When it comes to strength training, there are different methods, schools of thoughts and different approaches.
Every single method follows the fundamental principles of training.
It’s useful to classify strength training according to methods of attaining maximal muscular tension.
There are three ways to achieve maximal muscular tension, which are:
- Maximal Effort Method
- Submaximal Effort Method and the Repeated effort method
- Dynamic Effort Method
Maximal effort Method
Lifting a maximal load against maximal resistance. This is generally defined as 90% + of one’s 1RM.
“The method of maximal effort is considered superior for improving both intramuscular and intermuscular coordination; the muscles and central nervous system (CNS) adapt only to the load placed on them.”
Due to the SAID principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) our body adapts only to the imposed overload.
If this overload isn’t heavy enough, never close to our 1RM, we won’t be able to get the most out of our workouts.
“When using the max effort method, you will work with higher intensities, with low volume, between 1 and 3 reps”
We can see this method being used everywhere, no matter the school of thought, with more or less frequency.
For example, with the Bulgarian Method, we can see it being used daily.
The max effort method is also used at Westside Barbell (US) pretty much weekly.
With Sheiko Programming (RU) the max effort method is reserved exclusively for the peaking block.
However, the max effort method has its limits:
- It causes little (to none) muscle Hypertrophy
- It requires high motivation and arousal
- It requires technical proficiency with the main lifts.
- If used too often, it can cause burnout in athletes
Submaximal Effort Method / Repeated Effort method
The number of reps and sets changes, therefore the intensity.
When it comes to the Submaximal effort method, intensity ranges between 80% and 90%, using 3 to 5 reps.
In this case, the Prilepin chart comes in handy, we can use it as a reference between the optimal number of repetitions to be performed at a given load.
When it comes to the repeated effort, the intensity drops, and the load is often brought to muscular failure, like in Bodybuilding.
This method, particularly when using intensities between 80% to 85% of your 1RM, is the core of the work done by most powerlifting coaches.
There are also practical differences when it comes to applying this method.
The Soviets use the method with the competition movements. Lots of sets, low rpe’s, lots of volume.
At Westside Barbell, this method is applied to accessory movements, it’s almost never used with the main competition movements.
Mike Tuscherer (one of the most successful powerlifting coach in the US), uses the method with competition movements and with accessory work.
The dynamic Effort Method
The Dynamic Effort Method is a style of training that was popularized by Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell.
The Dynamic Effort Method isn’t used to increase absolute strength, but only to improve the rate of force development and explosive strength.
You are going to use low intensities of your 1RM, the goal is to move submaximal weights at maximal speed.
There is a huge improvement in the recruiting process of the biggest motor units and an increase in power.
Intensities range between 40% to 85% of your 1rm, depending on the quality that we want to develop.
With the dynamic effort method, the number of sets is pretty high (9-12 sets) with reps ranging between 1 and 3, up to 5 reps per set if you can impart the same speed to the bar for every set.
It’s probably the least used method because it generates maximal tension, but it doesn’t increase maximal strength.
It can be really useful for athletes that want to:
- Increase Vertical Jump
- Increase Acceleration
- Increase Speed
- Improve physical performance
A great way to train to make better athletes.
What’s the best method for strength?
The Max effort method, if you want to increase your strength in the shortest amount of time.
The problem is that this method has several limitations.
It can’t be used all the time, with frequency: it has to be cycled, that’s why training periodization has its value.
It’s suitable for advanced athletes, less for beginners because the degree of technical proficiency required is pretty high.
Why is the dynamic method rarely used?
It’s not used often in powerlifting and strongman, but it’s widely used in sports.
It doesn’t increase strength, except if an athlete has an explosive force deficit that can limit him, but it’s a specific case.
That’s why it’s almost never used, aside from the Conjugate Method of Westside Barbell.
I think “the error” was born for the fact that in the original text (Science and practice of Strength training), the author wants to explain the methods to generate maximum muscular tension.
Which is not synonymous with “absolute strength”.
With the dynamic method, there is a maximum muscular tension, since the maximum acceleration of the barbell increases the recruitment of motor units.
It’s extremely useful in athletes and in those who want to train explosive strength, much less for those who want to increase their absolute strength.
It’s no coincidence that the only powerlifters that use the method are the ones at Westside Barbell However, Louie Simmons likes to point out that they don’t use this method to increase absolute strength, but for the RFD and explosive strength.
All the other powerlifting coaches don’t use or don’t pay a lot of attention to this method.
Strength Training Methods – Final Considerations
All S&C coaches make extensive use of these strength training methods when it comes to increasing athletes 1RM.
Some Coaches spent more time on the Submaximal method, others on the Repetition method or the Max Effort Method, but every single coach uses one of the methods – besides the Dynamic effort.
Sheiko himself, a huge fan of the Submaximal Method, likes to use the Submaximal Method after the main competition movement (It’s not rare to see 5×8 on accessory movements)
There is no right or wrong, different schools of thought and different types of periodization have produced world-class athletes.
All these methods work well if contextualized, programmed and periodized by a good Strength Coach.