited
- No option for being late to a session
Much as there are obviously cons to this length of session, it is still my favorite to teach. The area I worked in was full of highly competitive business people that loved to show how hard they could train, so for me, it was a chance for me to really show them what they could achieve in a short period.
The sweatier they got and more out of breath, the more they loved the session, I could also fit in more sessions each day by doing this, so from a trainer’s perspective, it was a great money earner too.
45-minute session example
45-minute sessions were by far, my least popular session length. It was very rare that someone would choose this time, however, I did have a few people that didn’t want as hardcore of a workout as the 30-minute sessions but were still busy so couldn’t go for a full hour.
Here’s a quick example of a workout I would give to someone looking for 45-minute sessions for weight loss.
- Warm-up – 5 minutes
- Leg press – 2 sets of 12-15 reps
- Chest press 2 sets of 12-15 reps
- Seated row 2 sets of 12-15 reps
- Standing DB shoulders press 12-15 reps
- Incline treadmill walk or if fitness level allowed, 5 mins HIIT training
- Cooldown and stretch sessions
I used to concentrate on building muscle mass with my overweight clients rather than focusing on burning calories. This would help them to increase their metabolism so they were burning more calories by default each day. The bulk of the weight loss came from diet assistance and metabolic increase.
A 45-minute workout gives you a little extra time, so short rest periods are used between sets instead of using supersets. This can be more comfortable for a lot of clients, but, as you are still limited by time, it’s incredibly important that each set is completed to near failure to gain the most benefit.
45-minute sessions pros and cons
- Time for a trainer-assisted warm-up, cool down, and stretch session
- Slightly less intense than 30-minute sessions
- Good for people working on muscle building over several weekly sessions, as you can focus each workout on a body part
- Warmup and stretching sessions can be omitted if the client wants to focus more on training, allowing more sets to be completed during the session time.
- Less time means fewer sets can be achieved for a client looking for full-body workouts resulting in slower results.
- May still be too intense for beginner clients
Despite the fact that I hardly ever sold 45-minute sessions, my own workouts tend to last for around 35-45 minutes. The reason for this is that I count in my head for thirty seconds between each set, and then crack onto the next one. This allows me to get four or five exercises completed with four sets of each completed.
This is usually far too intense for most clients and pushing people to work like this can really make them struggle to the point where they may not want to continue training, which is understandable.
Once a client is in better shape, this is possible, but longer rest periods are usually advised.
60-minute session example
Here we go, the classic 1-hour personal training session, this is what you would expect to see from most trainers’ prescribed workouts. As I said, this was my second best-selling option, so I guess plenty of my clients had slightly more than an hour’s lunch break or didn’t mind dedicating a whole hour to training in the morning or evenings.
Here is an example of a full hour-long workout routine for a client that wanted to gain muscle.
- Warm-up – 5 mins
- Deadlift – 4 sets of 10 reps
- Barbell (or dumbbell) bench press – 4 sets of 10 reps
- T-bar rows – 4 sets of 10 reps
- Seated dumbbell shoulder press – 4 sets of 10 reps
- Cable crunches – 4 sets of 10-15 reps
If my clients could train with me twice per week whilst looking for muscle building, I would often split these workouts into the upper and lower body, so there was more time dedicated to each part of the body. Three sessions a week allowed me to split it into two body parts per workout, commonly referred to as “bro splits”. For example, Monday could be back and bi’s, Wednesday would be chest and tri’s, and Friday legs and shoulders.
60-minute session pros and cons
- More time for rest periods (Important when training for muscle building especially)
- More calories can be burnt if looking for weight loss
- More sets can be used, speeding up the results you can expect
- A less “rushed” feel to the workout
- Allows for a complete full-body workout to be completed if only using a trainer once per week
- May be too tiring for beginner clients
- May be difficult for some clients to fit into their schedule
- Could potentially be more time than is necessary to get results for some goals
- Harder to reschedule sessions
- More expensive
Is training for longer better?
Is it true that if you want to burn more calories or gain weight quicker, you should train for longer? If that’s the case, then we should do away with half-hour sessions and only let people train for an hour, right?
Well no, training for longer is not only very rarely more beneficial than training for shorter periods but can also be far too intense. I often found that by around the 45-minute mark, most of my clients were becoming visibly tired. This meant that the quality of their exercises often began to fail, giving them less and less benefit as the session went on.
I’ve said it before on this site, rapid weight loss tv shows have very much misled the public about what is required to lose weight, even gaining muscle doesn’t require you to be pouring with sweat and crawling out the door each session.
A properly organized training session can get great results for clients in well under an hour, and you should certainly feel tired and a little sore the next day, but you don’t need to be training for hours, in fact, you’d possibly make yourself ill doing so.
Which session length is the best value for money?
Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s going to be 30-minute sessions. The reasons for this are as follows.
30-minute sessions have little to no rest time, which means there’s no standing around making chit-chat with your trainer whilst you are waiting for your next set to begin. You’ll also have a workout made by your trainer for maximum use of time, which means they will choose the equipment they know is easy to get, such as dumbbells so that there is no waiting around for other people to finish their sets so you can use the kit they are on.
They will also make use of training techniques such as supersets, which is the process of working one muscle group, and then immediately working the opposing muscle group. Whilst your chest is being worked, for example, your back is doing a little work, but it’s certainly not getting tired, so working the back straight after the best is an excellent use of time.
Whilst 30-minute sessions may appear the cheapest option, they are actually the most expensive on a minute-by-minute basis. However, this is countered by the fact that you will get a great workout during this time, and may only need two sessions per week with a trainer, followed by an additional two yourself to start seeing great results.
Let’s say that a half-hour session costs around £35 and a one-hour session is £60. Obviously, two sessions will cost a little more than a single one-hour session. The benefit is, that for only a few pounds extra, you’re getting two workouts per week.
The benefits you get from a single one-hour session are far less than you would expect from two high-intensity half-hour sessions, giving you the best value for your money.
Which session length will I get results fastest?
You may be thinking I’m going to say 30-minute sessions will again be your best bet here, but I might surprise you by saying that I think taking 45-minute sessions will get you the best and fastest results, whatever your goal.
My reasons for this, are that within 45 minutes, you can get a great amount of exercise completed, and you’ll get more time to complete more sets, which means your body is working harder. In a half-hour session, you’re going to work hard, no doubt, but there are always going to be compromises.
45 mins will allow you time for short rest periods, which when training intensely is usually required, they also give you time for stretching sessions after, which can aid recovery.
An hour-long session sounds great on paper, but there’s a lot of waiting around and not actually training. Most people have no real need to spend this long in a gym, and they’d get pretty bored being there, whereas 45 minutes lets you train to your maximum, without burning out and getting bored.
Consistency is a massive factor as to whether or not you’ll achieve your fitness goals, and getting bored is a reason a lot of people decide to skip sessions or stop training entirely, 45-minute sessions keep things fun, and keep you training consistently.
So, there you go, I hope I have fully answered the question “How long is a personal training session?”. You should by now have a good understanding of the most popular session lengths that personal trainers will offer you, and the pros and cons of each.
Which session length you choose will as always, come down to your personal circumstances, your budget, time, and goals, but reading this article should help you to decide if you really need to have that hour-long session your trainer is suggesting, or if actually, 45-minutes or even 30-minutes may actually get you the results you’re after, faster.
I wish you the very best of luck on your fitness journey.
Have a great day!
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