Can you build muscle and strength with just a one-set workout routine? Here is what the experts say. Perhaps you will not exercise like this every day, but when time or motivation are limiting factors, try to do at least one set of exercises for each body part instead of doing the usual three to four sets.

That way, you will stay in shape, and you will still have enough time to do what you have planned for the day. In its simplest form, workout volume is the number of sets you do while working out.

Most of the experts agree that you should do three sets per exercise. However, some experts believe that one set done correctly is all you need. So who is right? Actually, the question should be: “Is anyone wrong”?

woman doing one set workout with dumbbells

One For All

One set of one exercise for all major muscle groups two to three times a week represents a minimal condition for most people to progress in strength and fitness.

Minimal condition is a key factor we should remember here. Several studies done on beginners support these recommendations. Results have shown that doing both one set or more sets (usually three sets per exercise) have a similar outcome.

However, one set will be enough for women that are just starting out or ones with less than six months of experience in lifting that just want to stay in shape or have little time to go to the gym.

For those that are more experienced, it all comes to time vs. results. If you do not have enough time to work out, you can expect the results that are less than optimal, while those that workout for a longer period can expect better results.

However, if your workout is of high enough intensity even if you do only one set and you reach the point where you are no longer able to do any more repetitions, you can expect very decent results from that set alone.

In other words, if you maximize that one set, it is all you need. You need to maximize each repetition and lower the speed of performing them. So by increasing the intensity, you can shorten the time of your workouts and still get good results.

Even tho the increase of intensity is not the only way to secure progress, it is one of the variables that you can manipulate to progress.

You can change different variables in your workout program to secure your constant progress. For example, some of those variables are the weight that you are lifting, the duration of the breaks between the sets, the kind of exercise you are doing, and the workout volume.

The best way to keep on track is to manipulate all of these variables over time. The workout volume is the most fundamental variable because it is practically equal to the volume of work you put in your training.

So it is common sense that if you want to constantly progress, you eventually need to increase the workout volume.

This is also scientifically proven in one study; it turned out that the progress was the same in the first three months of exercising for all the women involved in the study, no matter if the had one or three sets of exercises.

But after those three months, only the women that were doing three sets of exercises continued to progress.

women doing one set workout

One vs. Three

Many studies show that three sets are much better than one set. The studies show that three sets are not only better regarding strength but also regarding the loss of body fat.

Some studies show that three sets are the best for beginners, while those with more experience should do even more than four sets per exercise to continue progressing.

One of the studies has shown that women that were doing only one set of eight exercises for different body parts lost, on average, only eighty calories on each training.

When lifting weights to burn fat, the most important thing is for the metabolism to be accelerated not only during the workouts but after them as well, and that happens only if you are doing at least three sets per exercise.

In the end, the decision is yours since you are the one who knows how much time you can spare during the day to do your workout. But whatever you decide, you have to remember the following: it is vital to use various techniques and exercises.

Intense workouts with only one set for each exercise is maybe exactly what your body needs after many years of working out in the gym.

Try it both or combine it during the week. It is much better doing at least one set than not working out at all.

A Few One Set Tips

Whether you decided on one set workouts alone or you just want to add them to your workout routine, we have a few tips that can help you to achieve better results.

1. Intensity Is Crucial

To count that one set as three, you need to use adequate weights, meaning those weights that will lead to muscle fatigue.

2. Slowdown

Another way to increase the intensity is to do the repetitions slower. It would be best that you do the positive phase of repetition (or lifting) for ten seconds and to do the negative phase of repetition for the exact same time.

Slow execution of the repetition maximizes the intensity of every repetition of every set.

3. Workout Regularly

If you are working out regularly, you can have maximum gain out of the low-intensity workout. It would be best to work out three times a week, but even two times a week is not that bad. In the end, even once a week is better than nothing.

4. Feel Free To Mix

This goes for the choice of exercises and the number of repetitions.

5. Reduce The Breaks Between the Sets To Minimum

During those workouts where you are doing a large number of repetitions, go from one exercise to the other with a break that is just long enough for you to get the needed equipment or to adjust it.

Reduce the time of the break between exercises gradually to the point where you can switch from exercises to exercise with almost no break at all.

On those training, when you are doing a moderate number of repetitions, limit the break between sets from sixty to ninety seconds. Breaks of this length should be your end goal, so try and reach it.


Whether you decide to do one set or three and more sets of repetitions per exercise and just include one set days in your workout routine, what is important is to work out regularly in order to have a healthy and muscular body.

There are many good options for workout programs, and it is not that hard finding one that will fit into your daily routine, so there are no excuses for not being fit and healthy.