Exercise programs should be designed around MEDs. Seriously.

When exercising, think about MEDs.

The MED, or minimum effective dose, is the LEAST amount of something (a drug, supplement, training, exercise) that one needs to get the intended benefit from using or doing it.

For exercise specifically, the MED is the least of amount of prescribed exercise to get the maximum benefit without side effects or wasted gym time.

More exercise equals more gains…to a certain point.

Most exercise routines have a benefit curve that resembles the classic bell shaped curve. As exercise time goes up, benefits increase…to a certain point. After that point, returns (or gains) come far slower, and detrimental side effects start to increase in frequency. These side effects include:

  1. Wasting time that can be used more efficiently on something else that needs attention in your life
  2. Potential injury from overuse of a given joint
  3. Hormonal fluctuations due to overtraining
  4. Burnout on exercise given the time demand

In a world filled with messages that encourage MORE exercise and LESS rest, advocating for doing less is tough.

The key is to devote time to quality exercises. Quality exercise is the kind that gives you maximum return per minute spent performing it. Defining quality will depend on your ultimate goal, so for the sake of this article, let’s assume the goal is INCREASED STRENGTH.

Increased strength comes from the progressively applying resistance to a given movement pattern that someone wishes to strengthen.

Assuming the movement is free of compensations and bad mechanics, applying a progressively increasing load will increase the force production in that pattern. So, getting stronger in the squat pattern (a highly functional human movement) requires time spent squatting. Usually, 4–5 sets a week with a 5–12 rep range will do the trick. More sets will burn more calories, but so does running on a treadmill.

Deadlifting once a week is perfect for adding hip stregth.

Squats are for strength training, not calorie burning.

Too much squatting on a fatigued tissue and nervous system will invite compensatory movement, possible injury, and strength losses. But you will burn some extra calories, so…

The same goes for all of the big movement patterns. Upper body pushes and pulls, hinging and squatting and full body stability exercises. These exercises should be done 1–2 times per week, maybe one day with max effort, and one moderate load day. There will always be the big gym dude who will tell you otherwise, but there are probably some other variables at work there (freak genetics, vitamin s, youth, lack of a life outside barbells).

The point here is, for MOST people with busy lifestyles who love exercise but also value time spent on other aspects of their lives, the MED is efficient and it works.

Here is a basic 3 day split using the MED for these exercises.

Day 1:

General warmup-air squats, hip bridges, band lateral walks

Barbell hip bridges 2 sets of 12

Barbell Deadlifts 4 sets of 6

Goblet squats 4 sets of 10

Split squats 3 sets of 10 each leg

Walking lunges 3 sets of 12 each leg


General warmup- push ups, dumbbell ys, t spine extension on foam roller

Bench press 4 sets of 8

Overhead press 4 sets of 8

Pull up of Cable pull downs 4 sets of 10

Lateral dumbbell raises 3 sets of 12

One arm dumbbell rows (on bench) 2 sets of 12 each

Day 3:

General warmup-band lateral walks, forearm planks, PVC shoulder dislocates

Farmers carries with dumbbells 4 sets of 40 steps

Suitcase carry Kettlebell or dumbbell 3 sets of 20 steps each side

Barbell Push Press 4 sets of 10

Push up with rotation 3 sets of 8 each side

Stir the pot (plank on ball) 6 sets of 12 seconds

Some of these exercises are not household names, I know, but try googling them for a reasonable explanation. They have been chosen for their safe, big bang for your buck value.

For a more detailed and personalized MED strength plan, contact me at matt@emergefitnesstraining.com

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

It’s your turn. Emerge