WOW! You Only Need to Weight Train Once a Week?
It’s true! You only need to weight train for ONE full-body session per week. You only need to pay your personal trainer for ONE visit a week (assuming you do your cardio on your own).
Most people already subscribe to an “all or nothing” approach to their goals. The professional sports media hype encourages that same attitude toward exercise.
People believe that they have to shoot for athlete level or there’s no point in bothering. So they puff themselves up, make an emotional, determined resolution that this time they’re “GONNA DO IT”! They commit to going to the gym somewhere between 3 – 7 times a week. However, for most folks, that’s simply not feasible over the long term.
To put it bluntly: Because most people have more important things to do. So they stop exercising completely.
What’s more, is the belief that fit & healthy people have made a huge commitment of time & energy to accomplish what they have & that anything less is not worth doing. With this belief, the goal of becoming fit & healthy looms large, like an impossible-to-climb, brick wall. Many sedentary people find themselves discouraged before they even bother to try.
Not everybody is interested in committing to become an athlete! Not everyone has the inclination or the time donate to extreme fitness.
What about the CEO of a prominent corporation. Or an award winning architect known for monumental landmarks. Or even a best-selling author whose novels are translated in 17 different languages. Their time is sacrosanct! But to ensure optimal health, these successful people should:
- Be at the gym once per week to stretch & strengthen (maintain) their muscle mass.
- Combine their daily cardio/movement into fun & social time with family & friends.
Are you one of these successful, time pressed individuals? Yes?
Save time & money. Spare your body the inflammation that causes pesky aches, pains, injuries & even illness from over-training.
Weight train once a week (one full-body session) & watch your body transform!
You don’t believe it? Most don’t …
The Physiology Of Weight Training | Why Weight Training Once A Week Works!
- Training to complete muscular exhaustion ensures that you’ve exhausted all the muscle fibres in that particular muscle group (see “Henneman’s Size Principle“).
- By exhausting all the muscle fibres in that particular muscle group, you’ve stimulated each & every fibre to build new contractile units over the next week.
- The muscles actually need 6 to 7 days to recover completely. Training them more often interferes with the recovery process & causes inflammation.
- New contractile units in each & every muscle fibre … This equates to stronger & bigger muscles!
Note: For those who are interested; at the bottom of this article is a glossary of terms. Here is a further explanation of the physiology of why you only need to weight train once a week.
It Even Works For The Big Boys!
The principles of The WOW Method are not original. It started with a gentleman named, Arthur Allen Jones who invented the Nautilus exercise machines. Jones developed the basic tenet principles of High Intensity Training (HIT) as an alternative to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ideal of hour upon hour of weight-lifting in the gym.
- Lifting the weight with strict form & a slow & controlled cadence until momentary muscular failure so as to stimulate all muscle fibres in the targeted muscle group.
- Allowing adequate rest time between workouts to ensure full recovery of the muscle.
- Progressive overload – as strength increases, the weight increases.
Among some of the famous bodybuilders who practiced Jones’ HIT are Casey Viator, Lee Labrada, Mike Mentzer, Sergio Oliva & Dorian Yates.
Different authors have taken Jones’ HIT method & modified it. For instance, Ellington Darden believed in full body workouts while Dorian Yates split his workouts into four different sessions a week. Mike Mentzer advocated in his book, High Intensity Training the Mike Mentzer Way, only one set per muscle group until muscular failure & then rest for 4 -7 days. Dr. Doug McGuff recommends in his book, Body By Science, 5 different exercises using HIT with super slow reps for 90 seconds each.
Wait! But I Don’t Want to Be a Bodybuilder!
Most don’t. We understand that you don’t want to be that weird, muscle-bound, gym person. We understand because we aren’t weird, muscle-bound gym people either.
The fact is that most bodybuilders are bodybuilders because they have a mesomorphic body type & they possess the correct genetics. Not to mention they have the desire to become bodybuilders.
Very rarely will a man or woman grow more muscle mass than they want. If you are mesomorphic & start to become “too big”, then weight train once every two weeks … or even only once a month.
