What happens to strength if you ONLY do heavy singles and nothing else for 10 weeks
Can you make gains using extremely low training volumes? This study had powerlifters perform just 1x1 @ 9-9.5 RPE on the squat bench and deadlift 1-3 times a week with no other exercises and measured 1RM strength.

A pilot study by Androulakis-Korakakis et al. compared two groups of powerlifters –

Group 1 (MAX group) performed 1X1 @ a 9-9.5 RPE on the squat x 2 a week, bench press x 3 a week, deadlift x 1 for 10 weeks. This is the only training they did, there were no backoff sets or accessory exercises.

Group 2 (TRAD group) performed a regular PL program using multiple sets and reps on the squat, bench press and deadlift for 10 weeks. No accessory exercises were used.

Subjects were competitive powerlifters with minimum 1 year PL experience and 2 years resistance training experience

 

Results

Total volume performed by each group were as follows –

MAX

Squat – 3138kg ±612kg

Bench press – 3002kg ±609kg

Deadlift – 1790kg ±373kg

TRAD

Squat – 37,609kg ±6561kg

Bench press – 55,655.6kg ±9897.8kg

Deadlift – 19,433kg ±2646kg

The MAX group did less than 10% of the volume of the TRAD group 

Results of TRAD group

Pre to post changes in 1RM strength (0-11 weeks)

 

Characteristic

Participant 1

Participant 2

Participant 3

Squat KG

5kg

0kg

5kg

Squat %

2.5%

0%

2.8%

Bench KG

2.5kg

0kg

0kg

Bench %

1.7%

0%

0%

DL KG

5kg

0kg

30kg

DL %

2.1%

0%

14%

Total KG

12.5kg

0kg

3.5kg

Total %

2%

0%

6.5%

 

 

Results of MAX group

Pre to post changes in 1RM strength (0-11 weeks)

 

Characteristic

Participant 1

Participant 2

Participant 3

Participant 4

Participant 5

Squat KG

10kg

0

5kg

0kg

0kg

Squat %

6.6%

0

3.3%

0%

0%

Bench KG

0kg

5kg

7.5kg

15kg

10kg

Bench %

0%

3.6%

6.4%

12%

11.4%

DL KG

10kg

20kg

0kg

-5kg

-10kg

DL %

6%

8.3%

0%

-2.1%

-6.6%

Total KG

20kg

25kg

-2.5kg

-20kg

-20kg

Total %

4.8%

4.2%

-0.5%

-3.4%

-5%

 

Pre to peri changes (approx. middle of the training block) in 1RM strength

 

Characteristic

Participant 1

Participant 2

Participant 3

Participant 4

Participant 5

Squat KG

10kg –

7.5kg ^

0kg <

  2.5kg ^

0kg –

Squat %

6.6% –

3.5% ^

0% <

1.1% ^

0% –

Bench KG

0kg –

7.5kg ^

0kg <

2.5kg <

0kg <

Bench %

0% –

5.4% ^

0% <

1.8% <

0% <

DL KG

15kg ^

10kg <

20kg ^

6kg ^

-5kg ^

DL %

9% ^

4.2% <

11.7% ^

2.4% ^

-3.2% ^

Total KG

15kg <

25kg –

20kg ^

11kg ^

-5kg ^

Total %

3.6% <

4.2% –

4.5% ^

1.8% ^

-1.2% ^

 

Legend comparing strength differences between peri to post strength

          = No change between peri to post

^ = stronger at peri to post

< = weaker at peri to post

 

Summary/Conclusions

To summarise the results tables. Using traditional PL training, two subjects got stronger, and one subject had no change in strength.

Using maxing out training only, two subjects increased strength and three subjects got weaker from pre to post training program.

When comparing strength from DURING the 10-week training program compared to the END of the training program. At around the 4–7 week mark, two people were stronger, two subjects were weaker and one subject maintained strength compared to the end of the program.

What to take from this?

1.       Responses to training are highly individual. As we can see from the results, some people improved from doing extremely low volumes, whereas others got weaker

2.       The minimum amount of volume to make gains is probably much lower than we think

3.       3/5 of the subjects were either stronger or maintained their strength from midway of the program compared to the end. Only doing a few very high effort singles (9-9.5 RPE) for 4-7 weeks may be enough to maintain or increase strength in some people. This is good news if going away on holiday or just going to be time poor for a while. Doing very little volumes (one set 2-3 times a week) at high efforts (9RPE and above), might be enough to at least maintain gains. Some people might actually get stronger doing this.   

References

Androulakis-Korakakis P, Fisher JP, Kolokotronis P, Gentil P, Steele J. Reduced Volume ‘Daily Max’ Training Compared to Higher Volume Periodized Training in Powerlifters Preparing for Competition-A Pilot Study. Sports (Basel). 2018;6(3):86. Published 2018 Aug 29. doi:10.3390/sports6030086

Paul Attard
Paul Attard

Paul is the founder and head coach of SPC Performance Lab. Paul has been coaching since 2014 and has worked with all different types of people. From first timers learning the basics, all the way up to the experienced power-lifting competitors.

He tailors his approach depending on the needs, goals and experience of the individual. Paul has extensive theoretical and practical coaching experience.

- Masters of Sports & Exercise Science (Strength & Conditioning)
- Bachelor’s degree in Exercise & Sports Science with First Class Honours
- Competed and won multiple natural body-building shows & power-lifting competitions.
- Held an Australian power-lifting record.

Free advice

SPC Performance Lab is a gym in Taren Point in the Sutherland Shire, Sydney NSW. It is a private gym that offers strength training, powerlifting and body building training. The gym is open 24 hours, 7 days a week with membership options that include casual or regular visits.

Paul also provides a choice of personal training one on one or the option of online coaching.

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