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Authors of a recent research study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology sought to investigate the impact of different strength training regimens on resting energy expenditure (REE), the number of calories we burn all day long outside of our workouts or physical activity. Understanding how we can improve REE is incredibly important because a strong correlation exists between REE and fat accumulation/obesity.

Researchers examined our acute response (how our bodies respond in the few days after a single workout) to different strength training workouts. Specifically, the researchers examined changes in REE after a workout that involved one set of 10 exercises versus a workout with three sets of 10 exercises. They hypothesized that the three-set workout would yield a greater increase in REE, as the volume of the workout was significantly higher (3 times as many reps/sets). Surprisingly, the group that performed one set of each exercise actually had a slightly larger increase in REE measured at 24, 48, and 72 hours after the workout. We’ve known for many years (although this is still ignored by the vast majority of exercisers) that one set is just as effective as multiple sets for improving muscle strength, muscle size, and muscle endurance; this study provides powerful evidence that one set is also effective in increasing our resting energy expenditure.

Two take-home messages:

1. Strength training increases the number of calories we burn (REE) following a workout for three full days (cardio does not do this).
2. Performing one set of each exercise is just as effective (and potentially slightly more effective) than performing three sets in order to achieve this improved resting energy expenditure.

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