What is the Max Effort Method? advantages and disadvantages to keep in mind when exercising

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What is the Max Effort Method? advantages and disadvantages to keep in mind when exercising

Max Effort method is one of 3 training methods (including repetition and dynamic effort) that help to increase muscular muscle strength; today, let's find out how this method works.

What is the Max Effort Method?

The Max Effort Method teaches weight lifters how to handle heavy loads that are typically over 90% of their 1RM. By putting the most effort into a rich set, the practitioner will develop strength, muscle coordination, and nerves without depending on or causing muscle gain (or muscle hypertrophy).

Note: You should re-read the 2 articles on Dynamic Effort and Repetition methods to get the complete view when applying these methods together for optimal results.

Overview of the Max Effort method

The Max Effort method will require you to lift the maximum weight with maximum resistance, usually lifting weights at 90% + 1RM with a single rep.

This method aims to teach lifters how to handle stress and work through it, rather than letting your body and mind fall off their instincts when times get tough.

Overview of the Max Effort method

The result is an improved central nervous system (CNS) (improved nerve command to muscles for maximum force output), leading to enhanced strength and lifting technique for heavy weights.

In a nutshell – this method improves the ability of individual muscles to engage, coordinating your muscle groups to work together during lifts and making your existing muscles stronger while teaching you the skill of staying calm under pressure.

In terms of weightlifting, this is the most effective way to acclimate your body in a competition, as this is the whole point of Powerlifting – move as much as you can in a single set. You can't do it well if you never train to do it in the first place.

However, this type of training is highly laborious and cannot be sustained for long. Therefore, it's easy to overtrain in this method, leading to injuries, fatigue, and other problems.

Because it cannot be maintained in the long run, Max Effort and Repetition methods are often combined in one program to support it.

History of the Max Effort Method

In recent history, Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell details how he developed his training method around the Max Effort method used by the Soviet weightlifting team and the Bulgarian weightlifting team of the same era in the mid-century 20th century.

Based on Soviet books translated by a friend, Louie learned that these teams found the best results in their weightlifters when they spent more time training at higher levels load is almost max, about 90-97% of their 1RM.

In the case of the Soviet Union, Simmons records that about 20% of their lifts were 90-100% of 1RM. For the Bulgarians, that's the majority of their charges at that weight.

So which weightlifting team has the better record? That's the Bulgarian team. Because they spent more time lifting near-maximal weights, they were better adapted to perform max lifts in competition.

However, the Bulgarians have one more factor we cannot ignore – they have hand-selected their team members based on their ideal height and body weight. If lifters cannot keep up with the program, they will be replaced.

The Soviets had a similar tactic: their athletes had to train with general strength exercises for three years before being approved for competition training. Still, in the end, the Bulgarians were more rigid in their approach to the Max Effort method and, therefore, more successful.

In either situation, even the best athletes can be dropped from the team if they cannot maintain the stress (physical, emotional, and psychological) of training continuously below maximum weight.

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Westside Barbell has been the biggest proponent of the Max Effort method since then. Still, any good Powerlifting or strength program today will incorporate elements of the Max Effort method for advanced training of their strength.

How is the Max Effort method applied in training?

This is where you start the Max Effort Method. Remember, by definition; the Max Effort method is lifting maximum weight with maximum resistance. But that definition does not define how often it is used.

How is the Max Effort method applied in training?

With that defined, you can incorporate it as an element of your training, as discussed below, or make it the mantra and soul of your movement, as Louie Simmons did.

Apply consistently

Louie preaches that “your body will adapt to the stimuli placed on it.” So if you want to lift heavy in one go, you have to create a stimulus for your body that makes you adapt to meet that need.

With that in mind, it's not surprising that Westside athletes do 2-3 Max Effort (ME) exercises per week, one for each of the three Powerlifting lifts, or sometimes the upper body Max Effort. Lower body and Max Effort upper body exercise.

The rest of the week will incorporate Dynamic Effort (DE) training for each Powerlifting lift and a total of 6-7 reps, half focusing on Max Effort.

Each week, the variation of Max Effort is changed to avoid the body adapting and keep variety in the program. For example, one week might be a Safety Bar Squat ME, the next week a Cambered Bar Squat To a Box ME, instead of consistently applying the standard exercises in Powerlifting.

Regardless of the variation you use, the goal should be to apply maximum force multiple times a week so that lifters can:

1) Adapt to that exercise and get stronger

2) Develop the skills needed to perform when lifting heavy weights.

For this reason, variations don't necessarily have to execute the standard squat, bench press, and deadlift positions flawlessly, as long as it stresses the lifter under heavy loads.

A-Max Effort exercises could be Good Morning, Rack Pull, Specialty Bar Squat, Block Bench Press, Deficit Deadlift; the list could be repeated.

Apply periodically

In other programs, the Max Effort method is only used during specific training periods because of the fatigue it causes to the practitioner.

