Shorter Strength Training Sessions Can Still Improve Muscle Gains, New Study Says

Strength training requires less time per week than originally estimated, according to a new study.
(Photo by bernardbodo / Getty Images.) In their recent journal study, a team of American and British strength-training experts sought to discover if short strength sessions with varied lifting techniques would improve muscle gains.

Contrary to popular belief, a new journal study claims that strength training, unlike aerobic exercise, can be adequately performed in less than one hour per week.

"Neither Repetition Duration nor Number of Muscle Actions Affect Strength Increases" was published in the August edition of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolismclaims. The researchers, a team of American and British strength-training experts, sought to discover if short strength sessions with varied lifting techniques would improve muscle gains. 

The researchers divided 62 middle-age, male participants among three 10-week-long training protocols. Once a week, all participants performed two strength sessions that included chest presses, leg presses and pull downs. However, the researchers controlled for speed. The first group performed all lifts with two seconds of concentric muscle contraction (raising) and four seconds of eccentric contraction (lowering). The second group did so with 10 seconds of concentric and eccentric muscle contraction, and the third group did so with 30 seconds, respectively.

All reps were preformed to "momentary failure," according to the researchers. This occurred at approximately 12 reps with the first group, four reps with the second group and one rep with the third group—meaning each participant, regardless of group, experienced about 90 seconds of muscle contraction.

The subjects all experienced significant gains over 10 weeks, but none more than others. 

“Our paper showed that you don’t need to spend two hours in the gym five times a week, as many people think,” James Fisher, the study's lead author and a professor at Southampton Solent University in Hampshire, England, told The Washington Post. “Even trained individuals continue to make gains with less than an hour a week. My own workouts take less than 20 minutes, twice a week.”

The study's abstract states: "Repetition duration does not affect the increases in strength in trained participants where exercise is performed to momentary failure. Since time constraints and perceived difficulty are often cited barriers to exercise, it is important to recognise that the low-volume (single-set), machine-based protocol employed herein produced worthwhile strength increases in trained participants."

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