One Set Once a Week?


Have you seen/heard about the book "Body By Science"? It claims the best workout is a once a week, full body workout that includes ~5 exercises performed one set each to failure.

-Sam A.



My Answer: The book's written by John Little and Doug McGuff. I haven't read the book, but I've been in the Iron Game long enough to know John Little is a disciple of Mike Mentzer who was a disciple of Arthur Jones. A full body workout once a week consisting of one set to failure for each exercise smacks of High Intensity Training (HIT).

HIT is fine as a decompression phase, but as a program to consistently follow indefinitely? NO. Your body will hit a plateau, and then eventually you lose muscle mass. HIT fanatics point to Dorian Yates and Mike Menzter as bodybuilders who've built their muscle mass on the HIT training philosophy, but we can see from the wide variety of training styles (from the ultra high volume of Tom Platz to low volume HIT) that you can grow muscle on steroids as long as you workout.

Like I said, I haven't read the book, but there are a number of red flags concerning the program:

1) The use of machines. Free weights beats machines for developing size and strength, period. Machines stabilize the weight for you, so you end up using less muscle to push or pull the weight. Free weights force you to perfect your form and stabilize your body while pushing or pulling the weight. This greater engagement of your muscles means greater activation and greater growth.

2) The use of the super slow protocol. Using a slow rep speed taps into the slow-twitch muscle fibers, which have the least potential for growth. If you want to get big, then you have to lift big and lift explosively to tap into the fast-twitch muscle fibers. These fibers have far greater potential for growth.

3) Low frequency/low volume. You can train once a week. You can train one set per muscle group. But you cannot train both one set per muscle group and train once a week.

The reason why HIT keeps rearing it's ugly head every so often (ever since the 70's) is that on paper, it's logical and very appealing to those of us who want to train less. Most people have lives outside the gym, so a program that says you can gain muscle by training less often is going to get followers. But in the real world, HIT has not panned out amongst natural bodybuilders.

Many of us don't have time to workout due to family and career responsibilities. But if you train each muscle group once a week, then you have to train with high volume workouts to sustain growth throughout the week. This is the training philosphy for the next book Strength and Physique: Training for the Busy Bodybuilder. If you have limited time to train (we all do), then this next volume will show you how to train specifically for busy unpredictable schedules.
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