9 Unbreakable Laws of Max Effort Training

Nick Showman
Written By: Nick Showman
October 18th, 2017
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Training
21.2K Reads
9 Unbreakable Laws of Max Effort Training
If you're interested in max effort training than you better not break one of the 9 laws. Read this article to learn the 9 rules of max effort training.

In any kind of training there are general guidelines that will help you succeed with the given workout program.

In a conjugate system, these rules are essential to progress in your training and competitions, but also to avoid overtraining, burnout, or injury.

Max effort training is the best asset to a competitive lifter’s goals because it does three things:

  1. It teaches the athlete how to strain for a length of time.
  2. True max effort training will also recruit more motor units than sub-maximal training. This will elicit a larger response from the exercise than doing sets of 10 or more reps.
  3. Max effort training works because your body becomes used to lifting weights at above 95% of your max. On a linear program, you might only handle maximal weights for a short period of time, but in a conjugate system you will max out two times every week.

Follow these rules and you will be on the path to getting stronger every week of the year.

1. Rotate Exercises

Using the Westside Barbell system, we will rotate exercises on a weekly basis. We will do this for both max effort lower body and max effort upper body.

Related: 8 Lessons Learned from the Strongest Lifters at Westside Barbell

By rotating exercises on a weekly basis we will avoid accommodation and build strength at different positions for each movement. Here is an example of a month for both lower body and upper body on max effort days.

Max Effort Lower Body Exercise Rotation

  • Week 1: Low Box Squat Variation, Close Stance - 1 Rep Max
  • Week 2: Good Morning Variation - 3-5 Rep Max
  • Week 3: Deadlift Variation - 1 Rep Max
  • Week 4: Lower Body Accessory
  • Repeat Cycle with different exercises

Max Effort Upper Body Exercise Rotation

  • Week 1: Close Grip Bench Press - 1 Rep Max
  • Week 2: 2 Board Bench Press - 1 Rep Max
  • Week 3: 1 Board Bench Press - 1 Rep Max
  • Week 4: Floor Press - 1 Rep Max

These are examples of how you can rotate your max effort exercises weekly and avoid plateaus. This is how we continue to hit personal records (PRs) every week.

Max Effort Rules: Perform Exercises You Need

2. Pick Exercises that YOU Need.

Not the exercises that you want to do. We all have certain lifts that we’re good at because of practice, limb length, etc. But they might not have much carry over to making us a better lifter on the platform.

Find the lifts that you really struggle with and keep track so you can find which ones have a positive effect on your competition movements.

3. PRs are King

On max effort day you need to train like your life depends on getting a 5-lb PR. Once you hit a 5-lb PR, move on.

It’s better to hit a PR and move on to build strength than to keep trying for a bigger number and risk injury. This allows for some room the next time you come back to this movement in 8-10 weeks.

There will be days where you feel like King Kong and days where it’s all you can do to get to the gym, but regardless, in either situation you need to hit PRs.

4. Keep a Notebook

This is so easy with all the phone apps and different recorders available now. Keep a detailed log of all training sessions and a separate section for PRs.

Keep the max effort numbers detailed, what grip, what accommodating resistance, what bar was used. This is so you know what numbers you need to hit when you come back to the movement.

Max Effort Training Rules: Don't Use Competition Lifts

5. Don’t Use Competition Lifts

Competition lifts are hard for your body to recover from physically and mentally. There is also a difference in training max and absolute max because a competition will include a heightened central nervous system (CNS) because of the competitive atmosphere.

This makes it hard to hit numbers in the gym higher than in competition and can become mentally a challenge.

6. Compete

Find a group of training partners that will push you through a wall. I have seen bets made of who can hit bigger PRs with money, pizza, clothing, other types of food etc. This is all to raise the competitive environment.

Related: 6 Proven Ways to Boost Workout Motivation

This is how people really push each other to a new level - whatever it takes to create competition. If you’re the weakest person in your group, set weight ranges that you refuse to get beat by. If you're the strongest in the group, set weight ranges that you have to win by on max effort days.

7. Big Jumps

On max effort day, the volume will be low. Take bigger jumps up to your PR weight. This will keep you fresh and help avoid fatigue by the time you get to maximal weights.

Here is an example of someone with a 500-lb deadlift on max day:

  • 135x5
  • 225x3
  • 315x2
  • 405x1
  • 455x1
  • 485x1
  • 505x1(5lb PR)

We will usually split the last jump to a PR into manageable numbers. It’s hard to jump 70-100lbs into max weight and be successful.

Max Effort Training Rules: Don't Use More than 90 Percent of 1RM

8. No More Than 3 Lifts Over 90%- 90%+

Training is very taxing on your body. Limit it to no more than 3 lifts over 90% and help keep your body fresh.

There will be days where you will only take one attempt over 90% and that is also fine. The more attempts over 90%, the harder it is to recover from and also increases your chance of injuries.

9. Don’t Over Think Max Effort Lifts

Too many times a novice lifter will sit and think all day about their upcoming max effort lifts. At Westside Barbell and Showtime Strength & Performance, we decide our lifts at breakfast before we train.

This doesn't allow for a long period of time to stress over the lifts ahead. There have been numerous times where we planned on speed squats or down days, but then ended up in a battle with training partners over a certain lift.

Have a gameplan, but be ready to audible. Too many lifters will psyche themselves up all day for a lift, but in reality the only psyche time should be immediately prior to a lift so the lifter can properly channel everything into the lift.

Wrap Up

This is our guide to max effort training. At Showtime Strength & Performance, we have used these guidelines with new, advanced, raw and geared lifters and they all made tremendous progress.

Using these guidelines, Matt Taylor went from an 800-lb. Squat to 854lbs in less than 6 months; Aaron Walser went from a 755-lb Squat to 865lbs in 12 months. This helped me jump from a 600 lb Deadlift to 700lbs in two years.

This is the best way to get strong and remain injury free.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or email me nick@showtimestrength.com