There is plenty of discussion around optimal sets/reps for various types of adaptations to be triggered.

If someone is interested only in maintenance, or a minimal workout, they might want to know what is the minimum amount of work needed to trigger an adaptation.

About this amount, I'm wondering is there a physical sign that guarantees it has occurred?

For example, suppose I load up 70% of my 1RM and start doing reps, and will do only set until one of the following occur.

  1. muscle pump
  2. muscle burn
  3. shaking / instability during a rep
  4. inability to perform another rep

Are any of those an indicator that I have achieved a minimal level of work to maintain muscle or possibly grow more?

1 Answer 1


Your question is somewhat overly simplistic and assumes that if there were an evidenced base solution, it would be the same for everyone. That's not the case.

I like to think of adaptation as a synergistic, complicated process that requires more than just weight training. Neglecting all other aspects (eg. Nutrition, recovery, genetics, etc.) that contribute to the process is a mistake. You must also consider additional factors that contribute to adaptation: overload, specificity, reversibility, and individual differences. Thus, looking for a guaranteed “physical sign” from the list you provided is not possible in my opinion. They are simply indicators of possible different reactions to training resistance. For example, the “pump” occurs as “a compensatory increase of blood pressure forces plasma from the congested capillaries into the interstitial spaces of the muscle cells. And, similarly, the “burn” is a result of lactic acid build up in the muscle. Neither is an indicator that adaptation has occurred.

I think of adaptation as a moving target. Especially for experienced trainers. Once it has occurred, there typically needs to be a subtle change in the training regime to force it occur in the future. Otherwise, improvement is stagnant. I would rather look at the accumulated effect of training (over several months/years) as an indicator of success. Especially, if one plans to train for many years to come.

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