A new study suggests that quality not quantity is the name of the game if you hope to get the most out of your weight training. According to a story in The New York Times, recent research shows that completing a single set of a given exercise carries essentially the same muscular benefits as doing three or five, as long as you do it properly.
Published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the study found the group of young men sitting as the study’s subjects got the same value from 13 minutes of exercise as they did from 70. The men who only completed one set improved at the same rate as the men who did five in categories like muscular endurance and strength, and lagged only slightly behind in muscle size.
The key is to lift to the point of failure, more plainly—to lift without stopping until you physically can’t complete another rep. Fatigue the muscle. Typically, a single set consists of 8-10 reps, and if you power through without stopping, 13 minutes of work across a couple exercises can make for a full workout, according to the study. “That’s less than a fourth of someone’s lunch hour. Most of us can probably find that much time in our day,” said Dr. Brad Schoenfeld, the study’s lead author.
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