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What is the most efficient way for a beginning weight lifter to become stronger?

A study from the University of Sydney in Australia shows that you benefit either from increasing the number of sets of repetitions or from training faster, but not both. Weight lifters were divided into four groups: 1) one set fast 2) three sets fast, 3) one set slow 3) three sets slow. A control group did no lifting. A set was the heaviest weight that they could lift six to eight times in a row. They trained three times a week for six weeks (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, September 2005).

The group that did one slow set increased strength by 25 percent. Three sets produced twice the increase in strength of one set. Fast training resulted in a greater increase in strength than slow training. There was a benefit of training with three sets or fast speeds, but there was no additive benefit of training with both. So unless you are an athlete who needs speed to compete, you can follow a regimen that emphasizes increasing weight, rather than moving faster.

If you want to become strong, check with your doctor to make sure that you do not have a condition that will be aggravated by heavy exercise. Then pick several different exercises, such as a bench press, upright row, and so forth. Start out with a weight that you can lift comfortably six to ten times in a row. Do one set in each exercise, and repeat this workout three times a week. As you become comfortable with this workout, increase to three sets of 6 to 10 repetitions. When you are comfortable with this workout, increase the weight that you lift.

Important! If you are middle-aged or older, please read my recommended program of Weight Lifting for Seniors

Checked 7/10/12

May 11th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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