Minimal Effective Dose


General physical preparation is essential for peak sport performance. Complexes that combine multiple movements condense the time requirement for non-specific training, address both strength and energy system development, and allow more time for actual skill practice. That does NOT mean doing goofy shit like the image above.  Want to know how to build a safe, efficient, and effective complex? Read below.


Supplemental physical preparation should be an important part of any athletic endeavour. Putting in physical prep work helps build mobility, resilience to injury, and builds the engine that is then fine tuned to perform in a specific athletic endeavour. However, it is important to be aware that all the work that one puts in is put in for a reason. Strength is the foundational quality, but we build that foundation to support our peak.  Unless your sport is a strength sport (powerlifting, olympic weightlifting, strongman competitions), skill and technique work should make up the majority of your training.

Therein lies the problem. How do you fit mobility work, strength work and non-specific energy system training together in a way that it doesn’t overshadow your technical sport practice?

Let’s look at what a standard physical preparation program should include

Fundamental Movement

This can be debated all day. There are billion and then some ways to address each movement, so I’ll just list the categories I feel are important for any sport.



Pushing (reaching)


Rotary Control (Anti-rotation)


If a weeks worth of physical preparation addresses all of these movements, you’re in a good place. If it doesn’t, find the category that’s missing. Add it. That’s a step in the right direction.

Energy System Work

This is a tricky one. All three energy systems are required for almost every sport, with varying degrees of important for each sport. To get the most transfer, it is important to make your energy system training as sport-specific as possible.

How do I fit all that in?

It seems like a lot. It can be a lot. If the time spent on all these factors should be far smaller than actual technical practice, how can one possibly fit everything into a week? What about jobs? What about social lives? I’m not getting paid to be a professional athlete, so why would I eat, sleep, and breathe training? These are some questions I’ve heard before, and the key to fitting it all in lies in the minimal effective dose.

What is the MED?

The Minimal Effective Dose (MED) is the smallest dose that is will provide the desired outcome. Tim Ferris (who I am a huge fan of) says anything beyond that is wasteful. I disagree, if you participate in a sport. If you are an athlete, you need to go beyond that. Go beyond that in your skill practice. Go beyond that in your sport specific training. For supplemental strength training, the MED is just fine. You save the majority of your energy for actually getting better at sport specific technique, while still building the foundation. Your peak is is limited by the size of your foundation, so by building the foundation, your peak has more room to grow.

One Way to Do it All

There are many ways to fit in this “minimal effective dose”. One of my favorite ways is by introducing complexes into your training. Dan John is a strength coach you should all know, and if you don’t, research him ASAP. He defines a complex as such:

“A complex is a series of lifts performed back to back where you finish the reps of one lift before moving on to the next lift. The bar only leaves your hands or touches the floor after all of the lifts are completed.”

Awesome. Now lets substitute “Kettlebell” for “Bar”.

Set a timer, and do as many rounds as you can with this sequence. Do a Turkish Get Up. At the top of the get up, lower the bell to the 1/2 rack position. Walk for a while. I like 10-ish steps as a measure. After you have taken the bell for a walk, strict press it up to overhead. Finish your getup. Switch sides and walk back. Rest as long as you need. Shitty form means shitty training. Do it right. When you are good to go again, do it again.

What does this complex look like? Check it out.

Why do I like this complex? It trains rotary strength (the TGU), some mobility work (the TGU), some rotator cuff stability (the TGU), a push pattern (the press), a squat pattern (the TGU..well damn..the TGU sure does cover a lot eh?), and adds in a loaded carry.

Finish this session off with some swings on the minute (I highly recommend 10 swings on the minute for 10 minutes), and you’ve covered pretty much all you need to cover! If you’re not a climber, add a row variation. If you’re a climber, odds are you do enough pulling in the rest of your training. You’ll do just fine skipping pulling in your strength training.

Work this for four to six weeks, once or twice a week. Pick a bell that you can press 5-8 times. Although you will be only doing one press at a time, fatigue will build. You should always strive for quality repetitions over quantity, so picking a 5-8 rm bell will help keep your form crisp. Start with 6 minutes. Do as many repetitions in that 6 minutes as your form allows. Every few sessions add a minute.  Try and get more reps in as time increases. Cut the rest a bit every few sessions. Guess what? Your work capacity will increase. After time is up, rest 8 minutes. Do 2 handed swings every minute on the minute in sets of 10 for as many minutes as you did the complex for. 10-12 minutes for both the complex and the swings is a solid goal.

There you have it. In 30 minutes of work at the absolute maximum, you’ve trained a whole mess of fundamental movement patterns, put in some work on your aerobic foundation, and gotten stronger. What’s not to like about that?

Need help with your strength programming? Want to learn or fine tune your kettlebell skills? Want to structure a period of training for a goal in the future? Let me help you. I have a limited amount of spots open for custom training, either in person or remotely. Apply here.