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Minimum Effective Dose for Strength

I’m basically asking this out of curiosity and to see peoples opinions, not because I’m lazy and looking to get gains from no work. But since the recommendations are so varied from the coaches and contributors here I’m curious, what is the minimum effective dose necessary to achieve strength and muscle gains? For example, is 5x5 on squat, deadlift, bench and press enough if no other work or assistance is done? 3x3 with a rest pause set? 531 has the Jack shit for if you’re too busy to complete a whole workout, but would that actually be enough? Any thoughts?

This is dependent on each person’s genetics and what the goals they aspire to conquer.

My legs get stronger just looking at a squat rack.
My back gets stronger just thinking about it.
But for upper body pressing muscles I have to do a lot of sets and reps or assistance to help bring them up.

I would say for MOST people you’d have to lift hard and heavy AT LEAST 2x a week to see any gains at all.

That’s why sticking to programs for long periods of time work well. You get to assess what works and what doesn’t. I’ve learned through my program hopping ways that changing ONE variable at a time really lets you know what works best FOR YOU.


I had done the JTS thing which put my minimum effective volume at 5 sets of squats, 6 sets of pressing and 4 sets of deadlifting per week. (I could do 1 less squat and press set per week st higher intensities)

That worked out reasonably well.

My advice to you would be to keep a log. That will tell you more than anyone else can.

Damn man your MEV is low. I did the JTS thing too and mine was way higher for everything.

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Being tall and fat helps keep it down lol

What’s the JTS?

Juggernaut Training Systems. They have a MEV video on youtube and they have an AI thing that creates a program for you based on a lot of variables and gives you all of that information.

Oh Ok i have heard of that, I think I’ll check it out.

This is interesting I’ve seen this but never used it. How would you rate its accuracy on what you needed and most importantly, did you get noticeably stronger?

As for the topic of the thread…

I did a program called the M2 method last year by Brian Schwab. It’s kinda a combo of conjugate mixed with linear periodization that incorporates doing minimal work for “maximal” results. It’s 12 weeks with optional 4 week peaking block for a total of 16 weeks if performed in total. It’s a paid program so I won’t post it here but here’s a base layout of day 1 squat workout on plan 1. Also the % are based on your max plus 25-50 lbs. it’s programmed this way to have you working into heavier weights. He recommend lower end of that for bench and mid to upper for dead and squat. I think how new you are also is to take into account with this.

Warm up sets which should take as many sets as needed then
5x75%, and 77.5% high box (1 inch above parallel)

Front squats warmups and 1x9 and 1x8

Stiff leg deads warmups 1x8 1x7
(These are set for rpe 8 or 2 RIR)

Standing cable crunches 2x15
Standing cable obliques 2x15 each side

And that’s it. Next workout would be a little less weight and parallel box then 3 week is full squat little less weight and week 4 start over.

So this is very little volume as this is only squat routine of the week. Bench is set up pretty similar with volume being a little higher. I hit a 380lb bench after this program for first time with my previous best being 355. And hit my first 500 deadlift after it too. Squat improved as well. (Short arms I’m better bencher than dead lifter sadly)

This is just my case but I’ve gotten much stronger with well programmed intensity and not killing it on volume. I self program now after trying Sheiko (which caused more tendinitis then I’d like to mention) and conjugate systems for a few months. I pretty much do a M W F S (squat , bench, pull, press) scheme and i started getting stronger again. I think I may be a little lucky in that my body responds to less volume better so I don’t have to kill myself with tons of volume week in and out.

That’s seems like a very interesting program. I think that’s what prompted me to get some opinions on this is that I too seem to respond better to pretty low volume but mentally I feel like I should be doing more, or like I’m not doing enough to make progress (even though I am progressing). It’s a weird balance though because I prefer low sets/reps and seem to respond to that but real high intensity destroys me and I feel like crap for a whole day. So I’ve been trying to find the sweet spot of enough intensity to make low reps and sets worthwhile but not frying myself.

