The Minimum Effective Dose

One of the biggest mistakes I often see at the gym is people trying to do too much in regards to weekly training volume.

There’s a very fine line between maximizing training sessions and over doing it.

While burning calories is a big part of losing body fat, one must consider other important variables as well.

The hormonal signals we send our bodies are just as important as the ‘net calories burned’ on your heart rate monitor.

 

There are three main hormones we should consider in regards to training and body composition.

These are:

Human Growth Hormone (HGH)

Testosterone

and Cortisol. 

Without boring you too much with scientific jargon, hgh and testosterone are the two hormones you want to maximize as far as production is concerned.

Among other vital bodily processes, they are responsible for muscle growth and body fat reduction.

(Just ask A-Rod) 

alex-rodriguez

Unlike A-Rod, however, you won’t have to worry about acquiring them synthetically.

By following the advice in this post you can ensure that you are producing optimal amounts naturally.

Cortisol is your body’s stress hormone.

When elevated for long periods of time this hormone will prevent you from burning fat and building muscle—no matter how hard you try.

You want to make sure that you keep this hormone as low as possible.

Two of the biggest contributors to chronically elevated cortisol levels are over-training and excessive amounts of cardio. 

The ‘more is better’ approach to training will eventually have diminishing returns when it comes to your health and fitness level.

While most people just don’t train often enough, there are those few that train too much, too often, and their physique, performance, and overall well being suffer in the process.

I see this ALL OF THE TIME as a personal trainer—and it kills me to witness it.

While training hard is important, more so is training smart. 

It is critical to remember that diet controls at least 80% of body composition.

The other 20 percent is a combination of the right kind of training with adequate amounts of rest and recovery.

What do I mean when I say “the right kind of training?”

The right kind of training is the kind of training that maximizes HGH and testosterone; keeps cortisol production to a minimum; and allows an adequate amount of recovery time between sessions for your muscles, joints, and Central Nervous System. 

Most people do the exact opposite.

Instead of focusing on the quality of their workouts, they focus on the duration of each workout and on how many calories they can burn per week.

As a result, they don’t give themselves adequate rest time between workouts, and they sabotage themselves and their goals.

At best, they will never get the physique they long for, and at worst, they are setting themselves up for overuse injuries in the future that might prevent them for working out at all.

When we talk about overall health and fitness, there are four kinds of training sessions you’ll want to focus on.

These are:

Strength Training

Anaerobic Conditioning 

Mobility/ Flexibility 

and  Low Level Aerobic Conditioning. 

The first two are the more “intense” of the four, and therefore, should be performed less frequently than the latter two.

When performing a strength workout, it’s important to know that our bodies begin to secrete testosterone and HGH as soon as we start our first set.

This production peaks, however, at about 45 minutes into the workout, and it is at this point that our cortisol levels start to rise.

Therefore it’s best to keep your strength workouts between 45 minutes and 1 hour, at most.

Unless you have above average genetics (or use the same doctor as A-rod), after 60 minutes or so your input (work) will probably outweigh it’s output (results).

Anaerobic conditioning, such as sprinting, should last no more than 30 – 40 minutes, and this includes warming up.

Mobility/Flexibility training can be done on a daily basis, and this includes activities such as stretching, yoga, and soft tissue work like foam rolling and massage therapy.

These sessions can last anywhere between 20 and 90 minutes depending on the particular session and level of fitness.

Lastly, low level aerobic conditioning should be the base of your fitness pyramid, and can be performed anywhere between 2 and 5 hours per week.

Activities such as walking, hiking, and light bike riding are all great examples of this type of conditioning—you should aim to keep your heart rate between 60% and 80% of your max throughout the bout.

Long distance running DOES NOT fall into this category, because it will, over time, actually hinder your recovery from other workouts and cause your cortisol to rise.

Hence all the guys and gals who run multiple times per week but yet wonder why they can never achieve that ever so elusive six pack they’ve always longed for.


 

Now that you know about the kinds of exercise you should be doing, let’s go over scheduling.

I will lay out a few templates below.

They will range from “beginner” to “advanced.”

Be honest with yourself and your fitness level when determining where it is that you should start.

I would also say that if your goal is only to be healthy, and you don’t particularly enjoy exercising, there really is no need to ever get past the beginner level.

As long as your diet is in check, you will be perfectly healthy and be able to focus more on other areas in your life that you would like to improve on as well.

On the other hand, if you are passionate about training and would love to progress further and dedicate more of  your time to acquiring a higher level of fitness, by all means, push yourself to reach that advanced level.

Each schedule is designed to give your body adequate recovery time between sessions, and, therefore, limit the possibility of over training.

Beginner:

Monday – Full Body Strength Training

Tuesday – Low Level Aerobic Conditioning

Wednesday – Anaerobic Conditioning

Thursday – Mobility/ Flexibility

Friday – Full Body Strength Training

Saturday –  Low Level Aerobic Conditioning

Sunday – Rest

Intermediate:

Monday – Full Body Strength Training

Tuesday – Low Level Aerobic Conditioning/ Mobility/ Flexibility

Wednesday – Full Body Strength Training

Thursday – Low Level Aerobic Conditioning/ Mobility/ Flexibility

Friday – Full Body Strength Training

Saturday – Anaerobic Conditioning

Sunday – Rest

Advanced:

Monday – Upper Body Strength

Tuesday – Low Level Aerobic Conditioning/ Mobility/ Flexibility

Wednesday – Lower Body Strength + 10 min HIT session

Thursday – Low Level Aerobic Conditioning/ Mobility/ Flexibility

Friday – Upper Body Strength

Saturday – Anaerobic Conditioning

Sunday – Low Level Aerobic Conditioning/ Mobility/ Flexibility

 


 

As you can see, there’s a lot of wiggle room between the beginner level and advanced.

Figure out how much time you want to dedicate to fitness and follow a schedule aligned with your current level and goals.

Training should ENERGIZE you.

You shouldn’t finish every workout on the verge of physical and mental exhaustion.

Constantly doing so will only lead to chronically elevated cortisol levels and decrease the amount of testosterone and HGH your body produces.

Be efficient in everything you do in life—including training.

It’s not just about putting in the work.

It’s about putting in the right kind of work.

Focus less on the amount of time you’re putting in, and more on the quality of your efforts and the results they yield. 

Author: J.J.Valdivia

I have worked in the health and fitness industry for a decade. Through my personal work with clients, and my writing, I strive to help others become more well-rounded human beings, so that they may thrive in all areas of their lives.

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