Resistance Training – Rule #3

Resistance training can be a nightmare.  Look around the gym and you will likely see everyone doing things their own way.  Three sets of 10?  One set of 15?  Light weights, more reps?  Heavy weights, less reps?  Which is best?  Things can be very confusing, especially if you don’t know whose advice to follow.  Perhaps you should copy that big lifting those big dumbbells?  He seems to know what he’s doing?

In order to clarify things a little, I normally give new members three rules to abide by.  Of course, there is no substitute for personalised instruction from a fitness professional and of course there are always specific situations where these rules can be broken.  However they are suitable for most new exercisers and if applied, you can’t go far wrong.

Resistance Training Rule 3

One set only

What!? I hear you say!?  Just one set?  I can’t get an adequate workout with just one set!  No way!

How do I know you are saying this?  Because it is exactly what I said when I first heard of the one set max principle.  Inevitably though I had to rethink the way I wrote member programmes in light of the research presented to me.

The one set max principle states that a significant proportion of the gains made during resistance training are made during the first set.  So, by default we can make “significant gains” by executing one set only.  Think about that for a second.  You can make almost as much progress as you currently make doing three sets, but in a third of the time!  Who can argue with that?

This is interesting for all kinds of reasons, but I feel the primary reason to adopt the one set max principle is because it benefits exercise adherence.  We know that member drop out rates directly correlate with the length and intensity of the workout they do.  Basically the longer and harder your workout, the more likely you are to drop out.    From this angle the benefits of the one set max principle are hard to resist!

I find it increasingly strange that instructors write programmes for new members that last any longer than 45 minutes.  Long arduous programmes might be effective if the member sticks with it, but research shows that as a whole they don’t.  They quit, and that makes the supa dupa 2 hour long programme useless.  Using the one set max principle helps negate dropout and we know that new members are vulnerable for the first 12 weeks.

Of course, there are those who like to work at intensities that make their eyes bleed.  Hell, I’m one of them and eventually, you may be too.  For the first 12 weeks though you should give the one set max principle a try.  Muscular fatigue, 8 – 12 reps and one set max are the way to go for most new members.


~ by Tony's Desk on September 23, 2008.

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