Minimum Effective Dose
Whether you are a just starting to train or have been training for 10 years, the minimum effective dose should be given a second thought when applied to training. To the medical world, its discussed daily in reference to medication for treating all sorts of pathologies but what is it? If you don’t know what the MED is, here’s a quick example: In order to boil water, it must reach a temperature of 100 degrees celsius. 100 degrees celsius is the MED required for boiling water. Now, If i heat the water at a higher temperature does that mean the water is more boiled? No! Instead it means that there is a lot of heat energy being wasted. The MED is the lowest dose that can still produce the desired outcome.
How can this apply to training?
For training, there is no definitive amount of volume that is considered to be the best for muscle size, strength or performance gains, but we do know that it is important to contributing to these variables. Individual differences play such a large role that it is near impossible to pin point an exact training volume that is the “gold standard”. Humans adapt to different stimuli in different ways which makes it hard to find a perfect training volume dose. For example: If 20 sets of an exercise a week moves me towards my goal, this does not mean it will work for you. You may require 40 sets of an exercise or may only need 10 sets to see results. This is why it is important to start small. If you start small in terms of volume, you can always increase it until results follow. Starting large in training volume will give you results but this means that in order to force adaptation again you must increase volume even more. Treat training volume like a drug, use the least amount required to achieve the desired result and increase as necessary.
More isn’t better, Better is Better
While we know volume is important to training, we also need to consider the way in which the volume is applied through exercise. By this I mean how an individual executes a given exercise. This can also be considered their “form”. The underlying point here is that just because you are completing more sets of an exercise does not mean you are going to get better. You may decide to increase your volume, but if your execution SUCKS so will the gains that you are attempting to make.
First, learn how to properly perform and execute exercises. This takes time and you may never attain “perfect” form, but “better is a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without one”! Second, pertaining to volume, start somewhere and find what works for you. Find your Minimum Effective Dose! As vague as that statement is, its more accurate than any recommendation someone can give you.