We know that low volumes of resistance training can lead to significant muscle and strength gains, but what’s the absolute least amount of time you need to spend resistance training per week to see strength gains?
What did they test? The authors analyzed a large dataset of roughly 15 thousand individuals who performed resistance training for 20 minutes weekly.
What did they find? 20 minutes of resistance training per week resulted in substantial strength gains in the first 1-2 years and then reached a plateau.
What does it mean for you? While you should not necessarily aim to resistance train for 20 minutes per week, minimum dose training can be a viable option for periods with limited time or energy availability.
What’s the Problem?
People often find time availability to be a barrier to resistance training1, with data showing that the perceived time/effort for resistance training is among the main barriers to participation 1. The above may be because of the misconception that for resistance training to result in meaningful physiological adaptations, you must spend multiple hours per week training extremely hard and that anything less than that may not even be worth doing. The relatively toxic “100% or nothing” mentality that is often observed in the “hardcore” lifting community often further contributes to the illusion of “anything less than optimal and you’re wasting your time.” Additionally, many individuals who begin resistance training often find themselves “falling off the wagon” when they go through periods of limited time availability, as they cannot commit to their usual lifting schedule.
That’s where minimum effective dose training comes in handy and can make a huge difference in one’s ability to continue progressing while spending significantly less time and energy in the gym.
The concept of the minimum effective dose is something we’ve partly covered in previous REPS issues. For example, in April’s 2023 issue, we looked at how much resistance training one needs to maximize the health benefits of resistance training and saw that the current literature points to about an hour per week being enough to optimize resistance training-related health benefits.
We have also briefly reviewed the literature on strength and hypertrophy, with data showing that despite not resulting in optimal gains even a handful of sets per week can get you the majority of your strength and hypertrophy gains, regardless of your training status 2. Unfortunately, the current literature on minimum dose training is limited to studies that last anywhere from 6 to 16 weeks, with sample sizes usually around the 15-30 people mark.