The main goal is to preserve your muscle mass as you become older & prevent it from withering.
Case-in-point: if the bodybuilders above could achieve their ideal form by weight training once per week, then doesn’t it stand to reason that you’ll be able to make significant gains using the same method?
- Ectomorphic: long, thin muscle & low fat storage. Not predisposed to store fat or build muscle.
- Mesomorphic: large bones, above average muscle mass. Predisposed to build muscle.
- Endomorphic: medium bone structure, wide hips. Predisposed to store fat.
It’s Important for EVERYONE to Weight Train Once a Week!
Burn fat like you used to years ago.
A higher metabolism consumes fat faster than a lower metabolism. Slow metabolism during hibernation can sustain a bear, without eating, for months. Speed up & keep that metabolism high!
Muscles are the engines that burn calories.
Sometime between the ages of 25 – 35, you start to lose half a pound of muscle per year. Unfortunately, a lost muscle fibre can never be re-gained. Year after year, as the muscle fibre loss accumulates, the amount of calories you burn decreases as well. This is why people seem to replace muscle with fat as they age.
However, if you weight train, you keep most of your muscle! You also build up existing muscle mass while you’re at it (meaning – grow more contractile units into the existing muscle fibres).
Weight lifting leads to increased muscle strength & size, which in turn will boost your metabolism. Increased metabolism will burn more calories for as long as you have that muscle density – even while sleeping!
Increased muscle mass = Increased metabolism = Increased calories burned = Increased fat loss!
Another perk, increased muscle mass helps the body to manage blood sugar levels. Meaning, you can get away with a little more sugar (or alcohol, bread, potatoes, pasta) before your body will convert it to fat.
EVERYONE needs to weight train with correct form, impeccable posture & an effective amount of weight (although for some people a physician’s clearance may be necessary).
Why Wait Seven Days Before Hitting the Gym Again?
As Dr. Doug McGuff states, “’the average muscle recovery time for the general population is seven days.” The building of new tissues within the body can only happen at a set rate. At this set rate it usually takes a full seven days to:
- Dissipate the fatigue & inflammation
- Repair the tears in the muscle fibres
- Build new contractile units within the muscle fibres
- Strengthen the tendons, ligaments, fascia & bones so that they are strong enough to support the stronger muscles
Even if seven days seems like a long time, rest assured, you will not start to lose muscle during that time (unless you diet improperly).
Why Only One Set per Muscle Group?
Dr. Doug McGuff states that multiple weight-training sets are akin to pressing the elevator button again & again – when the first press of the elevator button already called the elevator car.
Just the same, one set is all it takes to stimulate the building of new contractile units within the muscle fibre. Further sets simply increase the fatigue, wear & tear & inflammation. Then, the body has to expend more energy to recover.
How Heavy Should I Weight Train?
Dr. Doug McGuff explains in his book, Body by Science that light weights are not effective. The slow twitch fibres will be recruited first, but because they fatigue so slowly, by the time the fast twitch fibres are starting to be triggered, some of the slow-twitch motor units will have started to recover & are cycling back into the contraction process preventing the fast-twitch fibres from being further engaged.
He talks about a similar problem with weights that are too heavy allowing too few repetitions. All the motor units (fast & slow) are engaged, but the fast-twitch units fatigue so quickly that the muscle will fail before the all the slow twitch fibres are properly stimulated.
Dr. McGuff argues that a moderately heavy weight allows full recruitment & stimulation of all muscle fibres by the time the muscle has completely failed & the set is completed.
Am I Too Old to Weight Train?
It’s never too late to start! Anyone from the age of 14 onward can & will reap staggering results from weight training (although a doctor’s medical clearance might be necessary).
Many elderly men & women stay healthy through an exercise regime that includes weight training. Clarence Bass, born in 1937 & author of a fitness blog & many books, is one such gentleman. His most recent book is Take Charge: Fitness at the Edge of Science.
