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For Recreational

Single Sets Do
The Job
ACSM journal reports test outcome that show benefits
similar to three-set reps.

INDIANAPOLIS - The American College of Sports Medicine

(ACSM) recently published a study in its official monthly
journal, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, that
may give time-conscious recreational weightlifters just the
boost they need to stay with their exercise program.

Resistance training (including weightlifting) is a popular and

recommended form of exercise for increasing strength,
improving overall health and decreasing risk of
musculoskeletal injury. Other health benefits include
delaying the onset of frailty associated with aging.
Resistance training involves lifting or moving a weight a
certain number of times (repetitions, or reps) and should
involve the major muscles of the legs, chest, back,
shoulders, abdomen, and arms. Repetitions are frequently
combined into sets, and multiple sets of repetitions have
traditionally been used for weight training recommendations.

Although ACSM and the United States Surgeon General

recommend a single set of eight to 12 repetitions three or
more times a week for general health/fitness, single-set reps
have been generally thought of as for beginners only.

This study asked if increasing the volume of weight training

with multiple sets would result in greater improvements in
muscular strength, muscular endurance and body
composition among long-term experienced adult
recreational weight lifters. To this end, the researchers
designed a protocol to compare the effects of one set of a
nine-exercise circuit with those of three sets of the same

The team of researchers, led by Christopher J. Hass, of the

University of Florida, recruited volunteers from a local
fitness center, stipulating that they be healthy recreational
weightlifters with at least a year's experience. "We knew that
exercise enthusiasts often drop out of their weightlifting
program because it takes too much time," said Hass. "We
wanted to focus on one aspect of a training regimen, and
see if recreational weightlifters could get the same or similar
conditioning results in a shorter time period."

Forty-nine healthy men and women between the ages of 20

and 50 years, all of whom had been performing a one-set
training regimen for at least one year, were selected for the
study. They were asked to maintain their current level of
physical activity (recreational and cardiovascular) for the
duration of the study, and were assigned to one of two
training groups. Both groups did the same nine exercises:
leg extension, leg curl, pullover, arm cross, chest press,
lateral raise, overhead press, biceps curl, and triceps
extension; one set or three sets of eight to 12 reps to
momentary muscular exhaustion. After 13 weeks, the
investigators measured changes in muscle strength and
endurance as well as key measures of body composition in
both groups.

Forty-two of the 49 subjects completed the study (including

30 women); the seven who were unable to continue for one
reason or another were all from the three-set group. The
results of this study supported the idea that both
approaches to weight training were effective in improving
muscular strength and endurance. Both groups improved in
all measures taken over the 13-week period. Of note, the
persons in the group assigned to do the multiple-set
regimen tended to improve an average two percent more
than the group assigned to the single-set regimen, but both
groups showed similar improvements in body composition
measures. This includes a reduction in percent body fat and
an increase in lean body mass.

The data collected supported the hypothesis that both

groups would experience substantial and similar
improvements in muscle strength and endurance, and body
composition, and that additional sets do not significantly
improve those measurements, at least not within the 13
weeks covered by this study. Although not statistically
different, there was a tendency for the multiple-set group to
have greater improvements in muscle endurance, lending
support to a dose-response effect of weight training.

Most importantly, the results show that single-set

regimens remain an effective option for improving
muscular fitness in long-term recreational weightlifters.
This is important for those who desire the muscular
fitness benefits associated with a well rounded physical
fitness program but may not have the time to devote to
multiple set programs.

The researchers were quick to point out that they were

measuring only three factors that improve with strength
training. Such other factors as disease-resistance, bone
mass, and improvements in metabolism, all of which have
been reported as positive results from resistance training,
were not addressed. "Weight training should be an
important component of any fitness regimen," said Hass.
"Obviously the resistance training program should be
tailored to meet each individual's goals, but a healthy
lifestyle doesn't have to be dependent on a rigid high
volume regimen. Our subjects showed enough improvement
that the everyday exerciser should be encouraged."

Source: American College of Sports Medicine

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and
exercise science organization in the world. More than 18,000 members
throughout the U.S. and the world are dedicated to promoting and integrating
scientific research, education, and practical applications of sports medicine and
exercise science to maintain and enhance physical performance, fitness, health,
and quality of life.

NOTE: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise is the official journal of the
American College of Sports Medicine, and is available from Lippincott, Williams
& Wilkins at 1-800-638-6423. For a complete copy of the research paper (Vol.
32, No. 1, page 235) or to speak with a leading sports medicine expert on the
topic, contact the Public Information Department at 317-637-9200.

The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only,
and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of
Sports Medicine.