This is a repost from June 20th, 2012.
Minimum effective dose of Coach G: very low. You don’t need to see a lot of me to have you day brightened and bettered. There have been studies. So what is minimum effective dose? Let us break it down.
The effective dose as it relates to pharmacology is the dose that produces some effect in some of the subjects. The nebulous “some” as it relates to effect is usually a type of therapeutic response – because we are talking about medicine here. The other “some” of subjects can be anything from 50% to 95%. Rarely do we see a drug positively affecting 100% of the test or study population.
The effective dose of water is the amount of water that suits your body’s needs at that moment. The moment is affected by many factors such as heat, humidity, body temperature, work rate, and many more nuanced variables. This is one reason there is no perfect prescription for water intake during the day. You have been told myriad different ways to get your water. For example, on a hot summer day you should intake 1 liter per hour during your race/workout. I have told you I would like you to have a baseline intake of ounces of water equal to your bodyweight in pounds e.g., BW=200lbs so the person needs a minimum of 200oz of water per day. Everyone has an opinion, but no one has a definite answer that fits all the subjects all the time.
There is such a thing as too much water though: hyponatremia is what the fancy pants call it. In fact, hyponatremia, or drinking too much water, is quite prevalent. 13% of the 2002 Boston Marathon finishers were in a hyponatremic state. By drinking a lot of water they diluted their electrolytes in their bodies until they had a low serum sodium concentration level. In the most severe of cases, respiratory arrest and death can occur.
So there exists, somewhere in between the minimum and maximum dose, an effective dose. More is always better does not hold up to this scrutiny. But what about exercise? Can we apply the same logic to lifting weights and conditioning? On Monday, was there an effective dose of deadlift volume during our 5RM session? You bet your dehydrated butt there was.
Let us begin with what I always like to remind each of you, that none of us are professional athletes and are not getting paid to work out at Ktown (editor’s note: Alex Anderson joined the gym in 2013). The needs of the professional athlete and you differ in degree, not kind. So while we wholeheartedly believe you need to be deadlifting, Olympic lifting, running, jumping, and climbing, we also understand you do not need to be doing any of these things like your paycheck depends on it. So where does that leave us? How about with a minimum effective dose of CrossFit?
How much do you need to reach your goals? What input will give us the biggest return while minimizing negatives like time, injuries, stress, etc? Figuring the answer(s) to these questions will save you a lot of headaches in the long run. This doesn’t mean to slack in the gym. What I want each of you to understand is there is a time and place to push the weights and intensity higher. Controlled, steady progress is what we are after, not two steps forward and one step back.
So let us look at our deadlift session from Monday. We were to perform a 5RM. This is a great time to reference your training log. Your last 5RM was 1 month ago and it was 185lbs? Awesome! I suggest you try for something pretty close to 195lbs. You can feel the weight out as you warm up to that working set. You did a single at 185lbs and it felt lighter than the spatula you used to stir your scrambled eggs bathed in duck fat this morning? Well, try to rip 205lbs from the ground for a set of 5! That would be a 20lb PR, but more importantly a more than 10% increase in your 5RM deadlift in 1 month. That is huge progress (and unsustainable, but that is another post entirely).
What you do not want to do in that situation is warm up, do 195lbs for 5 reps, and then say that was too easy and add 5 or 10lbs. That 2-5% increase in weight from one set to another is inconsequential at this point. All it does is serve to fatigue your body, most notably your lower back, for the rest of the workout and week. The 195lb set was 975lbs of volume, and a 200lb set would be 1,000lbs of volume. The stimulus is practically the same, and you will receive almost the same adaptation had you done either weight for 5 reps. The difference in strength gain from that extra set is almost nothing, and that almost nothing is definitely not worth the extra fatigue.
Now I want to look at the metabolic conditioning portion. This one is much harder to tame and put in to pretty little paragraphs with volume break downs and all, but I will try to be clear and concise. We often scale people when it comes time for the MetCon. This is our easy way of giving you the correct loading and overall volume to elicit a response. We match the stimulus to your training history. It isn’t because a coach thinks you cannot do something. And it does not mean you are any less important than the persons working out to your left and right. Sometimes, going with the prescription MetCon can be too much work for where you are in your training, just like it can sometimes be inadequate for the Alex Andersons of this world.
Understand these concepts. Apply them to your training. Train smarter while also training harder. It will make you fitter, happier, and almost impregnable to injury.
I know, tl; dr,