How long does our glute workout need to be if we’re looking to maximise growth? Is 30 minutes enough? If not, what about an hour? 2 hours!?
It’s a question we get asked all too often, and to be honest, it’s a fair question. People want to know how long they need to be dedicating to their glute workouts each week so that they’re doing enough to stimulate growth, but not overdoing it so they’re not wasting their time or running the risk of overtraining.
Today we’ll be looking at how long should a glute workout be and discuss what elements you should consider when planning your glute workout duration.
At the end of the day, our workout should be long enough so that we hit the required volume needed to stimulate growth; and we should be looking to do this in the most efficient way possible to avoid wasting time.
What we don’t want to do is drag out our workout just so that we can say that we’ve completed an hour-and-a-half and half glute workout – that’s not going to help anyone. We all lead busy lives so wasting time isn’t an option.
If you’re looking for a quick answer, here it is. 30 minutes, twice a week, dedicated to glute training will be enough to stimulate muscle growth.
If you want to learn how we arrived at the answer, and how we should program our glute training to maximise growth – keep reading!
Let’s dive into how long our glute workout should be and why.
Firstly, we need to look at how much “work” we need to be doing to stimulate muscle growth.
A meta-analysis was conducted in 2017 by researchers Schoenfeld, Ogborn and Krieger to look at the effect of training volume on muscle growth.
If you’re not familiar with the term meta-analysis, it’s a combined analysis of all the individual studies on a certain topic. As a result, a meta-analysis is considered one of the best research methods and is held in high regard in the research community.
They found a dose-response relationship between volume and muscle thickness such that as people performed more sets, they grew more muscle up until a certain point.
It’s believed that the relationship between volume and muscle growth follows an inverted U-shaped curve. This means the more sets you perform, the more muscle you will grow, up until a certain point where additional volume would lead to a plateau in progress and may even begin to harm muscle growth.
From this study, we can conclude that if we’re looking to maximise muscle growth, we should be looking to perform at least 10 weekly sets per muscle.
So, if 10 is the minimum amount of sets we should perform, what is the maximum?
A popular belief amongst the hypertrophy community is that roughly 20 sets per muscle, per week should be our upper limit. Exceeding this limit will likely not bring any additional muscle-building benefit and may even hinder muscle growth.
If you’re new to training, it’s possible to experience a decent level of muscle growth by sticking towards the lower end of the 10-20 set recommendation, as you’ll benefit from what people like to call ‘Beginner gains’. On the other hand, if you’re an experienced lifter then it’s likely you’ll have to perform towards the upper end of the limit for muscle building.
It’s worth noting that while 20 sets per muscle, per week is believed to be the upper limit – research on this area is still limited and more will need to be done for us to confidently say you shouldn’t be exceeding this maximum limit.
In addition, it’s also worth mentioning that everyone is different. Age, training age, activity levels, nutrition, genetics and a whole load of other factors play a part in how each of us recovers and adapts from exercise. If your friend begins to gain muscle on 10 glute sets a week, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do the same.
10-20 sets a week, if you’re new to training you can get away with performing towards the lower end of this scale but if you’re an experienced lifter then it’s likely you’ll need to stay towards the upper end of the scale – understood.
Should we perform all of these sets in one session? Do we need to perform more than one glute workout a week?
Let’s have a look.
James Krieger, a reputable hypertrophy researcher found that 6-8 sets per muscle per session was optimum for muscle building. He found that progress would start to plateau when you go past this mark – see the graph below.
It therefore makes sense that if we’re looking to perform roughly 15 sets for each muscle, each week; we’re better off splitting this volume into 2 different sessions are performing 7 sets on 1 day and 8 sets on another day.
This ties up with a 2021 meta-analysis that suggests it’s beneficial to split volume into multiple sessions if we’re performing upwards of 10 sets a week to maximise muscle-building capacity.
A 2016 study also shows that training twice a week led to superior hypertrophic outcomes compared to once or three times a week when volume was equated, further supporting the recommendations.
That doesn’t mean we should do our 6-8 glute sets and head off home, well we could – but that doesn’t make best use of our time. Plus, there are not enough days in the week to allow us to train only 1 muscle group a day!
