T Nation

How A Training Max Works?


Can someone explain to me how a training max actually works? I get the premise of behind why one is good in training, but I truly don’t understand how it works.

I’ve seen the examples of people never lifting more than like 300lbs in training, but at a meet/contest, they are able to lift 400lbs (just an example).

For example, let’s say our lifter who’s squat any given day 5RM is 225. How he does he structure his training, how does the training max help him get to a goal of lets say to go from being able to squat 225 for 1x5 to 5x5? Or going from 225 1x5 to 275 1x5?

EDIT: For you guys that say I’m not a beginner because of my lifts, this is exactly why I still consider myself a beginner lol. I don’t know these type of things.


That’s an extreme and exaggerated example, but Thib talked about what Zatsiorsky called Tmax (training max) vs Cmax (competition max) in this article, but that’s more tied to 5-10% increased performance from the adrenaline of contest day and increased overall stimulus.

Not to trip over labels, but that’s probably better considered an every day max if it’s a weight the lifter knows they can hit anytime, anywhere, under any conditions (short on sleep, hungry, etc.). A true “training max” is generally calculated after a RM test.

The term training max was probably most recently popularized by Wendler’s 5/3/1. Are you asking about it in the context of that program?

The basic principle is something that’s been around for years and years. Chad Waterbury wrote a ton about the science behind using submaximal loading. This is one that covers a lot of ground.

It’s basically about using a load that allows the most efficient force production (bar speed) which activates maximum muscle fibers and trains the nervous system, which is tied to fatigue management, a program’s training volume, and overall recovery.

Long story short (too late): A training max makes sure the lifter is moving the right weight at the right speed with the right volume and it teaches the muscles and brain to produce more force.


Any day dude can squat 225 x5 and let’s say 245 for 1 with no psyche up.

Then on Contest day he uses ammonia and knee wraps to squat 275.

When he returns to training, he doesn’t linearly progress to 280 x1. He starts back over with the training that produced 225 x 5 and 245 x1. Except he aims to finish the cycle with 240 x5 and 260 x 1.

Then on Contest day, psyche up, ammonia and equipment to squat 290.

Train heavier than before. Save maxes for the platform.