This is a concept that has been around quite a while but of recent times gathered more steam on social media. Minimal Effective Dose (MED) refers to giving the athlete the smallest training dose (or stimulus) to elicit the desired performance or outcome. But how do we know what the MED is for each athlete? Like all training methods… we don’t! It is a guess; yet one which experienced coaches will have a better grasp on than developing coaches. It is also intertwined with the Art of Coaching and knowing what the individual athlete NEEDS, and what is going to tip them over the edge.
With developing athletes, MORE training will likely deliver more impressive results; however, at what cost over time. Once coaches drive up the training load for young athletes, you can not only interfere with the overall athletic development process but you can ‘break’ a few along the way. However, a recent study by Tim Gabbett (here) suggests that completely stripping back the workload is not the answer either. The concept of Acute:Chronic training load is one which is being utilized and endorsed across a range of sports, which demonstrates a way to monitor both under-training and over-training.
The Minimal Effective Dose has merit. Why do 10 sessions per week, when you can get the same result with 7? Why run 150 miles a week, when you can get the same performance outcome with 120 miles? The role of the coach is to work with each individual athlete and SLOWLY over time, determine when and how much to push the athlete to deliver the result… Due to past experiences and successes, both the athlete and coach will have confirmation biases about what will lead to the outcome.
Working out what should be the Minimal Effective Dose is the hardest part… Good luck!