The researchers noted that minimum dose of resistance exercise is once per week. Strength performance can be maintained for up to four weeks despite training volume being reduced by 30-70% by maintaining training intensity.


  • During a deload week, you can decrease the exercise frequency to one session weekly.
  • You can maintain strength by reducing the set volume to one set weekly, provided the exercise intensity remains consistent.
  • The recommendation is to train each set to full muscular failure to optimize the training outcome when working with reduced frequency and volume.


Ever pondered the least amount of workout you can get away with during a vacation or travel without compromising your hard-earned gains? Both the military, aiming to ensure soldiers retain their strength and cardiovascular health during deployments, and NASA, keen on helping astronauts maintain muscle mass during space missions, have shown interest in this topic.

A study from 2021 titled “Maintaining Physical Performance: The Minimal Dose of Exercise Needed to Preserve Endurance and Strength Over Time” delved deep into the minimal effective dose of both resistance and cardiovascular exercises required to sustain muscle strength and endurance.

This knowledge isn’t just beneficial for soldiers or astronauts; it’s also invaluable for those considering a deload week to alleviate fatigue and take a mental respite from rigorous training. The findings suggest that provided the intensity of the exercise remains consistent, it’s possible to cut down the training volume by a significant 33-66%.


According to the author, “For the general populace, one can sustain endurance performance for a span of up to 15 weeks by merely reducing the training frequency to a minimum of 2 sessions weekly or by cutting the exercise volume by 33–66% (which translates to just 13–26 minutes per session). The key here is to ensure that the exercise intensity, measured by the exercising heart rate, remains consistent.

When it comes to strength and muscle size, especially in younger individuals, one can maintain muscle for an impressive 32 weeks with just a single strength training session weekly and a single set for each exercise. The catch? The exercise intensity, in terms of relative load, must be consistent. However, for the older demographic, retaining muscle size might demand up to 2 sessions weekly, involving 2–3 sets per exercise, all the while keeping the exercise intensity steady.”


The author emphasized the pivotal role of exercise intensity in preserving physical performance over extended periods, even when there’s a significant cutback in exercise frequency and volume. The study highlighted that strength performance remains intact for up to a month, even when training volume is slashed by 30-70%, provided the training intensity remains unaltered. To retain 1 RM strength and muscle dimensions, the following guidelines were proposed:

  • It’s feasible to cut back on exercise frequency to just one session weekly.
  • Even with a reduction to a single set per week, strength retention occurs, provided the exercise intensity remains consistent.
  • For optimal results during a deload week training phase, push each set to complete muscular failure.

For the senior demographic, specifically those aged between 60 and 75, a slightly more rigorous regimen should occur. They should aim for a minimum of two sessions weekly, comprising 2-3 sets for each exercise.

Additionally, it’s crucial for the final repetition of every set to be executed with maximal effort. The author pointed out the need for further research in this domain, indicating that the current data pool is inadequate to draft specific guidelines tailored for athletes and military personnel. (1)


Spiering BA, Mujika I, Sharp MA, Foulis SA. Maintaining Physical Performance: The Minimal Dose of Exercise Needed to Preserve Endurance and Strength Over Time. J Strength Cond Res. 2021;35(5):1449-58.

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