One of my childhood besties @piecesofmomlife recently gave a shout-out to some advice I shared with her in regards to her “pants not fittin quite right”! She had been following an evidence based program for well over a year but like so many of us due to social situations and schedule change, she had gradually started to fall off her program just long enough for her bodi to start to show a reverse change. She wanted to know what to do in order to feel comfortable in her clothes again without having to embrace the same schedule as before since it wasn’t sustainable in this season of life. My response to this question, “try the least effective dose”. I believe this to be one of THE MOST important principles in training and nutrition as well as the most misunderstood and under utilized. In a nutshell, I was telling her to pick from her current program the least amount of activity and dietary adjustments she could sustain and still obtain the results she was looking for.
The least effective dose refers to diet and exercise, both variables are equally important however we are going to focus on exercise for this post. Too many people, specifically women make too many changes at once in an attempt to change their bodies and come up with little to no results. This is a paradigm shift in our thinking and I know it sounds scary to do less but if it’s enough to achieve the result you are looking for than its enough! Below are a few steps to guide you in implementing this concept.
1. KEEP IT SIMPLE! Training does NOT have to be complicated, there are different forms of resistance, exercise selection, training splits, timing, tempo, number of reps, sets and rest periods. Start where your bodi is currently capable and progressively overload weekly enough to provoke change and then LET THAT CHANGE HAPPEN!
2. Stay CONSISTENT! Choose how many days per week you are able to strength train, being mindful of what is truly sustainable in your current season of life. If it’s 1 day, then it’s 1 day… just keep that 1 day! Choose what movements or bodi parts you will train that day, choose a number of exercises per session, the reps, sets and rest periods you will use for those exercises. This is called a program, rinse and repeat this program weekly for 4-6 weeks to allow time for adaptation.
3. TRACK your progress! Pick one variable to track each week over the course of your program. The variable could be number of exercises per session, rep range, number of sets, amount of weight, or rest periods; it doesn’t matter as long as you are consistent with this variable. Tracking your progress gives you information about your program and how your bodi is responding. If you aren’t improving each week then something needs to be adjusted, if you are improving carry on! For example, If you choose to track the amount of weight you are lifting and you notice it is not improving or even declining, maybe you need longer rest periods in between set or less exercises per session? Adapt a variable until you see the improvement you are looking for and then continue.
4. EAT to support your training program! This is a loaded statement and deserves a post all to itself but for now the bottom line is you HAVE to nutritionally support your bodi in order to change!
@piecesofmomlife discovered she could sustain 2 days of strength training each week that consisted of a bodi part split she could track along with aligning specific food choices based on her active and non-active days. This routine gave her the results she was looking for without owning her entire schedule!
Sometimes life does not allow us to live in the gym and doing too much at once can overload your system to a point where adaptation is not possible and progress stops. Try implementing the “least effective dose” and see what results you obtain while maintaining a social life and your sanity!