Adding weight training to your routine offers amazing benefits but you may be short on time. Find out if 30 minutes of lifting is enough to achieve your goals.
Whether 30 minutes of weight training is enough depends on your training goals, strength level, exercises, weight used, nutrition, and rest.
That being said, in one study resistance-trained participants were able to build muscle and improve strength with three 13-minute lifting sessions a week.
Since weekly weight lifted seems to be more important than weekly frequency of training, 30 minutes of weight training a week could be enough to grow and strengthen muscles. Especially for resistance training beginners.
At the same time, you want to keep in mind that the same study saw more results when doing more sets (and thus spending more time) and that you still need a good workout plan, nutrition, and rest.
Additionally, more experienced lifters likely need to train longer and/or more often to see results.
Will 30 minutes of weight training build muscle?
The most standard goals people have with lifting weights are growing and strengthening their muscles.
To achieve these goals you have to challenge your muscles enough, eat enough nutrients, and give your body enough rest.
As you may notice, there is no mention of any amount of minutes in the muscle-building conditions above.
How much of a challenge is enough to build muscle depends on your current strength level and can vary from person to person.
That means 30 minutes of weight training could be enough to build muscle for some people and not for others.
Additionally, how often you implement these 30-minute lifting sessions, what exercises you do, and what weights you use influence your results a lot too.
The answer above sounds and is relatively vague because there are so individual differences and other variables involved when it comes to building muscle.
That being said, there is a relevant study that can offer somewhat more precise answers.
In this study, they divided 34 resistance-trained participants into three groups. One group did 1 set per each of the 7 exercises on three training days a week for 8 weeks.
The other two groups did similar workouts but with 3 sets and 5 sets per exercise.
To keep as much the same as possible they gave the participants a standard 90 to 120 seconds of rest in between sets and used weights where participants could do 8 to 12 repetitions before fatiguing.
In the context of figuring out whether 30 minutes of weight training is enough, the main result to note is that all three groups were able to grow and strengthen muscles with more results in the people that trained more (1).
That means the study observed increases in mass and strength with just weight training 3 times a week for 13 minutes per session.
Resistance training beginners could likely see some muscle-building results with less than that.
Since it looks like weekly training volume (how much total weight you lift) seems to be more important than weekly frequency, one 30-minute strength training session a week could be enough to build muscle for some people (2).
At the same time, somewhat experienced lifters will likely need to train more often and/or longer to see results. You also still need a good workout plan, enough resistance, good nutrition, and enough rest.
How many calories does 30 minutes of weight lifting burn
Another reason why people get into lifting weights is that they want to burn more calories and in turn, hopefully get to and stay at a healthy weight.
Before getting into some estimations about how many calories your burn during your strength training session, you have to keep two important things in mind.
First of all, weight lifting can also help you build muscle. This extra muscle mass will help you burn more calories throughout the day. In the long term this really adds up but it does not show in the short term estimations.
Secondly, working out at high intensities can cause something called afterburn. This comes down to burning more calories than usual for a while after your workout. Again, the short term estimations don’t take this into account.
With that in mind, here are some rough estimations about how many calories people of different body weights burn during 30 minutes of weight lifting at a vigorous effort (3):
- 125-pound (56 kg) person: 177 calories
- 155-pound (70 kg) person: 220 calories
- 185-pound (83 kg) person: 262 calories
- 215-pound (97 kg) person: 305 calories
Keep in mind that these are rough estimations. In reality, the numbers can look different for you because of differences in exercises, body composition, weight used, hormone levels, etc.
Weight lifting calories burned vs cardio exercise
After seeing the estimations above, many people wonder how weight training compares to cardiovascular workouts in terms of calories burned.
Here are some rough estimations of how many calories a 155-pound (70 kg) person burns during different activities (3):
- Weight lifting (vigorous): 220 calories
- Walking (3 mph = 4.8 kmh): 128 calories
- Rowing machine (moderate effort): 176 calories
- Bicycling (12 mph = 19.3 kmh): 293 calories
- Swimming crawl (medium speed = 50 yards/minute): 304 calories
- Running (6 mph = 9.7 kmh): 359 calories
Again, keep in mind that these numbers are for during the 30 minutes of the workout. The extra muscle mass you can get from weight training burns a lot of extra calories over time too.
Does weight lifting make you lose weight?
The goal with burning more calories is typically losing body fat or at least controlling how much fat someone gains.
Throughout the day, your body needs energy (measured in calories) to function. Most of this energy will come from the calories in food.
However, when your body requires more energy than is coming in from food, it turns to other energy stores like body fat to make up for the difference. In turn, you can lose fat in a situation like this.
One way to get to this energy balance is by moving more intensely with exercise. You will likely burn more calories than usual during a strength training session.
That means that weight lifting can help you lose weight. However, your other lifestyle habits like what you eat play an important role in whether or not this will happen.
You can lose weight without any exercise and work out 4 days a week for 1 hour per day and still gain weight depending on your other lifestyle habits.
How often you should do 30 minutes of weight training
When deciding how good or bad a weight training routine is you typically don’t just look at it from workout to workout.
You generally want to look at weight lifting workout plans in terms of what you do in a week (and sometimes even a month).
In simpler words, how often you do 30-minute resistance training sessions per week also matters because it makes a big difference in how much volume you move per week.
As the first study mentioned implied, three 13-minute lifting sessions a week could be enough to see muscle growth and strength increases (1).
This is likely not exactly the same as one 39-minute workout but the volume lifted per week seems to be important for these fitness goals (2).
At the same time, you also want to keep in mind that the groups that did more sets (which requires more minutes spent working out) saw more muscle growth and bigger strength increases.
People who are more experienced with working out also may need to train more often to be able to see results.
In short, how often you should do 30 minutes of weight training to see results depends on your strength level and training goals.
Resistance training beginners can likely build some muscle with only 1 good 30-minute strength training session a week.
As you get more experienced and/or if you want to speed up results, you want to increase how often you lift weights or increase the duration of your sessions (up to a point where overtraining happens).
When in doubt, you can start with one 30-minute session a week, see what the effects are, and adapt your training routine if you want different results.
Other things to consider
First of all, there are a few things to consider about your 30-minute lifting sessions that were already mentioned.
To see results you still need the right exercises, do them with the right technique, and do them with enough resistance.
These things will be needed to work your muscles enough to start repair and growth processes and to avoid injuries.
Additionally, after damaging your muscles enough, you need to give your body enough nutrients and rest to repair and grow.
This means eating enough calories, protein, and other nutrients. Besides that, you generally want to give the muscles you worked 24 to 48 hours of rest before working them again.
Lastly, while growing and strengthening muscles is often the main goal of doing strength training, you may also be interested in optimal health.
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity a week on top of resistance training (4).
That means people who are interested in better general health preferably also implement cardiovascular exercises like running, cycling, rowing, etc. into their workout routine.