Minimum Effective Training
February 16, 2018
Kamp, Christopher A
Training frequency, or how often an athlete is training, is a massive topic. Over the course of three articles this topic will be explored in hopes of answering these questions: How often should an athlete train? How much is too much, and how much is too little?
The answers to these questions ultimately boil down to getting the dose right. In other words the answer to these questions is finding the most effective dose for the athlete in their current circumstance and training capabilities. In the pharmacology world the effective does is found in the range between the MED (Minimum Effective Dose) and the MTD (Maximum Tolerated Dose). This is also true in the strength & conditioning world and especially true for weightlifters
In a training program only three primary outcomes can occur. One, the training program does not challenge the athlete with a stimulus significant enough to require adaptations and the athlete does not progress. Two, the training program challenges the athlete with a stimulus so severe that the body cannot adapt and the athlete does not progress. Or three, the training stimulus is somewhere between the two previously described intensities. The stimulus is challenging enough to require adaptations without being so severe that recovery is not possible; therefore, the athlete does progress. The third option is what an effective dose is defined as for purposes of this article
Minimum Effective Dose
This is the first of three articles in regards to training frequency. To begin the journey, minimum effective dose must be quantified. Basically a number needs to be attached to training variables to define minimum effective dosing in terms of weightlifting. In terms of lift frequency, or how often a lift or exercise is trained, a lift or exercise must be trained a minimum of once per week to make noticeable progress. For training frequency, or how many days per week the athlete is training, a minimum of two days per week must dedicated to train strength and to maintain its benefits. These training days must be within at least 4 days of each other.
For strength training the minimum duration of these training sessions should be between forty minutes to an hour typically to be effective. This forty minute to hour training session is advised to include a Lift (snatch, clean, or jerk), a push (push press, bench press), a pull (clean pull, deadlift), a squat (front squat or back squat), and a core movement (planks, farmers walks) for most effectiveness.
Example Weightlifting Program
What does this look like for a weightlifter or athlete looking to make gains in the Olympic lifts? The athlete must train a snatch, Clean, and Jerk (or derivative of these movements like a “Hang Clean”) once per week, and include the above mention assistance and strength exercises. The athlete must also train twice per week for about forty minutes to hour.
As far as sets and reps are concerned, there are an infinite number of combinations and thought processes on what is most effective. It is the author’s opinion that for best results in weightlifting the sets and reps for explosive exercises should be in the range of three to one for six to four sets, and for strength exercises, five to two reps for four to two sets are optimal. Conditioning workouts should be around twenty minutes in duration. This is assuming the athlete already has a general understanding of how to perform the Olympic lifts. This is where the recommended training starts for beginner level weightlifters after they have learned how to perform the lifts.
Example: Minimum effective dose weightlifting program
Hang Snatch From Thigh; 5 x 3
Snatch Lift Off to Thigh; 3 x 3
Overhead Squat; 3 x 5
Back Squat; 3 x 5
Bench Press; 3 x 5
Hang Clean From Thigh; 5 x 3
Clean Lift Off to Thigh; 3 x 3
Push Press; 5 x 3
Good Morning With Squat; 3 x 5
Conditioning; 20 – 30 mins
The program example above is an excellent starting point for someone new to weightlifting or someone who is wanting to include Olympic style lifts in their current program.