Minimum Effective and Maximum Recoverable Volume

Sunday, June 7, 2020 - 03:22

Exercise should serve your life, not control it.

Many people think they need to train much more than is necessary.

Many more still are training more than their body is setup to recover from.

Let's start with what these two things are, then we'll dig in on how they can be applied to our movement practice.

First, Minimum Effective Volume. This is the minimum amount of exercise that will create a positive change in the body, moving us towards our goals. 

For training to serve our life, we should be training at or just above our minimum effect volume. MEV allows us to train with the lowest possible risk of injury while still maintaining a healthy, sustainable movement practice. Minimum Effective Volume gives us time for our family. It gives us time to enjoy other hobbies. Even more important, MEV provides us the time to focus on the pieces outside of the gym that truly spark the fire that is progress. Training at minimum effective volume allows us to find balance in our lives by focus on mindfulness, nutrition, and developing a basic rhythm that keeps us steam rolling strongly through all pieces of life. Chances are that your minimum effective volume is much lower than you think - or might want - it to be. Also, fun fact. If you use the time outside the gym to focus on sleep, intake, and mindfulness, your minimum effective volume could go even lower. Your healthy choices outside the gym would make your exercise practice even more effective and before you know it you're making "sick gainz" from only 3 days a week in the gym, at most.

Now, Maximum Recoverable Volume. MRV is exactly what it sounds like. Maximum Recoverable Volume is the most exercise our body can handle and still progress from without breaking. When looking at maximum recoverable volume for sport we must look at load vs. capacity and assess whether or not our total systemic load is near or above our capacity to recover from it. As we get closer and closer to the line that is our maximum recoverable there is a higher and higher risk / reward ratio. The only individuals who benefit from or should be training at their maximum recoverable volume are those who make a living with their fitness. Maximum recoverable volume is also largely dictated by lifestyle factors such as sleep, stress, nutrition and hydration. Unless you are living like a robot, your maximum recoverable volume is probably lower than you might think - or hope - that it is.

Minimum Effective Volume keeps us living well long into old age. Maximum Recoverable Volume takes time away from personal and professional aspects of life, affects quality of life, and causes unnecessary wear and tear on our bodies. 

This is all why we at Ardent Fitness believe that 3-4 days a week of working out is more than enough if your goals are to live a long a vital life. 

So before you decide to go to the gym an extra day, ask yourself if you have all of the other lifestyle pieces in check. Ask yourself if you've been sleeping well, diligent with your mindfulness practice, prepped healthy food for the week, or even just done basic mobility work? If not, then that extra hour in the gym will likely be counterproductive - leading to injury, burnout, and eventual loss of motivation and discipline to workout. Training too close to - or above - our maximum recoverable volume can and will lead to spouts of "on again, off again" exercise.

Minimum effective volume keeps us in the "no pain, all gainz" zone.

Do you enjoy being in the gym just to be there? Cool. Work on the lifestyle pieces so you can be in the gym multiple days a week. Because movement is only a small piece of a big puzzle and if you try to get through without the other pieces, you will sooner or later be paying the price.


Chase Tolleson