There is good news for those who are hopelessly drowning in work, merrymaking and getting endless invitations to the events in town and cannot seem to find the time (or motivation) to hit the gym or the track. Or maybe you prefer to lift potato chips than weights and find that you are not cut out for the long hours in the gym.
As hopeless as you feel your motivation ebb away with every burger and beer pint, your goal for toned and lean muscles or Arnold-esque physique becomes all but as hazy a goal as your memory of last night’s drinking session over pizza and fries.
Chin up, soldier! A new study has found that to improve your muscular strength and size, you need not become a gym-dwelling hermit nor beat your body into submission an entire morning – all you need is one quick set of each exercise as compared to what gym sages tell you about needing to finish unlimited sets that seemed unending and spirit-crushing.
However, the one set is no walk in the park either; it needs to deplete you at the end of eight to twelve repetitions (reps).
A set is defined as a number of reps you do of any given exercise, such as the number of times you lift a dumbbell in a given way with your biceps. Usually, the advice is to aim for eight to twelve reps on an exercise and try to exhaust your muscles to the point it cannot lift anymore temporarily until they are rested.
Are Three Sets Really Helpful? Or Will One Do Just As Well?
For those who lift weights regularly, you would have heard that if size, power and stamina is your goal, you should finish three sets of each exercise and really break a sweat.
However, there is little scientific support for this notion and many available studies in this area are focused on people new to sports whose muscles respond more drastically to any amount of intensive exercise. A new study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise by researchers at Lehman College and other institutions set out to test just how much exercise do our muscles need to grow.
The researchers recruited 34 men who were not big weightlifters but did regular weight training. Splitting them up into three groups, the researchers then gave them differing instructions. One group was to complete five sets of each of the seven exercises with ninety seconds of rest between sets that work out to be 70 minutes of gym time; the second group was given three sets over a 40-minute session; the last group only needed to finish one set that took them just 13 minutes.
Each volunteer did their exercises accordingly three times a week for 8 weeks and then had their progress measured. All the participants were found to be stronger than before, but it was interesting and surprising to note that the improvements in strength were the same across the three groups despite the difference in the number of sets. Only the size of muscles was different, with those who completed the most sets sporting larger muscles. They were not stronger than the rest in any significant way.
Strength VS Hypertrophy
The results showed that hypertrophy, or muscle size, is not really indicative of muscular strength and that a lean-built person can be as strong as one more burly. The study also suggested that to gain this strength, you can with just one intensive set of lifts compared to three or five sets.
Each set should work your muscles to feeling exhausted in the last rep of each set, your muscles should be unable to lift anymore until you have rested them.
However, many people workout to that level of intensity during a gym session and thus the strength gain is smaller and slower as compared to one who slogs away at the barbells. The key is to lift to the point of failure, or the inability to carry on, in order for the training to be successful. To do this, there is a little balancing act you will have to do. And by that, we do not mean to lift dumbbells on a tight rope.
Remember, your muscles have to fail at the end of a set. So you will have to lift a weight that will exhaust your muscles at the end of, say, the eighth or twelfth rep. If you are new or fairly inexperienced with weight-lifting, it may take a few trials and errors to figure what your optimum weight is. You may consult a fitness instructor to find a suitable weight, achieve good form and design a training regime to help you reach your goals.
Then Is The Mystery All Worked Out?
Inspiring and motivating as the study may be, it was nonetheless conducted on a short-term basis and involved only young men. Thus, it is not known if the research will reach the same conclusion with women and older folks. However, the researchers reckoned that the results should be similar across age and between sexes.
So now, get off your couch and get cracking!