Minimum Effective Dose and The Law of Diminishing Returns
Today, I am going to go a little longer with things as we discuss what is essentially our most foundational training concepts at the gym: Minimum Effective Dose (MED) + Law of Diminishing Returns (LDR).
Stated simply, MED principle is based on the idea of doing enough work to get you better (eustress) while not overdoing it to the point it becomes counterproductive (distress). It might sound highly non advanced and mundane, but it’s a concept that so many ignore under the external pressures to write grueling 60 minute workouts that are an absolute shit show on our hormonal levels. What ultimately ends up occurring under max effort workouts everyday is an initial spike in results, an ultimate flattening of the curve, and subsequent decline.
Understand that there is a natural cap on any physical return. Enough food provides you nutrients and satiety, too much of it makes you fat. A few beers get you buzzed, too many and you throw up. A few miles per week and you become a better runner, too many and you get injuries. In all three examples there is a point along the curve where the input begins to trend the output into a negative return. In our setting this is a responsibility that we take seriously. Our job is to provide you with enough stimulus to drive adaptation, but not so much that you begin to trend downward (injuries, fatigue, hormonal imbalance, weight retention). 60 minute workouts based on achieving peak caloric burn are the equivalent of having Thanksgiving dinner every night.
Again, eustress over distress.
The key is to stop at the peak of the curve, not let it begin that drop into the part of the curve that is diminishing returns.
Think of the concept of LED like this. You’re studying the night before a final exam and you’re cramming late into the night. You’ve already logged three hours worth of studying and its midnight. You know the material well enough to get a good grade, but you have a choice whether or not to keep cramming for a few more hours and be exhausted for your exam. Those few more hours would be considered diminishing returns. What you get doesn’t equal what you put it. In the gym, this is typically anything past four sets of near maximal strength work, five sets of high exertion muscle focus (hypertrophy), and high intensity conditioning past fifteen or twenty minutes. Low intensity can be extended beyond that. In all examples, we receive eustress up until that point of diminishing returns.
This isn’t to say that training shouldn’t be hard. That’s not it at all in case you’re mistaking minimal effective dosing for ineffective dosing. Essentially, what we aim to do is take you to challenge right up until the point where technique would typically go to shit and the benefit becomes to fade, ie. returns become diminished. Many are fast to judge a sixteen minute strength session as ineffective, yet we have produced deadlifts of 620# with that approach and countless strength goals that many who dose into a level of diminishing returns fail to achieve. Many often confuse a conditioning-based workout as something that is supposed to solve weight loss. That’s nutrition’s job. The workout is there to set you up hormonally and physiologically to do so.
I understand that many of us choose to go to the gym everyday for pyschological benefits, and I fuck with that, but it’s important that we understand the major difference between psychological and physiological because we can certainly overdo the latter in the effort to support the former.
Ultimately, you must understand that fitness is a stimulus used to create an effect. And like any stimulus, the dose you give yourself matters. It’s an amateur approach to think that results are achieved by pounding down as much volume as possible.
8 Back Squats
20 Supported DB Row
8 Cyclist Squats
20 OTP Lateral Hops
6 Plate Curl & Press
100m Run E.O.R