If you look at a standard 12-week program, it's usually divided into three parts. The names of the sections vary, but the first 4 weeks typically focus on hypertrophy and muscle building. The Max Effort method won't be incorporated much here.

The second part is 4 weeks of strength/skill development, with a load around 75-85% 1RM with 3-5 reps per set. A weight lifter may find themselves putting in maximum effort in their last stage, but many trainers will avoid that level of exertion during this program phase.

For that reason, some ME elements will appear in this block.

The final part is the top, as the lifter moves into double reps and finally single agents in the 90% 1RM range. This 3-4 week period pretty much illustrates the Max Effort Method. It focuses on preparing the athlete to do a true 1RM, applying all their techniques and strength training from previous installments into that single iteration at maximum load.

In this final section, lifters will reduce their total mass (rep count x weight) to focus on doing only single, heavy reps with very little support or variation.

After the sections are completed, and the lifters have tested their max, they return to start a new, non-Max Effort training session for the next several weeks or months.

You will find many different opinions on incorporating the Max Effort Method. Some will favor Louie's model, which is strategically used weekly, while others favor its use only every 4 weeks.

For the individual lifter, the most significant factor will be your ability to adapt to that weight and how long you can safely and effectively maintain it.

6 benefits of the Max Effort method

6 benefits of the Max Effort method

1. It's a proven method

The Max Effort method has been proven by science; you can't be good at maxing out if you're not training close to your max.

2. Improve your 1RM

If you practice effectively with the Max Effort method, whether periodic or fixed, your 1RM will increase.

You can look at other strength methods where 5RM or 3RM repetitions will predict how much you can do in 1RM, but there's no natural way to know your 1RM until you check it out.

3. Bringing perfection

No method is more perfect than the ME method. If you want to know your next maximum squat, spend a few reps doing a 90% squat, and you'll have a pretty good idea. Do enough, and you'll have very few surprises when adding that last 10% to the bar.

We talk a lot about muscle movement in Powerlifting – does the Close Grip Bench Press move into your traditional Bench Press? Does Good Morning improve your Squats and Deadlifts? The key is to train to enhance your end goal – lifting heavy 1 set at a time.

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4. It's fun

Let's admit it – if you do Powerlifting, it's because it's fun to put the wrong dumbbells into our bodies and lift them in one go. The Max Effort method allows us to have that fun outside competition and test our maximum abilities.

Suppose we combine the Max Effort method effectively. In that case, we can enjoy the uplifting aspect we love so much – the feeling of pressure in our head and body, the “all or nothing” bet of our lives. one lift, blood vessels burst in our eyes the next – without really maxing out all the time the way we usually do in competition.

If you put together a workout plan that includes the Max Effort method, you'll always have fun doing the best parts of Powerlifting.

The Max Effort method will develop your lifting skills when lifting heavy weights.

An experienced lifter has the strength and skill to move the barbell in one go, and strength and skill are two different things.

I have seen many athletes perform 2-3 reps of the same weight. Sometimes their first rep isn't technical enough, like a squat that isn't deep enough. On the second iteration, they fixed it with the first iteration, kept improving it in the second, and the third rep looks excellent.

But that same lifter will struggle to do a single rep when they don't get a chance to correct the mistake on that lift. Performing a perfect technique once is a skill.

Second, you learn the ability to slow down your lift (mentally) and think while you're lifting.

Imagine the last Max Effort gain you attempted. The friend then blushed, trying to get the job done. Everyone is shouting something like “Push!” or “Pull up!” or “Come on!” or some other encouragement that they think will help the lifter complete their test.

You, as a weightlifter, may be thinking the same things, or maybe you go into an area, and you're not thinking about anything but lifting the bar.

But a most advanced session will only last 1-7 seconds, then to deal with those encouraging words, what you should do is already too late.

Those few seconds will become your routine when you're training to lift maximum weights with maximum effort. You introduce yourself for self-suggestion, and those messages from your brain can be processed in time to adjust and complete the lift.

You can tell yourself whatever you need to and make changes because you're used to this week in and week out, and you know how to lift weights and think simultaneously.

You'll do well on single reps when you train with the Max Effort Method. Not just a single agent but a single rep under the near-maximum weight; that's a skill in itself.

So use the Max Effort method to build your strength and your 1RM execution skills.

6. No DOMs

Late-onset soreness (DOMs) will not be experienced with Max Effort because the duration of muscle tension is very little, much lower than with conventional muscle-building exercises with many repetitions and short rest periods.

If you don't like the feel of DOMs, try the Max Effort method, and you can get stronger with no pain in the following days.

But instead, your nerves will be stressed a lot, so it's up to you to choose.

4 disadvantages of the Max Effort method

1. Causes a lot of fatigue

Practicing with the Max Effort method will cause a lot of fatigue. You cannot train with maximum effort for a long, and you can't apply it for a long time.

