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Stronger in Less Time: Discover the Potency & Efficiency of One-Set Strength Training!

Strength training triggers an increase in metabolic rate immediately following a…
A man performing one set for strength training


Strength training boosts metabolism post-workout, with a lasting effect of up to 72 hours. One-set strength training can achieve the same metabolic increase as a traditional 3-set, 10-repetition workout.



One Set vs. Three Sets

Strength training is often referred to as a solution to speed up your metabolism and turn your body into a calorie-burning machine. But does it really work, and can you get the same benefits from a shorter workout? Let’s take a closer look.

Weights are generally lifted for sets of multiple repetitions. Let’s refer to this as the “traditional method.” Each time you lift and lower a weight, it is one repetition. Multiple repetitions makes up a set, and once you have stopped or taken a break from lifting, the set is over.

The most common way to lift is used in the traditional method where you lift for 3 sets of 10 repetitions, whether you hit muscle failure or not. Lifting speeds vary but on average let’s assume the traditional speed is 1 second lifting, 1 second pausing (or none at all), and 1 second lowering.

The Perfect Workout Method uses lifting for one set until muscle failure. This method is also referred to as high-intensity training. If the exercise is performed for 1-2 minutes, which is the recommended length of time to achieve maximum efficiency and effectiveness, then that generally ends up being 3-6 repetitions. The lifting speed used is 10 seconds lifting, 0-3 seconds pausing, and 10 seconds lowering.

So to simplify….

Traditional method: 3 sets of 10 repetitions | 30 repetitions total

One-set method: 1 set of 3-6 repetitions | 3-6 repetitions total

One study compared the two different workout protocols. The first was a full-body workout using one set of each exercise, while the second featured three sets of each exercise.

The researchers measured the energy (calories) burned at rest for a week after each workout. Surprisingly, there was no difference in the amount of energy burned between the two groups, even though the three-set workout took much longer.

As the researchers predicted, energy expenditure for both groups was much higher during each of the first three days. However, there was NO difference between the two groups. A workout using one set per exercise increased metabolism to the same degree that a three-set routine did for 24, 48, and 72 hours afterwards.

Both groups increased their daily energy expenditure by about 100 calories on the following day and that rate decreased to roughly 90 and 80 for two and three days after. This isn’t enough to lead to significant weight loss on its own, but it can help with fat loss and weight maintenance.

In fact, strength training was the second most popular physical activity/exercise for people who have successfully maintained 30-lb weight loss for at least one year (following walking). It could explain why they’ve been so successful.

If you’re strength training twice a week, the benefits of the workout may be ongoing, since your resting energy expenditure could remain elevated. Plus, you can save time by doing a shorter, single-set training workout.

Read about how More is NOT Better when it comes to exercise!



How To Have A Successful One-Set Workout:

Each exercise is performed by lifting weights or added resistance for approximately 10 seconds and lowering the weight for another 10 seconds with correct form and proper resistance. The ultimate goal is to achieve momentary muscular failure (aka. muscle success) within 1 to 2 minutes. Then on to the next exercise!

Slowing the lifting speed reduces momentum on each repetition and activates the muscles instantly and more effectively. As a result, more muscle fibers are used and ultimately strengthened. One session consists of anywhere between 5-9 exercises and is generally performed 1-2 times a week.


In theory, you can hit all major muscle groups with just 4 exercises:

  • Leg Press: Glutes, Quadriceps, Calves
  • Chest/Bench Press: Pectorals, Shoulders, Triceps
  • Lat Pulldown: Lats, Biceps, Abdominals
  • Leg Curl: Hamstrings


Depending on your goals, you can also incorporate other exercises to target specific muscle areas, including:

  • Leg Extension: Quadriceps
  • Preacher Curl: Biceps, Forearms
  • Tricep Extension: Triceps
  • Hip Abduction: Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minor, TFL
  • Hip Adduction: Inner Thighs
  • Compound Row: Trapezoids, Rhomboids, Biceps (often interchangeable for Lat Pulldown)
  • Abdominal Machine: Abdominals


With a one-set workout it’s important to remember to go slow, avoid rest between reps, keep going until muscle failure- and that’s that! When done correctly, a single set can get you all the benefits you need from strength training and save you tons of time!


What Have We Learned?

Strength training can be an effective way to increase metabolism, burn calories, and improve overall health. The traditional method of lifting for three sets of 10 repetitions is a common approach, but studies suggest that a shorter, one-set workout can produce the same benefits.

The key is to lift slowly with proper form until muscle failure is achieved, which can be done in just 1-2 minutes per exercise. By incorporating strength training into your exercise routine, you may be able to increase your resting energy expenditure and help with fat loss and weight maintenance. And with the one-set method, you can save time while still achieving the desired results.

So whether you’re looking to build muscle, improve your health, or maintain weight loss, consider adding strength training to your routine with a one-set workout.


  1. Heden TT. One-set resistance training elevates energy expenditure for 72 h similar to three sets. Eur J Appl Physiol 111: 3: 477-484, 2011.
  2. Catenacci VVA. Physical Activity Patterns in the National Weight Control Registry. 16: 1: 153-161, 2008.

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