Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate November 2001

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If you've blown off strength training because you can't squeeze three sessions into your busy week, we've got empowering news. A recent study shows you can drop one of the workouts without sacrificing benefits.

Ro DiBrezzo and Inza Fort, exercise researchers at the University of Arkansas, wondered if time-strapped women could do fewer workouts and still build strength. So they rounded up 59 women between the ages of 40 and 65 (none of whom had ever lifted regularly before) and got them working out. Half hit the gym twice a week; the rest made an extra trip. Everyone performed three sets of eight different exercises.

After eight weeks, researchers could hardly tell the groups apart. Both had improved their upper and lower body strength by at least 15 percent. What's more, women in both groups had shed a little more than 2 percent of their body fat and reported that their clothes were fitting better.

The key to the twice-per-week success, says Fort, is lifting enough weight to tax your muscles properly. Start with an amount that has you burning by the end of eight repetitions. Work your way up to 10 or 12 reps, and once those last reps are a cinch, add more weight.