For those who repeatedly use the excuse that there just isn’t enough time in the day to do any meaningful exercise, a recent research study begs to differ. This study showed that the same strength gains can be made by doing one set, to failure, of 7 basic exercises as opposed to 3-5 sets for each. But the key is to remember that you have to reach muscular exhaustion by the end of the set.
For the study, 34 healthy young men, who previously did some resistance training, were randomized into three groups. One of the groups performed 5 sets of each exercise, another performed 3 sets of each exercise, and the last performed just one set of each exercise. All three groups exercised three days/week, rested for 90 seconds between sets, and were required to lift to failure between 8-12 repetitions. Seven basic and straight-forward exercises were performed, including bench press and leg press, to cover all muscle groups. The group that completed 5 sets spent about 70 minutes in the gym. The group that completed 3 sets spent about 40 minutes on their workouts. The third group that performed only 1 set per exercise spent an average of 13 minutes in the gym. After eight weeks, their muscles were measured and compared to their baseline measurements from the beginning of the intervention.
All of the men increased their strength after the eight weeks, and regardless of which group they were in, all of the strength gains were essentially the same. Additionally, muscular endurance was about the same in all three groups. The only thing that differed was muscle size, which increased more in the group of men that performed 5 sets of each exercise than the groups that only did three sets or one set. Based on these findings, one can surmise that spending less than twenty minutes in the gym, three days per week, can yield increases in muscular strength and endurance. But remember, you must push your muscles to failure, meaning that you cannot perform another repetition of the exercise. No more excuses. We can all find an extra 13 minutes.