- A high-intensity, weight-training program is capable of inducing dramatic increases in muscle strength in frail men & women aged in their 90s, in spite of their very advanced age, extremely sedentary habits, multiple chronic diseases, functional disabilities & nutritional inadequacies.
Our own observations:
- Low-to-moderate resistance training has produced little or no increase in strength in older subjects.
- Strength gains are due, first to improved neural recruitment patterns, while hypertrophy comes later.
But, is it really useful to me?
Yes! Independent living absolutely requires fundamental & functional movements.
“… it seems that exercise interventions that include endurance, strength, and muscle power training should be prescribed to frail elderly in order to improve the functional capacity.” Source: Strength and Endurance Training Prescription in Healthy and Frail Elderly
The Ten Principles of “The WOW Method”:
- Each muscle group is strengthened no more than once a week. This means a full body workout including nine exercises for the prime mover muscles & further various exercises, prescribed as needed, for the accessory muscles.
- There should be only one set per exercise.
- Repetitions should be slow & controlled & executed with strict form & perfect posture.
- The set is finished only once the targeted muscle group has come to complete muscular failure. (It’s not absolutely necessary to take the set to complete muscular failure – it’s just the most efficient way to gain strength & muscle.)
- If the muscle group fails before the 14th repetition, the weight is too heavy & is decreased slightly during the next week’s workout.
- If the muscle group fails on or after the 20th repetition, the weight is increased slightly during the next week’s workout.
- For the duration of the set, the abdominal muscles below the belly button must remain fully contracted whilst allowing the ribcage to relax for maximum breathing capacity.
- Exhaling upon exertion reduces the pressure on the heart & blood vessels. So, be sure to exhale upon exertion (the contraction phase of the exercise). Inhale deeply while returning to the starting position.
- The targeted muscle group should be stretched mildly & immediately following completion of the set. The muscle group is warm from exertion & thus it maximizes the benefit of the stretch.
- With all decisions, the top priority throughout is to maintain muscle balance & to ensure the optimal health of all the soft tissues & joints.
Find out more about personal training with LEONG Orthopaedic Health!
- Accessory muscles are the stabilizers & the assisting muscles that sometimes get left behind with ongoing weight-training (Infraspinatus, Serratus Anterior, Gluteus Medius).
- Complete Muscular Failure means continuing to perform repetitions until the point of momentary muscular failure where, although you are engaged in lifting the weight (eg. bicep curl), the arm will no longer move because all motor units have been exhausted. Note: It is not absolutely necessary to lift to the point of complete muscular failure, it’s just the most efficient way to gain strength & size.
- Fast Twitch Motor Unit is comprised of a nerve & many fast twitch muscle fibres. These fast twitch fibres fire rapidly, therefore fatigue quickly.
- Ligaments are the fascial tissue that connects bone to bone thereby stabilizing a joint.
- Prime Mover Muscles are the primary muscles that act directly to bring about a desired movement (quadriceps during squats, latissimus dorsi in lat pulldowns & triceps brachii while dong close grip, bench press).
- Repetition (rep) is the controlled lifting & lowering of the weight through the full range of motion.
- Set consists of several repetitions without resting in between.
- Slow Twitch Motor Unit is comprised of a nerve & many slow twitch muscle fibres. These fibres fire slowly. Therefore, they are able to maintain continuous muscle contractions over extended periods of time.
- Tendons are the fascial tissue that connects the muscle to the bone.
Evidence based research has become so de rigueur that every theory is expected to be based upon it. However, we can’t help but notice that with just a bit of research on Google, any theory can easily be either proven or disproven.
Both above & below we’ve included several studies, or articles based upon studies. However, The WOW Method (created by LEONG Orthopaedic Health) is mostly based upon the last twenty years of results with our clientele.
- Motorneuron Mapping
- Strength Training Methods & The Work of Arthur Jones
- The Dose-Response Relationship of Exercise
- Strength Training for Health & Longevity with Doug McGuff, MD
- Comparison of once‐weekly and twice‐weekly strength training in older adults
- Recovery after heavy resistance exercise
– LEONG Orthopaedic Health
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