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Strength training: how much time do you really need to spend in the gym?

Good news for runners: you don't need to spend hours in the gym every week to improve performance

strength training with weights for running

As runners, we know we’re supposed to strength train to avoid injuries and improve performance, but between our busy personal lives and already-packed training schedules, finding time for hitting the gym can be a challenge. The good news is, most recent research is telling us we don’t need hours in the weight room in order to see a training effect.

Healthy weight loss.

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In a 2019 study from CUNY Lehman College, professor Brad Schoenfeld determined that doing as little as one set of 8-12 repetitions of a series of exercises three times per week can improve performance. The exercises in his study were:

  • bench press
  • military press
  • lat pulldown
  • seated cable row
  • back squat
  • leg press
  • unilateral leg extension

To perform the study, Schoenfeld placed 34 healthy, resistance-trained men into one of three groups: a low-volume group performing one set per exercise per training session, a moderate-volume group performing three sets per exercise per training session and a high-volume group performing five sets per exercise per training session. Each group performed the exercises three times per week for eight consecutive weeks.

The results showed that all three groups — even the ones who only did one set of exercises — showed an increase in strength gains after the eight-week period. Of course, the groups who did three and five sets showed much greater gains in terms of hypertrophy (muscle growth), but if you’re simply looking to get a bit stronger and avoid injuries, one set appears to do the job.

The best part about this? The participants who did only one set of exercises only took 13 minutes to complete their workout. So no, you don’t have to spend hours of time in the gym to reap the benefits of strength training. All you need is consistent, short but effective sessions to become a stronger, more resilient and faster runner.

RELATED: At-home strength training: resistance band workout for runners

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