You know now that if you want to increase muscle strength and size without putting in extra time, just one set per week is all you need. As mentioned in a previous post, for many of you the “#1 Reason You’re Not Getting Stronger” may not be because you’re doing too little, it might be because you’re doing too much. Rest time is vital--it’s where your body has a chance to rebuild and repair. Depending on lifestyle, some muscles can take a few days to repair, while some can take a few weeks. One set per week gives your body the necessary rest it deserves and needs.
So let’s say you’re going to do just one set per week...what does it look like? Well, it’s short, it’s intense, and it’s effective.
You’re only doing one set per week so the stress is short and by definition not long-lasting or chronic. This is a good thing because as the old adage goes, the dose makes the poison. The set works so well because it’s acute and it’s not abused by being elongated and excessive. Because it’s not overdone, you’ll be allowing your body to recover. Contrary to this is conventional strength training multiple times per week which, when practiced at many prescribed intensities, inherently becomes a chronic stressor.
Although you won’t be putting in extra time with multiple sets, you will be putting in an extra effort equal to multiple sets. This set is an intense, albeit acute, stress on your body. The intensity will force your body to respond with direct physical adaptations. The severe stress triggers a brief increase in the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, raises heart rate, increases blood pressure and fatigues and breaks down muscle tissue. In order to cope with all these stressors your body changes and adapts so that the next time these come around, you’ll be better prepared to handle them. Your body adapts by building lean muscle mass, becoming more efficient at cycling nutrient-rich blood to muscle, increasing heat shock proteins and BDNF (more on these in a later post), among lots of other benefits.
This one set per week will fatigue all your muscles types, going from the slow-twitch/fatiguing (more numerous but less powerful), to the medium-twitch/fatiguing (average number and average power), to the fast-twitch/fatiguing (less numerous but very powerful) at the very end of the set (study & study). Since you’re using all your muscle fiber types, you’re able to completely fatigue all of them. It’s no wonder this one set has been shown to increase strength about 50% more than conventional strength training (study).
So, again, what does this one set look like? It’s a protocol that uses a 5-10 second concentric and eccentric for compound or single-joint strength movements. You’ll use about 75% of your one rep maximum for the given movement and go until you can no longer move the weight. That’s it!
It’s short: You’ll do your one set for about 90 seconds--and that’s about all you’ll last.
It’s intense: You’ll be shaking as your fast-twitch muscle fibers are engaged toward the end of the set. You’ll have set off a hormone cascade to build muscle and get stronger.
It’s effective: You’ll completely tax and exhaust your muscles--there won’t be any glycogen left for you to use.
Whether you’ve plateaued in your training or are new to strength training, this is the most effective workout you can do to increase strength and muscle size. And it’s only once per week. Try it out on machines first using 75% of your one rep maximum for a chest press, pull down, or leg press and let us know how it goes! Once you do, you’ll realize why you only need to do it once a week. Let us know how it goes!
In Excellent Health,
Garrett & Luc