Is One Hour a Week Enough to See Gains?

By on May 26, 2022

Time. Most of us need more of it.

It’s a lack of time that prevents us from doing the things we want to do.

Like working out.

While it’s easy to dismiss “lack of time” as an excuse, the truth of the matter is that some people really don’t have the time. You never know what’s going on in someone else’s life.

But I would argue that most people can find at least an hour a week, or many ten minutes a day, to do something.

Checking time

The problem here, though, is that it doesn’t seem like enough. So, why waste that time on training that won’t be enough of a stimulus to affect any real change? You could just sit down for ten minutes!

Here’s the thing: every hour counts. And if you can only manage an hour a week, that’s still FAR better than nothing. And you can still make gains.

You just need to moderate your expectations, prioritise, and train smart.

Minimal Training for Mobility

If it were me: I would split that hour into six ten minute sessions, spread throughout the week. Maybe take Sunday off.

And during those ten minutes, I would focus exclusively on mobility. THIS is the biggest limitation for most people who have no time to train. And, of course, this can be done at a gym OR from home.

If this is your only training, then you’ll likely suffer from inactive glutes, tight hip flexors, tight calves and hamstrings, kyphosis, and a stiff back. These problems are practically epidemics.

Five stretches, performed for 2 minutes each a day, can make a HUGE difference in this regard. You’ll feel healthier, reduce your chances of injury, and increase your energy levels. And you’ll prevent significant deterioration down the line.

I’d choose:

  • A deep squat
  • A hang
  • A bridge
  • A pancake stretch
  • A deep lunge

For Weight Loss

Or, perhaps you’re more interested in weight loss?

In that case, there is every reason to train for an hour a week! I explained in a previous video that skipping for just ten minutes could burn anywhere between 100-300 calories, depending on your weight and intensity. Use a weighted rope.

That adds up to 600-1800 calories a week. That will make a big difference to your overall energy balance.

Skipping for calorie burn

You can make a similar dent with two, half-hour metcon workouts, or a run. If not more.

Find this boring? Then how about meeting up with friends for an hour of football, or something similar. A gentle walk can do a world of good, too.

Minimal Workouts for Building Muscle

Okay, but what about building muscle and strength? That’s going to need a bit more time… right?

Well, this is harder. But it’s not like you can’t do anything.

A half hour workout is probably long enough to get a warm-up in and to perform some near-max lifts on two exercises, right? Especially if you take ten minutes to warm up and do four sets total, that’s going to need about 12 minutes of rest between sets (30 seconds per exercise). But that still leaves a good 8 minutes for the actual lifts. Which is plenty!

Bicep curls

Warm up with working sets and you could then do two sets of deadlift, bench press, squat, and military press.

You’ll need to be very efficient. And you need to go easy so as not to rush your workout and hurt yourself. I’m not exactly recommending this.

I’m just making the point that it’s certainly doable. And you would likely make some strength gains, especially as a newbie. Just don’t expect to smash any records.

For building size, I’d recommend doing some massive drop sets targeting a push movement, pull movement, legs (quads and hamstrings), traps, and curls.

A drop set could mean performing a heavy bench press to technical failure, then immediately lowering the weight, then switching to push ups. Take a relatively short rest time, and pump out three sets. You’ll feel the burn and the DOMs the next day, trust me.

And it only takes ten minutes.

Maintaining Muscle is Easy

What’s more to the point, though, is that you actually only need minimal stimuli in order to maintain muscle.

Jeff Nippard made a great video on this. He showed that simply walking could significantly slow muscle loss during time off the gym. Maintaining regular activities can do even more.

And better yet, according to one study, reducing training volume to just one ninth of your usual could be enough to maintain muscle mass entirely for up to 32 weeks. That more than half a year!

Tire Flip

If you train for 5 hours a week, then one hour might actually be MORE than you need!

And there’s an argument to be made that, for many people, just maintaining actually makes a LOT of sense.

If nothing else, this will prevent the worst atrophy and deterioration. The body is dynamic, always moving, and if you aren’t getting better, you’re getting worse.

Learning Skills

Then there’s the fact that you can easily train to learn skills in just that hour. That might mean learning martial arts, getting better at skipping, learning to juggle, learning the handstand, or even improving your technique on specific lifts. Remember: strength is a skill!

Don’t believe me? Well remember how you used to go to karate lessons for one hour a week as a kid? You still learned karate, right? Maybe you weren’t Bruce Lee, and you would have been more formidable had you trained more frequently. But the point is you can definitely learn in that short time.


(Spread out is better, as it greases the groove and takes advantage of the spaced-learning effect.)

And learning, after all, is one of the most important aspects of fitness and performance.

Closing Comments

Then there are all the other, less obvious benefits of even just doing an hour of exercise per week. It gets you outside, often it’s social, and it’s amazing for your mental health.

Again, I’m not recommending you only train for one hour a week. That’s certainly not the aim of this video.

Rather, I’m saying that if you only have one hour, you should still train. Because that’s better than nothing and, in fact, it can do a huge amount of good. Every hour counts.

Every hour counts.

So, what do you guys think? Can you make a difference in one hour a week? How do you train for maximum efficiency?

This is a topic near to my heart as I notice that, as a parent, a lot of YouTube content is simply not aimed at me. Sure, those “perfect morning routine” videos are great… but there’s zero chance of me doing a single one of those things when I’m feeding my daughter and changing my son’s nappy.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to make do with what you’ve got.

And that is the key to longevity!

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

One Comment

  1. Heather says:

    I think NEAT is greatly underestimated. I work at an oil refinery where daily on the job we have to climb up and down flights of ladders on towers, stairways, carry heavy tools and equipment (sometimes using rope to pull loads up to platforms), as well as, work on plant equipment that doesn’t have easy access and may require kneeling/ squatting and bending whilst on the job. I believe being in an active role has seriously helped my gains.

    I am also an avid motorcyclist, even riding the road bike in a ‘spirited’ way feels effective in training upper body, lower body, reaction times and grip strength. I also make an effort to take the long way round sometimes, use the stairs rather than a lift etc. to increase my NEAT activity.

    Even going on the balance board for half an hour in the evening watching TV can help. There is no such thing as not having time for some form of exercise within the day, really appreciate the article, thank you.

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