Lately I haven’t had a lot of ambition to train. Between coming off a powerlifting meet in the spring, it being hotter than hell in the gym during the summer, and wanting to skydive as much as humanly possible all summer I just haven’t had a whole lot of extra time or ambition to train.
So I’ve been experimenting with the question of “how little is enough?” Usually when we talk about training there’s an almost obsession with maximizing outputs. How much muscle can you gain, how many PRs can you hit.
But there are lots of situations where that’s not really what you want. Sometimes the situation or your desires don’t call for maximizing output, they call for minimizing input and maximizing effectiveness or efficiency.
And yet, despite only training heavy twice a week, I’m not only maintaining body weight and composition, but my strength is staying relatively stable if not increasing incrementally. Of course I’m not pushing my absolute 1RM all time bests up, but my working weights are increasing gradually even with the low frequency.
One of the things I’ve learned from the mountain of data I’ve gathered having every member at my gym track their workouts is that the minimum weekly frequency to make good progress is about 2.1 workouts per week. In other words, two isn’t enough so three is just about right.
But, I think if you keep some guidelines in mind you can maintain or even progress very slowly in times when progress isn’t a priority:
- Train mainly with full body compound movements.
- Train the whole body each training session, no body part splits.
- Go heavy, for moderate reps. You’re not getting a lot of frequency, so the intensity of the stimulus needs to be higher.
- Don’t push things that don’t feel right or get hurt. This might sound obvious, but if you’re already only training at the lower bound of minimal effective amount you can’t afford to have to take time off because you tweaked something.
At some point, probably later in the fall after my travel schedule settles down I’ll go back to training more often and with more purpose towards moving forward. But for now I’m enjoying this little experiment and I’m learning a lot about what does and doesn’t work. I’ve always thought creating a program for the person who wants to train the absolute minimum would be fun, so I’m learning a bit towards that end.