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Training less than an hour a week produced results similar to five times as much

PainSci » bibliography » Schoenfeld et al 2018
Tags: exercise, strength, self-treatment, treatment, muscle

One article on PainSci cites Schoenfeld 2018: Strength Training Frequency

PainSci notes on Schoenfeld 2018:

This study looked at muscular adaptations to different dosages of resistance training in 34 experienced men. Three groups all did three workouts per week for eight weeks, but one group did just a single set per exercise in their workouts, another group did three, and another did five. Everyone's muscle strength, endurance, and size improved. The surprise in the results was that the low-volume group got results very nearly as good as the high-volume group.

Lead author Brad Schoenfeld summarizes the study like this: “Probably the biggest thing that’s gotten lost about our new study on [training] volume was the finding that training less than 45 mins a week produced the same strength and muscular endurance increases as training 5 times as much in resistance trained men. That’s kind of a big deal.”

It really is a big deal, which is partly why New York Times health writer Gretchen Reynolds covered the story. There was fierce criticism from some readers, but mostly concerning bodybuilding (muscle growth); study co-author James Krieger (and prolific blogger) responded extensively. For most people’s purposes, these results are reliable and meaningful, and consistent with many other similar studies.

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to evaluate muscular adaptations between low-, moderate-, and high-volume resistance training (RT) protocols in resistance-trained men.

METHODS: Thirty-four healthy resistance-trained men were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 experimental groups: a low-volume group (1SET) performing 1 set per exercise per training session (n = 11); a moderate-volume group (3SET) performing 3 sets per exercise per training session (n = 12); or a high-volume group (5SET) performing 5 sets per exercise per training session (n = 11). Training for all routines consisted of three weekly sessions performed on non-consecutive days for 8 weeks. Muscular strength was evaluated with 1 repetition maximum (RM) testing for the squat and bench press. Upper-body muscle endurance was evaluated using 50% of subjects bench press 1RM performed to momentary failure. Muscle hypertrophy was evaluated using B-mode ultrasonography for the elbow flexors, elbow extensors, mid-thigh and lateral thigh.

RESULTS: Results showed significant pre-to-post intervention increases in strength and endurance in all groups, with no significant between-group differences. Alternatively, while all groups increased muscle size in most of the measured sites from pre-to-post intervention, significant increases favoring the higher volume conditions were seen for the elbow flexors, mid-thigh, and lateral thigh.

CONCLUSION: Marked increases in strength and endurance can be attained by resistance-trained individuals with just three, 13-minute weekly sessions over an 8-week period, and these gains are similar to that achieved with a substantially greater time commitment. Alternatively, muscle hypertrophy follows a dose-response relationship, with increasingly greater gains achieved with higher training volumes.

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Specifically regarding Schoenfeld 2018:

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