2. Safety

Working with maximum effort and weight has many potential safety hazards; even a slight loss of concentration can lead to severe injury and possibly a long recovery time.

3. Supporter

Practicing to the fullest extent always requires someone to follow you, but you don't always have someone to support you; when you have to practice alone, this method causes many difficulties for you and makes it easy to encounter more trauma.

4. No muscle gain

The Max Effort method is not a beginner's muscle gainer, it is not the goal of this program, and it is not the response your body will receive from the stimulation of this method.

If your goal is to build as much muscle as possible, don't use this method; it should only be used when you want to build muscle strength.

Tips for applying the Max Effort method

Tips for applying the Max Effort method

Exercise with a clear strategy

When deciding to include 3 ME workouts per week or wait until your parts peak, develop a clear strategy.

Consider your experience in this subject so far, have you had previous experience and passed it. Do you give up when faced with difficulties?

If you need more experience, don't be afraid to find yourself a coach to support you. Perhaps a weekly practice session can help you familiarize yourself with the skill.

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If you've been doing Powerlifting for a while and know how to build strength and make Max Effort, then consider conserving that energy for 4 weeks at the peak instead of expending it all week after week.

Use variation

We only have 3 main exercises in this Powerlifting. Hence, it would be best if you kept it exciting and engaging by doing variations, each of which will require something different from the standard set.

Prioritize beneficial variations

When choosing new variations, prioritize the ones that give you the best performance in competition. If you do the Seated Good Morning exercise that doesn't do much for the Squat or Deadlift, don't do it much.

But if you find the Box Squat more effective, make it more of a priority.

Please take a close look at your lifts to see what they need to improve, when was the last failure, is there a variation that could help you recover. Practice it alongside the Max Effort program, and you can hit 2 targets with one arrow.


Stress yourself; this is the crux of the Max Effort Method. If the weight you choose doesn't stress you out, you've missed the most crucial point of this program.

Don't get me wrong; it doesn't mean you will approach weights beyond your reach; I'm not saying you have to be reckless. What I mean is that your lifts must be complex.

Record a video/get help.

Take a video or let someone else watch you and give you feedback to improve your technique. There's often a big difference between how you feel when lifting weights and how you train, so you should pay attention to both.

When a lift feels heavier and slower, take a video many times; it's moving faster than we think when it's done.

Reviewing the exercise videos will give you more confidence to think and assert yourself while carrying the weight of the bar instead of letting the feeling of it affect you.

People who practice Powerlifting should apply the Max Effort Method?

The answer is absolutely to apply; there is no method to help you become more potent than the Max Effort Method. Instead of asking whether to use it or not, the more accurate question would be “how  should it be applied for the best effect?”

Unfortunately, I cannot answer this question specifically for you, and I can only say that the Max Effort method is challenging to apply continuously for many consecutive weeks. The Bulgarians proved it's not for everyone and replaced any weightlifters who couldn't keep up.

The Soviets forced their athletes to practice general, unskilled strength exercises for three years before they were deemed fit and healthy enough to begin skilled lifting (squat, bench, deadlift, clean and jerk, and snatch) because to train those, they had to do it with 20% maximum effort the whole time.

But those two teams are the best in history BECAUSE they trained with more maximum effort than any other team except Louie and the Westside guys.
So the evidence is incontrovertible, but you'll need to look at your situation and decide if you can achieve maximum effort training per week, several times a week, or just for some time 4 weeks before the competition.

But no matter what you decide, you won't get far in Powerlifting without applying the Max Effort Method.

An example of the Max Effort for Squat  program

The first example would apply to pre-match day because it favors the low bar back squat; the second example would be used during regular training, weeks before a competition, because it involves a variation of the squat

Example 1:

  • Start up
  • Squat: 1 set, 1 rep with 90% 1RM
  • Paused Squat: 4 sets, 2 reps with 70%1RM

Example 2:

  • Start up
  • Block Pull Deadlift: 5 sets, 1 rep with 90% 1RM
  • Good Morning: 3 sets, 3-5 reps with 85% 1RM
  • Bent-Over Barbell Row: 3 sets, 5 reps

Max Effort Training Lessons:

YouTube video

Summary What is the Max Effort Method? 6 Advantages when applying in Powerlifting:

Whether you view the Max Effort method as a way of life or simply as a tool in your program, it's essential to improve your 1RM in any weightlifting exercise.

As Louie Simmons says, your body can only adapt to the stimuli you put on it. There is no better way to adjust to a heavy load than to practice with a heavy load. But because of the taxing nature of maximum effort training, we must consider how we apply it.

So the above article, Bellyfatzone, shares What is the Max Effort Method? 6 Advantages when applied in Powerlifting, help you better understand and choose the most suitable way to improve your health and fitness, making you better every day.

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