For most people, a single set of 12 repetitions with the proper weight can build strength and improve fitness as effectively as can multiple sets of the same exercise.
The one-set approach also has the advantage of saving time, which makes it easier to fit into an exercise routine. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends incorporating strength-training exercises into a fitness routine at least two times a week.
During strength training, simply choose a weight that tires your muscles around the 12th repetition. As this becomes easier, gradually increase the amount of weight to maintain a 12-repetition fatigue.
It's important to use proper technique to avoid injury. Also, take time to rest between each exercise to give your muscles time to recover.
Although a single set of strength training exercises can improve muscle strength and fitness, the number of sets that you perform may differ depending on your fitness goals. For example, if you're a bodybuilder or an elite athlete with specific performance enhancement goals, then additional strength training sets may be appropriate.
March 26, 2015
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- ACSM information on… Resistance training for health and fitness. American College of Sports Medicine. http://www.acsm.org/access-public-information/brochures-fact-sheets/brochures. Accessed March 12, 2015.
- 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.health.gov/PAGUIDELINES/guidelines/default.aspx. Accessed March 10, 2015.
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