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The Minimal Effective Dose

 

MORE MORE MORE. We want it all and we want it now. If 2,000 square feet is good 4,000 is better. If you are content with $75,000 a year you will be happier at $80,000. When venti (20oz) coffee just isn’t enough we now have the option of trenta (31oz). We are hardwired to believe more is better. Unfortunately this is often more problematic than one would expect.

As a society we have latched on to this “more is better” concept and it’s bleeding into all aspects of our life, especially training. I am going to share with you why more is not better and teach you a new principle to guide your training and the rest of your life: Minimal Effective Dose. 

The minimal effective dose is about finding the least amount of work that elicits a training adaptation. In other words we are trying to get the most bang for our buck! The goal is chasing progress and improvement for the rest of our life, unless you are an elite athlete with a small window of opportunity. This is both inside and outside the gym. Whether this is getting stronger or building a relationship it is going to take time. Instead of looking for the fast track focus on being patient and giving the best you have each and every day.

The best you can give could range from 5 minutes to 2 hours on any given day. The goal is quality over quantity. When it comes to the gym we can implement the KISS principle to go hand in hand with the minimal effective dose. KISS stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. There is no need to overcomplicate things with fancy exercise or rep schemes. This is where CrossFit has flourished. On paper a couplet like the workout “Fran” consisting of thrusters and pull ups for 45 total reps of each which seems simple. However most people who do Fran for the first time need the rest of the day to recover from a workout that took 10 minutes or less.

Most CrossFit classes are an hour long, but the actual workout can take anywhere from 5-30 minutes on average. The point people are getting in and out of the gym, but moving with purpose while they are there. Crossfit has redefined how much training is necessary through small bouts of high intensity work. Workouts that are short, sweet and to the point.

As a strength & conditioning coach my job is really about stress management. Remember stress to the body can be good and bad. “Bad” stress could be like worry or fear that consumes us and gives us anxiety. “Good” stress is necessary for growth and physical fitness. In order for a muscle to grow it must be stressed (lifting weights) enough so that when you rest and recover it repairs itself to be able to handle that same weight again.

Too much stress in training is when injury results. Not enough stress and you won’t be improving your fitness. As a coach I help athletes elicit enough stress in training to see improvements, but not so much that they get hurt or can’t recover. 

This is where the minimal effective dose comes in. I want athletes to do the least amount of work possible to see results because this level of effort is what will allow consistency for the long term. All too often I see people ramp up training for a day, week or month, only to then have to take weeks or months off from over-exertion or injury. 

You see the best training program is the one you can do consistently with proper intensity. Anytime you try something new, start small and then add pieces if you have the time and effort to give. Have a clear objective and move toward that. It is important to track your progress and results. Logging your work is the only way to know if the work is paying off. If 3×5 back squats once a week is getting your stronger then stick with it until you plateau.

Remember doing the least amount of work to elicit a response is NOT lazy. It is about working smarter not harder. Spreading yourself too thin can lead to all kinds of imbalances and in turn hurt you more than it helps. The concept of more is better could lead to poor sleep habits, bad nutrition or a diminished social life. You must consider the bigger picture, not just the direct training during your workout. Less is sometimes more!

Coach Taylor

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