How Long Is Too Long to Spend on a Machine at the Gym?

How Long Is Too Long to Spend on a Machine at the Gym?
Photo: Slatan, Shutterstock

If you’re new to going to the gym, we have a whole guide to the basic, possibly embarrassing questions that may come up in your head. But today we’re going to zero in on one of the more common things to overthink about: How long a time is it ok to spend on a machine?

How long do people spend on cardio machines?

A good rule of thumb is that you should try not to spend more than 30 minutes on a cardio machine (like a treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike) if the machines are all taken and people are waiting. At some gyms it’s an actual rule, and not just a guideline. Pay attention to any signs posted around the cardio area to see if you’re supposed to hop off after a certain amount of time. If there are plenty of open treadmills, though, and there’s no posted rule, you’re welcome to stay on yours as long as you’d like.

There’s no such thing as too short a time to spend on a machine, etiquette-wise. Some people like to ride a bike for five minutes as a warmup before moving on to lift weights or do other exercises.

If you want to know how long you should exercise, guidelines recommend a weekly minimum of 150 minutes moderate exercise (like walking or light jogging), or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (hard, sweaty stuff). So focus on the weekly total rather than any one session.

How long do people spend on weight machines?

Strength training is measured by sets and reps, not total time. If you want a very basic guideline for what people will expect to see at the gym, one typically does the following:

  • Anywhere from 5 to 15 reps of the exercise
  • Followed by 1 to 5 minutes’ rest
  • And then repeat for 3 or more sets

Heavier exercises that use more muscles will generally require more rest. Someone using a bicep curl machine will probably only rest a minute between sets; someone using a leg press might need closer to five.

During that rest time, you can just wait on the machine. If you want to be extra polite, look around to see if anybody seems like they’re waiting for you to finish. If so, ask if they would like to “work in” (take turns) with you. Another way to be proactive about offering is to stand next to the machine instead of sitting on it. If somebody approaches, let them know you’re waiting for your next set but that you’d be happy to let them work in.

 

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