How Less Can Be More — Jeff Nippard Dissects the Minimalist Training Method

The natural bodybuilder and powerlifter makes the case for low-volume, high-intensity workouts

With more than three million YouTube subscribers on his channel, Jeff Nippard is a powerlifter and bodybuilder who aims to lead by example. His recent teachings focus on how to get more results in less time. Increasing strength and gaining muscle mass under time constraints may be more achievable using the minimalist training method.

“Minimalist” is not a word usually associated with making life-changing fitness and size gains. It suggests less effort put into workout sessions, but this is the process of training smart in a minimal amount of time. If you live in the gym and love to rep it out all day long, this might not work for you (although switching up your routine might prove beneficial). However, if you are juggling gym time with a demanding work schedule and family commitments, getting the most out of every minute could be the difference between stagnation and gains.

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“Do you train more like a minimalist or a maximalist?” asked the Canadian powerhouse in a recent Instagram post. “I know maximalist training is more popular because it sounds more hardcore (lots of volume, tons of exercise variation, long workouts), yet a minimalist approach (low volume, high intensity, fast workouts) is probably more appropriate for more people. It’s just not as sexy, I guess. But people are busy, and not everyone can spend 2two-plus hours in the gym every day.”

Going further, Nippard posted a video titled “How to Train Like a Minimalist,” and it has racked up 850,000 views in a matter of days you can check it out below. It seems that the demand is there for briefer, smarter training methods. But does the minimalist approach really work?

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The Case for Minimalist Training

In his YouTube video, Nippard says that the minimalist approach is better suited to the majority of people and uses his brother as an example. Since his brother was not a fan of lifting weights, Nippard wrote him a 20-minute routine performed only once per week:

It doesn’t get any more minimal than this: one push exercise, one pull exercise, and one leg exercise. After following the plan, Nippard’s brother reported it working great for him. He said that his hip pain is gone, and his body strength has increased.

Of course, those who are new to training are likely to acquire the most benefits from the least amount of time, but how does that stack up for someone who has years of lifting under their belt? Nippard points out that even though he considers himself more of a training maximalist, he appreciates that even for him, there are times when work and travel make it impossible to take a maximalist approach because time is simply too limited.

Nippard doesn’t just use his brother as an example, though, as he looks into the science behind gaining strength, health, and muscle mass.

Strength Gains

“Just one heavy set, done one to three times per week, will be enough to induce significant strength gains for most people,” says Nippard, referring to a 2017 meta-analysis that showed 81 percent of participants were able to increase their strength with just one to four heavy sets per week. (1)

“So, if you wanted to increase your squat max, as time efficiently as possible, you could do something like this: squat two days per week, and on each day, you just do one heavy working set for one to three reps.”

Health Gains

“For health, even less is required,” says Nippard, referencing an extensive systematic review published in 2022:

“…just 30-60 minutes of lifting per week was enough for ‘maximum risk reduction.’” Muscle-strengthening activities have been associated with a 10-17 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes, and all-cause mortality in adults. Interestingly, this is independent of aerobic activity. (2)

Muscle Gains

“For muscle gain, it is a bit more complicated,” says Nippard. “Unlike strength and health, there is a much clearer positive relationship between training volume and muscle hypertrophy.” The science-based fitness expert explains that it takes around 10 sets per body part, distributed during the week, for most people to see results with muscle gain. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for the minimalist approach.

“What if you only did one set per week? Would you make any gains at all?” asks Nippard. “Well, luckily, we do have the science to answer these questions, and the results may surprise you.”

The coach explains that if you reduced your 10 weekly sets to one to four sets, you would make results that are proportionally greater than you might expect. For example, if you did one to four sets, you would still receive, on average, 64 percent of the expected gains that you would have gotten from 10 sets. If you increase this range from five to nine sets, it would go up, on average, to 84 percent of your potential gains.

By hitting minimalist workouts with focus, those results can be increased further. Nippard suggests pushing harder for high-quality work completed in a limited time. Take exercises to failure or close to failure while maintaining as close to perfect form as possible. Drop sets or supersets can also be used to go beyond the usual stopping point to build more tension without rest.

If you have the time and desire to go maximal, you are likely to make more gains, but six-time Mr. Olympia champion Dorian Yates only trained his chest once per week. He followed up his warmups with just one working set to failure, in the six-to-eight rep range, for four exercises. Whatever your thoughts on the minimalist approach, bodybuilders on each end of the spectrum — natural to enhanced — could potentially learn a lot from shortening their workouts, even if that means shaving a few minutes by reducing rest duration between sets.


  1. Ralston, G. W., Kilgore, L., Wyatt, F. B., & Baker, J. S. (2017). The Effect of Weekly Set Volume on Strength Gain: A Meta-Analysis. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 47(12), 2585–2601.
  2. Momma, H., Kawakami, R., Honda, T., & Sawada, S. S. (2022). Muscle-strengthening activities are associated with lower risk and mortality in major non-communicable diseases: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. British journal of sports medicine56(13), 755–763.

Featured image: @jeffnippard on Instagram