Time and money are two finite resources most adults must judiciously spend each week. Family, work, and life demands can easily crowd into our exercise time cutting out health benefits when we need them the most. Edward Stanley once said “those who do not think they have time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness”. In our busy weeks we must search for effective and efficient exercise programs. For example, utilizing interval or H.I.I.T cardio workouts or focused weight training sessions. A recent review of the literature described the minimal amount of strength training required to produce strength gains.
Previously we thought major muscle groups must be strengthened 2-3 days per week for strength gains, but more recent research has highlighted the benefits of a single session of weight training per week. A recent systematic review and meta analysis in the journal Sports Medicine indicated the threshold may require even less time (Androulakis-Korakakis et al. 2019). The authors sought to determine the minimal therapeutic exercise dosage to improve strength. They reviewed 6 studies using squat and bench press exercises and found the minimal exercise prescription included a single set of 6-12 repetitions at 70-85% of 1 RM (ex. moderate to hard). A key was the intensity or relative muscular failure at the completion of the set. This program was completed 2-3 times per week for 8-12 weeks. Authors noted these strength improvements were “suboptimal, but significant”.
In short, one moderate to hard set to failure, 2-3 times per week for 8-12 weeks can improve strength, but participants are encouraged to spend more time each week to reach optimal strength gains.