Yeah that’s kinda my experience. I see a lot of programming that has you doing high frequency lifts at lower volume but I don’t recover from that mainly the pressing volume. Personally I do waves like this

RPE 9 working up to top set of the following
Week1 5
2: 4
3: 2

I do 2 sets at 80% of top set and take each set to RPE 8 meaning 2 RIR basically

Then repeat. I rotate through 3 lift variations of each lift 1 is comp lift and 2 are targeting weak points. so in 12 weeks you will hit each variation on each rep range. Then I do 1 accessory lift for the lift of the day for 2 sets and some pump work usually 2-3 sets.

Depends. I need volume to get bigger and stronger, but the weights need to be low to moderate. Total tonnage per session is generally 6600 to 11000 lbs a session, four days a week.

Depends on how you define “strength and muscle gains”.

Like, if you only did cleans a few days a week, you’d get very strong (on cleans, on most pulling exercises, and probably on most leg exercises) and you’d build muscle (primarily in the back, traps, shoulders, and legs).

For more “complete” development, a squat, some kind of pull, and some kind of press 2-3 days a week are probably the bare minimum. Whether that’s the original 20-rep squat routine (1x20 squats with BTN press and pullovers as assistance work), the old school 5x5 with bench-squat-dead or bench-squat-power clean, whatever.

To be fair, you’ve been asking about minimal training for a year and a half. Your first thread on the site talked about training two days a week every other week, along with other threads about minimalist training and very short workouts.

Is your schedule that jam-packed or, being honest with yourself, do you just not like lifting?

You mentioned intensity and volume, but not frequency. Those are the three variables to balance for results and recovery. Dan John has a program that’s high frequency, low volume, low to moderate intensity.

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What assumptions does JTS make for intensity for those sets? You’re body is going to respond differently to a set of 5 at 85% than it would to a set of 5 at 75%, right?

You have different minimum volumes for different intensities. You don’t mix intensities up during a phase so you don’t have to juggle sets around but I suppose you could if you wanted.

Does that system also spread the recommended sets out across multiple training days like if it has you doing 4 sets working for deadlift:

Monday deadlift 2x5

Thursday deads 2x5

Just an example. And if so does it have you doing variations each day? I’m just curious on the programming honestly how it’s laid out

For each movement pattern:
you work out your minimum volumes,
You work out your maximum volumes,
You work out your frequencies (weekly).

You work out the length of your training block and the you go from your mimimum to your maximum volume over the block or the other way around for strength focussed blocks.

There’s stuff about how to split and cycle exercises plus number of days to train but I can’t remember the details.

I think this is in the Design book which is pretty pricey and while it does give you a nice system it is a bit hard to work with and doesn’t give you anything groundbreaking.

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Awesome thanks for the info. I appreciate it. I like to learn about different programming see what different ppl are doing in training.

You are fair, and I appreciate your response. I love lifting and look forward to it. But I am always looking for the most efficient lifts to cover all my bases in the least amount of time because…

Unfortunately yes, my schedule is f’d up right now. I have 30-45 minutes to lift max including warm ups, etc. Wake up 10-10:30am, have to be done lifting by 11am. Then shower, eat, prepare and pack my food for the day and leave for work at noon. Hour and a half commute to work (this is the part that hurts the most time wise but don’t have a choice right now) usually quirk 10-12 hours, commute home and in bed between 2-4am. That leaves me around 7 hours to sleep which I try to prioritize. On top of that my off days from my job are irregular (railroad) usually work 6 on 2 off. (Hence my old post about lifting 2 days per week, I wanted to see if keeping it to my off days would help. It didn’t.) And add a wife and three kids and other obligations into the mix.
That’s why I qualified this post the way I did. I’m not looking for the easy way out, and I’m willing to put in the work, it’s just been a challenge, so I try something, see if it works, ask a question or two here to get opinions, and if it doesn’t work I try changing things up.
So having said all that I feel like I’ve pared it down to where I can complete the workout 4 days each week but on paper it didn’t look like enough and wanted to know peoples thoughts on how effective a low volume program might be.
Thanks again for your input, I understand your point based on previous posts, but a few posts spread out over a year and a half don’t give the whims picture. I’ve lifted steady the whole time but with constant changes and tweaks and I want to lock something down that I can stick to once and for all (or at least for a while)

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