Research Spotlight: Train a little to achieve a lot. Whats the minimum dose of strength training required for results?

Man strengthening his lower back on the F3.1 lower back machine

Is more exercise always better? Probably not, this research shows that 1 session of 20min was enough to build strength, no matter how old you are.

While regular strength training is part of a number of physical activity guidelines worldwide, most research on strength training covers a relatively short period of time (around 2 years). In order to investigate the long term effectiveness of strength training, researchers out of the UK embarked on a study of over 14,500 participants over nearly 7 years. This makes it the largest study thus far of the long term strength adaptations to resistance training. 

Background of the Study
The researchers were able to investigate such a large number of participants over such a long time through the use of digital training data from a group of strength training facilities in the Netherlands. These facilities use equipment similar to those found in Kieser and they have a similar training environment with no mirrors or music. The participants of the study completed six exercises once per week which included chest press (similar to D6), pulldown (similar to C2), leg press (similar to B6), abdominal flexion (similar to F2), back extension (similar to F3), and either hip adduction or abduction (similar to A3/A4). 

Training methods of this study were very similar to the methods used at Kieser, with participants training to fatigue between 80-120 seconds. This meant participants completed their training programs in less than 20 minutes.

Results of the study
With training conditions so similar to training conditions at Kieser and such a large cohort of participants, we at Kieser were very interested in seeing the results of this study. 

The researchers found that while the participants gained strength throughout their nearly 7 years of training, the most rapid strength gains were found in the first year of training. In fact, on average participants saw an average 30-50% increase in strength after their first year and after six years they only saw an average 50-60% increase from their baseline. This is consistent with previous studies on strength training which all show a significant plateau after the first year. At Kieser we describe this as an individuals reaching their genetic strength potential, which is usually reached after the first year of consistent training. 

In addition, these findings were consistent across both genders and all age groups studied. The results showed that while the 30 year old participants started at a higher average level of strength than the 70 year old participants, they both reached their genetic potential plateau after 1 year. While the 30 year old participants had higher levels of strength as their genetic potential than the 70 year old participants, they were all able to maintain that strength over the next six years. See Figure 1 for more detail.

Considering that strength in older adults naturally declines by an average of 1% each year, the results of this study show that regular strength training not only halted this decline in strength, but older adults maintained a rate of strength gain over time, consistent with younger populations.

What makes these results particularly interesting is that participants were able to reach their natural strength potential and maintain their strength with only one 20 minute session each week.

Overall, this study is a fantastic resource for the entire Kieser community as it shows that no matter how old we are, or how deconditioned we may be, that with a relatively small amount of consistent strength trianing we are all able to reach our genetic potential for strength and maintain it overtime. 

Steele, James & Fisher, James & Giessing, Jürgen & Androulakis-Korakakis, Patroklos & Wolf, Milo & Kroeske, Bram & Reuters, Rob. (2021). Long-term time-course of strength adaptation to minimal dose resistance training: Retrospective longitudinal growth modelling of a large cohort through training records. 10.31236/osf.io/eq485. 

 Figure 1. Age interaction model fitted values and 95% compatibility (confidence) intervals

Figure 1. Age interaction model fitted values and 95% compatibility (confidence) intervals

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Multi-Disciplinary Care at Kieser - Written by Physio, Catherine Banks