Working out for me is about many things.

I love the challenge; the struggle; the growth; and the drive to be better. To me there’s almost nothing better than getting stronger, more functional, athletic, and, of course, looking good in my underwear. This is not to mention that I truly enjoy it and it’s something that I just love doing.

That being said, however, is that up until recently my progress and enjoyment stagnated. I just wasn’t getting stronger and that doesn’t equal fun. Even though I would spend a solid 2 hours in the gym beating myself up there really was no improvement. I plateaued and was left wondering why.

So, what did I do?

I started to do minimum effective effort, or dose, type style of training.

What does this exactly mean?

It means that I only do what is minimally required to achieve significant strength gains while preventing unnecessary wear and tear on my body.

At first, I didn’t plan on giving this any thought, largely because I enjoy working out so much and spending time in the gym. The minimalist approach says you should do the contrary and spend less time in the gym, so there was some confliction. However, because of previous injuries I sometimes struggle with I thought I give it a chance and make a change, especially since it prevented me from doing any heavy lifts that resulted in a hiatus from weights for a time (click here to read more about my time off from lifting).

And, after hearing more about this type of training from a Tim Ferriss podcast episode (The Tim Ferriss Show) it started to resonate with me and I thought I would entertain the idea, since what I was doing clearly wasn’t giving me any notable results.

Hence, I altered my training routine and began to do pursue a minimalist approach and see if I would make any strength gains, let alone lift heavy after my break.

Instead of working up to heavy weights and doing a 5×5 program, for example, I would work my way up to about 85-90% of my max and do anywhere from 1 to 5 sets of heavy singles. Afterwards, I  would drop the set to about 50-60% of my wax and do 3 to 5 sets of 5 reps and be done.

What I did before is exhaust myself with unnecessary volume at higher weights and then lower weights that would completely fry my body and cause more harm than good. With this minimalist approach, I’m able to save my body and make significant strength and size gains.

Just in the last month alone, I’ve increased my deadlift from 365lbs to 405lbs without any belts, straps, chalk, or any other aid. The only thing that lifts the weight is my hands and my body. Nothing else. I’ve focused on form and sheer power with each weight increment by using a minimalist approach.

And, by the way, I normally deadlift once a week and only twice if I’m feeling really crazy.

What I did before that I believe was wrong was many things. One, is that I kept the same training style with little variation, specifically by focusing and depending on volume to lead to my strength gains. And, in particular, I would always try to exhaust myself with higher reps with higher weights because the competitive side got the better of me. Big mistake!

I’m not saying you cannot do high training volume days. No. But, as you and I know, is that the rule of thumb is to partner high volume with lower weights (as in body building style of training) and lower reps with higher weights (as in powerlifting style of training). Of course, the two styles of training have many different variations and are actually quite correlated to one another, but that’s usually the foundation of where the bulk of the training programs build from.

The minimalist approach, seeks to get the most out of both worlds because you only do what you need to get the desired result. Nothing more than you need to.

Ever hear about the law of diminishing returns?

Well, in laymen’s terms, it basically states that at a certain point, the benefit is less than the cost and hence, not worth the investment of extra time and energy.

In training, this would mean that doing 10 reps, for example, has no more significant and positive effect than doing 8 reps (let’s say for hypertrophy). This example applied to my training because I did more volume than I should have done. This problem was compounded because sometimes I wouldn’t recover as well as I should with proper and quality rest.

I remember I would sometimes feel exhausted and terribly weak and wouldn’t understand why, even with a solid night’s rest. Looking back you can say I was over training and I would say you’re right. The only difference is that even if I wasn’t was my extra work really doing me that good?

I think not and after discovering this training philosophy I feel like I’m going to stick with it and see what happens. The results so far have been fantastic in all my lifts–squat, deadlift, bench press, front squat, etc.–and perhaps the best feeling is that I don’t feel overly sore, tired, or burn-out from my workouts. My body feels great and with the minimalist approach the stress for form and technique takes more of a driver seat which also helps me tremendously as well.

For more reasons and more I suggest trying a minimalist approach for your workouts and training. Maybe not entirely, but it’s just a start so you remember to optimize your time in the gym by only doing what is necessary for your goals.

But, I don’t want to put words in your mouth. Tell me what you think by leaving a comment down below!

As always, thanks for reading and stopping by. Until next time, be strong and be you!

Extra Stuff:

For more thoughts on minimalists approaches to working out check out these articles below!

Minimalist Training

Top 5 Benefits of Minimalist Style Workouts: Part I and Part II

Exercise Minimalism

(Photo Credit)


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