A common approach would be to pair your glute training with other lower-body muscles. For example, you could pair glutes and hamstrings, allowing you to perform 6-8 sets of glute exercises and 6-8 sets of hamstring exercises. This is a better use of your time and will mean you have enough time to target each muscle group each week.
Next, we need to consider how many reps we’ll be performing in each set as this will have a direct impact on how long our workout will be.
Multiple studies have found that muscle growth can be achieved over a wide variety of loading ranges.
For example, a meta-analysis published in 2017 compared changes in hypertrophy between low load (less than 60% of 1 rep max) and high load (higher than 60% of 1 rep max). 21 independent studies were analysed in total and the results show comparable muscle groups in both training protocols.
Another meta-analysis published in 2021 looked at how muscle growth was impacted after working with either low load (over 15 reps), moderate load (9-15 reps) or high load (less than 8 reps).
The research shows us that hypertrophy improvements are load-independent, so how many reps should we do?
Well, our broad recommendation would be to perform between 5-30 reps as that’s what the research is telling us. But our recommendation would be between 6-15 reps.
Working in the low-rep (ie. 5 reps) range will mean we have to work with heavier weights. This is taxing on the body and the risk of injury is higher. Likewise, if we’re working in the high rep range (30 reps) we will have to work with lighter weights which again is tiring and our cardiovascular system may fatigue before our muscles do.
So a rep range of 6-15 seems sensible when our goal is to maximise glute growth.
Whatever rep range we decide to go with, the most important thing is that we take each set near to muscular failure to provide the required stimulus needed for building muscle.
We don’t have to stick to one rep range either. The fact hypertrophy is load-independent (to a certain extent) gives us free rein to play around with our rep ranges to see what we prefer.
Moving onto rest times, the final piece of the puzzle in working out how long our glute sessions (or glute and hamstring sessions) should last.
Following on from the theme of the rest of the article, let’s have a look at the research.
A 2016 study by Schoenfeld et al looked at the effect that rest times had on muscle growth. The study took 21 trained men and split them into 2 groups. Group 1 would rest for 1 minute between sets and group 2 would rest for 3 minutes between sets.
After an 8-week training program, they measured muscle thickness in various muscles. As you can see from the graph below, the 3-minute rest group experienced more muscle growth in each of the muscles measured.
As a result, we should implement these findings into our glute training and rest for 3 minutes between our sets.
Resting for short periods, such as the 1-minute rest group 1 used in the study likely doesn’t give the body enough time to recover which therefore reduces the number of reps that can be performed in subsequent sets. This reduction in volume load is a plausible explanation for why the longer rest period group experienced more muscle growth.
Take the time in between your sets, and don’t jump back into a set before you’re ready.
Let’s recap what we’ve learned and work out how long our glute workouts should be.
Firstly, we learned that we should be aiming for around 10-20 weekly sets to maximise glute growth. These 10-20 sets should be split up into 2 sessions.
Secondly, we found that completing 6-8 sets per muscle, per session was optimum for muscle building and any further sets seemed to be ‘junk volume’. It therefore makes sense to combine our glute training with another muscle such as the hamstrings.
Thirdly we looked at reps per set and although we found that hypertrophy can occur over a wide range of reps (5-30) we suggested that you stick between 6-15 reps to avoid injury and prevent cardiovascular fatigue before muscular fatigue.
And lastly, we realised that resting for 3 minutes between sets was more beneficial than resting for 1 minute.
So then, how long should a glute workout be!? Well, let’s work it out.
A 14-set glute and hamstring workout, utilising 10 reps, and opting for a 2-second concentric and 2-second eccentric movement will take the following time:
There we have it – just under an hour for an effective glute and hamstring workout. Note that if you’re simply looking to train your glutes – we can divide 59m20s by 2 giving us 29m40s for our glute workout.
We got there in the end. We could have simply told you how long to spend training your glutes, but it’s a lot more beneficial for you to understand the principles behind the answer!
If you’re looking for more resources to help you progress with your glute-building journey, check out ‘How to build the glutes, backed by science’ and the various other glute-building resources we have available on our blog - happy building!