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Weight Training: Is One Set Enough?

The physiological benefits of resistance training include increased strength, muscle size, lean body mass, bone mass, and overall physical function. Millions of Americans spend a number of hours each week at the local gym or health club, grinding out set after set in the quest for lifelong health and fitness.

The American College of Sports Medicine and the Surgeon General recommend a weight-training program requiring a minimum of one set of 8-12 repetitions for each muscle trained per exercise, and some research suggests that multiple sets may maximize the physical benefits. However, a recent study in Medicine & Science and Sports & Exercise adds to the mounting evidence that one set per exercise may be just as effective as two or more sets.

Forty-two recreational weightlifters (20-50 years old, averaging 6.2 years of previous training) were divided into two groups and participated in a nine-exercise resistance training circuit. Group 1 performed one set of 8-12 repetitions for each of the nine exercises; Group 2 performed three sets under the same conditions. No significant differences were noted between the two groups after 13 weeks of training, with both groups improving significantly in terms of muscular endurance, one-repetition maximum strength, lean body mass, and overall body composition.

Your doctor of chiropractic can evaluate your current exercise regimen and outline nutritional and exercise guidelines suitable to your needs.


Hass CJ, Garzarella L, de Hoyos D, et al. Single versus multiple sets in long-term recreational weightlifters. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2000: Vol. 32, pp235-42.

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