Lift for 13 minutes

You’ll save time without sacrificing strength.

If you’re adding sets to your lifting routine to gain strength and endurance, your energy is going to waste, according to new research in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

For the study, 34 resistance-trained men were asked to perform either one, three, or five sets of seven different exercise that worked major muscle groups three times per week. After eight weeks, those who did three or five sets per session had larger muscles—but everyone, even the men in the single-set group, gained the same amount of muscular strength and endurance.
The one-set strategy will only work for you if you’re already fit and you’re willing to work your hardest during that set. The men in the study were highly trained and lifted weights that brought them to failure within eight to 12 reps.

Past research shows that if you’re untrained, you’ll gain more strength the more sets you do. So if you’re a beginner or you’re just coming back from an injury, this plan isn’t for you, says Dylan Coleman, a Tier 3+ trainer at Equinox Greenwich Avenue in New York City, who adds that the results (and this caveat) are likely true for women as well.
If you’re a regular lifter not looking to add more muscle size, you can cut your sessions short without sacrificing strength or endurance.

For your next training cycle, try the 13-minute routine from the study three days per week. Complete eight to 12 reps of the following exercises (or choose two exercises for each major muscle group, Coleman says) with weights that will bring you to failure: flat barbell bench press, barbell military press, wide-grip lateral pulldown, seated cable row, barbell back squat, machine leg press, and unilateral machine leg extension.