The Case For And Against Your Minimum Effective Dose

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had to completely change the way I train.

The decision was based on the fact that as my business continues to grow at RevFit, my available time to get in my own workout diminishes. I’m not the type who can work out simply for the sake of moving my body around either. I actually need to see some quantifiable progress to feel good about what I’ve done.

So, running counter to almost any workout regimen I’ve ever followed in my life, I am lifting 5 days a week, Monday through Friday and I do two lifts each day. One day will be a series of squats followed by a series of isolated hamstring work, the next day will be a series of bench presses followed by a variation of back work.

That’s it.

And every day I go after those lifts, I find some way to increase weights, reps, or sets depending on how much time I have.

Would I recommend this approach to my clients? Probably not unless they were in the same situation as me; crunched for time but still needing to find the time to progress and move forward.

As for the results, well I’m under no illusion that I will completely transform my body with this regimen. I probably won’t see that type of progress but I can feel good about what I’ve done so that the rest of my energy can be spent on taking care of my client’s needs.

I also know that there is a chance this method is only temporary. It’s something I can do until I find a reasonable way to add more into the mix.

Mentally and physically, this is all that I can do right now.

It is my “minimum effective dose” of exercise.

And it’s this minimum effective dose that I wanted to discuss in greater detail to you.

To make a case for doing the bare minimum of anything and seeing a benefit from it, we have to look at the positive. Does that dose keep you consistent in your efforts and are you seeing progress in any measurable way? In my personal example above, I can say that for the time being, I can answer “Yes” across the board.

I see people who put a lot of effort into their exercise (showing up, working hard, etc.) but put little into their diet and wonder why weight loss isn’t happening at the rate they desire.

I see others who can seemingly white-knuckle their way through both diet and exercise, but exist on poor or little sleep. Believe me when I say that this will catch up negatively at some point for both diet adherence and a quality workout. Your body will finally betray you if you don’t give it the recovery it needs.

Sometimes (actually maybe more often than not), I have clients who believe they’ve made enough changes to see the scale reward their efforts. And while it may be true that they have improved from where they were when they started with me, it just isn’t enough or it isn’t consistently on point long enough.

And that is a very frustrating reality indeed.

As I alluded to when I wrote this article about knowing when to put the brakes temporarily on dieting, I think it’s important to note when the minimum effective dose needs to be part of your plan.

-If life is currently more stressful than you initially anticipated when you set out to make a positive change in your health, you may need to dial down the intensity or frequency of your workouts. Do so until you can add more of the appropriate habits and see faster results.

-If you can forgive yourself for not putting 100% of your efforts in all the time and be comfortable putting in 50% just to stay consistent, do so. Be able to quantify that some progress is better than none, even if it isn’t ideal or as effective at getting you towards your goals.

-Realize that the minimum effective dose may show no reflection on the scale if you’re using it during a weight loss phase. That’s not necessarily a negative. Sometimes, being mindful of things like drinking more water and eating more protein may not give you the caloric outcome you need to drop weight. Focus on the “dieting” aspect when you feel that it’s mentally easier to execute.

-Be aware that falling back to the minimum effective dose does not mean you failed. It means you had a shift in priorities and other things in your life had to take place for the time being. Utilizing this tactic is always an option to keep the needle of progress moving across the board (albeit at a much slower pace.)

Below is a picture of our Erin hitting a 165lb squat PR. She’s been a bright light around the studio with her support of others, her camaraderie, her ability to expect the best from those around her, and her commitment to her own self-improvement.

“We Make Great People Greater”