In our Boulder Physical Therapy and Lafayette Physical Therapy clinics cardio is king for many of our patients. Although gaining in popularity, weight training unfortunately falls behind cardiovascular training in training frequency, intensity, and duration. Patients not performing strength training can run the risk of reduced bone density, loss of muscle mass, reduced performance, and increased injury risk compared to their peers who do participate in strength training along with cardiovascular exercise.
To many strength training may not be as enjoyable as taking their bike out on a long duration, zone 2, bike ride or lacing up their shoes for a hike or run. One memorable patient told me she didn’t like weight training, but wanted the benefits, and wanted to know the least amount she could do in the gym. I told her to simply lift heavier causing her to lower her repetitions to 8 from 15 and getting the workouts done relatively sooner. A recent review of literature looks to answer the question for the patients looking for a minimalist approach to strength training.
Behm and colleagues published their review of the literature on strength training and prescription in the journal Sports Medicine (2023). Their goal was to identify a lower level of exercise prescription for strength training which could benefit individuals new to this form of exercise. They reported one weekly session, 3 sets x 20-30 reps (50% of 1 rep max), of multi joint exercises lead to positive health gains. Of course, meeting national guidelines on strength training led to further health benefits but this identified the lowest beneficial amount.