Top Five Max Effort Mistakes


Iím a big believer in max effort training, and I believe itís made a big difference in my training. Weíve talked a lot about how beneficial max effort training is if you want to become strong. However, mistakes can hinder your progress. Here are the top five max efforts mistakes.

Not enough volume

When doing max effort, most people are so paranoid about not hitting a record that they forget that max effort is about training, not about testing. Because of this, the number of heavier sets (in this case 90 percent and up) is usually very limited, usually to only one or two sets at or above 90 percent. However, I have found that most people need to get at least three lifts at or above this. This can be done several ways.

One way is something like this:

∑ 1x5 @ 50%

∑ 1x3 @ 60%

∑ 1x2 @ 70%

∑ 1x1 @ 80%

∑ 1x1 @ 90%

∑ 1x1 @ 95%

∑ 1x1 @ 100%

Here is another variation:

∑ 1x5 @ 50%

∑ 1x3 @ 60%

∑ 1x2 @ 70%

∑ 1x1 @ 80%

∑ 1x1 @ 90%

∑ 1x1 @ 100 %

∑ 1x1 @ 90-95%

And finally, here is another:

∑ 1x5 @ 50%

∑ 1x3 @ 60%

∑ 1x2 @ 70%

∑ 1x1 @ 80%

∑ 1x1 @ 90%

∑ 1x1 @ 90%

∑ 1x1 @ 90%

There are a lot of possibilities and different ways to achieve the goal. However you do it, make sure that you get at least three lifts above 90 percent.

Awful form

On many max effort lifts, your form is going to be a little messed up. Youíre going to be straining and squirming, and many times your body is going to be contorted into positions that are better suited for circus freaks. I have seen it, and I have done it. Now, there is a difference between having form that is ok and form that is dangerous. If you feel that your form has deteriorated to the point that you may get hurt, itís time to shut down, or take some weight off the bar. Nothing gets accomplished with bad form, and nothing gets accomplished when you are hurt.

You can either film yourself, or let your training partners monitor you. If you are a veteran lifter, you will know when your form breaks down. This is when you have to be smart and listen. Donít let your ego get in the way.

Too much variety

In the age of boards, boxes, bands, chains, and floor presses, there seems to be an endless amount of options for lifts. This is a welcome relief to many people who have been doing the same workout and the same exercises for years. Unfortunately, this variety can also be detrimental. With so much variety, most people canít gauge how strong theyíre getting or which lifts are working and which are not. A good rule of thumb is to have 3Ė4 max effort lifts for the bench press, three for the squat, and three for the deadlift. Stick with these exercises for at least four months, and then see how you are doing.

Here are some ideas:

Max effort bench press

∑ Two-board

∑ Three-board

∑ Floor press

∑ Incline press

Max effort squat

∑ Safety squat bar box squat

∑ Cambered bar box squat

∑ Buffalo bar box squat

Max effort deadlift

∑ Reverse band deadlift

∑ Rack deadlift

∑ Deadlifts off elevated platform (2Ė4Ē)

No grip variation

When I first started doing max effort work for my bench press, all of it was done with a close grip (index finger just outside the smooth part of the knurling). I made progress, but stalled out after about a year. Needing a change, I widened my grip, and my lifts went up. Now, this is not a rallying cry for everyone to widen their grip. But I think that too many people stick with one grip on each bench press variation and rarely change.

So how do you do this?

Letís say that you use the four max effort exercises for the bench press listed above (floor press, incline press, two-board, and three-board). Each exercise is done for 1Ė2 weeks each. Do two cycles with a close grip. This will last 4Ė8 weeks depending on how long you stay with an exercise. After this period, perform the same exercises, but use a wider grip. This will allow you to set and attempt to break records for each lift with each grip.

Not recording your progress

Unless you have a great memory, itís almost impossible to remember all of your max effort records. This becomes especially difficult if you use chains/bands on some lifts. And why waste mental energy on something that you can easily document? One of the best ways to monitor your progress is to use a grease board. List your max effort lifts on one side and your records on another. Only list the max effort exercises that are used most often to prevent your record board from getting too cluttered.

By keeping accurate records of your max effort progress, you can have something to shoot for on every max effort workout. This will also allow you to see your progress and either make changes or keep forging forward with your training.

If you donít have the opportunity to use a grease board, a simple spiral notebook will do.