Maximum Effort Workouts

The Westside method is a Periodisation program known as Conjugated Periodisation. This simply put means that several abilities are coupled together throughout the training. The western method of periodisation separates these variables while this Westside method puts it all together at the same time. The entire Westside method is centered around three basic methods of strength development Maximal Effort, Dynamic Effort Method, and the Repetition Method.

        The Maximal Effort method is considered by many coaches and athletes as being the superior method of strength development. It places great demands on both intramuscular and intermuscular coordination and well as stimulating the muscular and central nervous system. These demand force the body into greater adaptation. This adaptation is what is responsible for strength gains. When training using the max effort method the central nervous system inhibition is reduced, thus the maximal number of motor units are activated with optimal discharge frequency (Zatsiorisky). The one draw back to using this method is that you cannot train with weights above 90 percent for much longer than three weeks before the nervous system begins to weaken. When this happen your strength will begin to diminish. This is one of the major reasons why progressive overload will only work for so long. With this in mind and knowing how good this method is in the development of strength development Westside set out to find away around this three-week barrier. The way to over come it is to switch the exercises used for the max effort method every one to tree weeks. This keep the body fresh so the method can be used year round.

Max Effort Parameters
Load (Intensity)
90 to 100%
Number of Exercises
Rest Interval
2 to 5 minutes
Frequency / Week
1 (Squat Day) / 1(Bench Day)
Weeks per Exercise


        So how do you use this method? The best way to utilize the max effort method is deciding on one main exercise that will be trained with this method. After a proper general warm up you proceed to this exercise and begin to warm up with the bar. Taking small weight increases you begin to work up in weight with sets of three reps. when three reps begins to feel heavy you drop down to single repetitions. This is when you begin to try to max out on the exercise. Keep increasing the weight until you have reached your one rep max. Make sure to keep track of what this record is because this is what you will try to beat next time out. A max effort exercise would look like this:

Sets Reps Weight
Floor Press
2 5 45
2 3 95
1 3 135
1 3 185
1 3 225
1 3 275
1 1 315
1 1 365
1 1 405 
1 1 425

        In the above example, 425 would represent the lifters one-rep max. This is the number that should be recorded to break on a later date. It is very important to only use this method with only one exercise per workout and no more than one time per week for each lift. The Westside method schedules one max effort day for the bench and one for the squat and dead lift as follows:

        Monday: Max Effort Day for the Squat and Dead lift

        Wednesday: Max Effort Day for the Bench Press

        Since many of the same muscle are used for the squat and dead lift, they are trained on the same day. Actually very little dead lifting is performed with this style of training because of this reason. 

        The Max Effort Exercises should also be closely related to the squat, bench press and dead lift, and all should have a very high strength carry over value. These exercises include: Box Squats, Good Mornings, and Dead lift for the squat and dead lift days and Board, floor, Close Grip. Incline and Band Press for the Bench Press. These are just a sample list of over 1000 different max effort exercises that can be performed for max effort days. See index for complete list

        The best max effort exercise for the squat and dead lift are Good Mornings, Low Box Squat and Dead lift. The good morning is probably the best overall exercise for strength development and should be utilized 70 percent of all Max effort days. There are several different types of Good Morning that can be performed. Good morning using a variety of different bars such as the safety squat bar, buffalo bar, and cambered bar are classics at Westside barbell. Many of these good mornings are performed suspended from chains. By suspending the bar from the power rack to perform the good morning (Anderson good mornings or suspended good mornings) you are creating the same specificity as when you dead lift. This is because you start the dead lift without any eccentric or lowering motion. This is also true when you have to squat under a suspended barbell and lift it to a standing position. 

        The best max effort exercises for the bench press are the Floor Press, Board Press, Close Grip Bench Press, JM Press, and Reverse Band Presses. All Pressing motions! As with the squat and dead lift max effort exercises, there are several variations of each movement. Each exercise has a specific function. For instance, the floor press takes your legs out of the motion so greater emphasis is placed on the pecs, delts and triceps. The close grip incline press takes your lats out of the motion so there is greater emphasis placed on the deltoids and triceps. The board press also take your lats out of the motion and provide you with the opportunity to train at specific points of the bench press. 

        The max effort meso cycle should only last 1 to 3 weeks with the later being for the novice and intermediate strength athlete. The more advanced the athlete the shorter the time spent per cycle or time spent per max effort exercise. This is due to the neuromuscular coordination and motor learning. The advanced athlete can call upon more motor unit activation (use more muscle) than the novice. For example the novice may use 40% of their total muscle while the advanced will be able to use 80%. The second reason is the neuromuscular and muscular coordination. The advanced lifter has always figured out and mastered how to do the movement. His body knows what to do and when. The novice athlete has not figured out how to do the movement and is far from mastering it. This will allow the novice to progress and break records for around three weeks on each max effort exercise. This however will not be the case for the advanced athlete. These athletes will have one good week where they break a record then will be unable to break it for the next two weeks. So the solution is simple, switch every week! This will allow you to break records each week and avoided overstraining. Max effort training by the way is a process of learning how to better synchronize the muscle involvement. This is because of the activation of the central nervous system as well as other factors such as motivation and concentration.

        If you do not always break a record, donít worry about it. The strain is more important than the record itself. With this in mind, if you happen to break your record and it was very easily to the point you really didnít strain, then you must take another record where you actually strain. 

Dave Tate cscs

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