T Nation

Max Effort Confusion

I’ve had a similar thread a couple weeks ago. However, I’ve been doing a LOT of reading and it seems like there are so many misinterpretations of the westside system.

Dave Tate’s T-Nation article, “The periodization Bible - Pt. 2” ( https://www.t-nation.com/training/the-periodization-bible-part-2 ) says to pick a max effort exercise, Workup to a 1RM and change the exercise every 1-3 depending on lifting ability. After 1RM for your chosen lift, begin repetition work.

Jim Wendler’s short book (99 pages), The Max Effort Method - I read the entire thing last night - says the same thing…pick max effort lifts to rotate between and rotate between 1-3 weeks. After which you begin repetition work.

However, there are articles and sources that say to chose a 1RM lift and work up to it. After which you choose a “Heavy Compound Movement” as “accessory work” and hit it heavy for 3-5x5…and then proceed to repetition work.

I’m inclined to follow Dave Tate and Jim Wendler’s guidance, but where are all of these other interpretations coming from? I know it’s a “system” capable of creative implementation based on the athlete, but these articles, including the response to my last thread inquiring on the subject just seem to contradict the westside alumni…Really trying to progress and learn. Help? Thanks!

All of those sources suggest the same thing for the max effort method. It seems you’re more confused about supplemental and assistance work.

The max effort method is about generating maximal strain. It’s not about rep ranges or anything silly like that. You pick a movement that teaches you how to strain your body as hard as possible and learn how to recruit everything into it.

I was using ME while recovering from an ACL tear. Here is a 1 rep ME set

And here is an 8 rep set

Still ME sets.


Alright, so supplemental would be the 3-5x5 of a similar exercise after the 1RM Workup?

Ex. Floor press 1RM workup
Incline bench @ 5x5
…Then repetition work for triceps/shoulders/abs

Punisher nailed it basically … The three sources you are giving sound like they are all in agreement. Conjugate takes a long time to really understand to the point of application so its best to look at it one step at a time. In regards to your question here a max effort day would look like this:

Main Lift: work up to a 1 RM. If you can beat your PR from the week prior on the same lift then do it. If not, pick a different lift to max out on. (TYPICALLY this happens within 1-3 weeks.) So you can change the lift every week OR do a floor press (for example) for 3 straight weeks AS LONG AS YOU PR EACH TIME. If not you need to rotate.

After main lift is repetition-effort work. Could be 5-reps, could be 30-reps. Doesn’t matter. You address YOUR weak points. When I’m further out from a meet I’ll do good mornings or heavy presses in the 6-10 rep range. Closer to a meet I’ll drop compound rep work completely and just do lighter assistance at higher reps to stay fresh.

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Yup, if you need to do it, something you can do after the ME work.

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Okay, thanks guys. There is so much reading and it gets overwhelming at some points. Just want to make sure I’m not ineffectively training or misinterpreting what I read.

I hear ya … I didn’t fully understand it until I ran through an entire meet prep with an online coach using conjugate principles. I wouldn’t try to program yourself with it if I was you unless you have some solid training partners that can help you point out and address weak points in your lifts.


Any recommendations for online coaches?

I used Brandon Smitley - he’s one of the sponsored guys over at Elitefts. I believe he’s ranked in the top 5 in the world @ 132. Would definitely recommend him he was good to me. There are a ton of guys that offer online coaching services so look around for someone who seems like they know their sh*t and can address your goals.


If you’re on a budget and can’t afford coaching, you might want to run Defranco’s Westside for Skinny Bastards. If you’re not skinny or even if you’re on the big side that’s okay.

Basically, there’s more instructions so it’s easier to follow correctly. Once you’ve gone through a few weeks to many months of successful training with that, shift over to a template more like the Westside Barbell templates you see.

On elitefts.com, they have a squat manual that’s free jam packed with good information. He also has a deadlift and bench thing like it, but personally I don’t like them as much. That’s not to say they’re bad. I think they’re still worth a good look over.

The Elitefts Bench Press Manual by Dave Tate is another great read for specifics to Westside style training.

Louie Simmons also wrote something called Squat and Deadlift Manual. It only comes in a physical book. 20$ for 173 pages at Rogue. I haven’t read it, but feel free to let us know if it’s any good if you happen to.

And just something to keep in mind. Nobody knows all the secrets to entering weightlifting Valhalla. At some point, you’ve just gotta do it.

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Did you tear your ACL while lifting or doing something else? I tore mine playing football and have serious fears of doing it again while squatting/deadlifting.

I ‘liked’ it because there really is no substitute for good coaching so if you can afford it, think of it like an investment.

I lifted with a powerlifting team for a college quarter. They used very basic block periodization always using the comp lift. This is not at all what I’ve found to be ideal for me, but merely the fact I was lifting with these guys taught me some really important lessons regarding lifting.

I thought I was doing good PL style lifts, but not at all. I learned a lot about good form and having people cue me was invaluable. I new what I was supposed to do before, but I didn’t know if I was doing it and how to do it right.

I also learned what intensity was and getting out of my comfort zone. That lesson was huge.

That was in 09 and I still carry those lessons with me.


My understanding of max effort method and how I apply it

1 variation of the main lift,as close to it as possible(law of specificity).For example a flat press(floor press,close grip ect)will always be superior than an incline
Do a 1-5 rm.Rotate exercise each week and don’t come back for 4-8 weeks

1 secondary movement,done heavy to hit a weak part of the lift(If you lose position on the squat a 2 second pause squat for 3 sets of 3 for example)

A shoutload of bodybuilding work for the muscles you need to perform that movement

Some bodybuilding work for the rest,to avoid imbalances and get compliments on the club

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Did it in a strongman show. Ruptured ACL, torn meniscus and fractured patella. Even have footage for your viewing pleasure.

However, I didn’t get injured from strongman; I got injured from being stupid. I am not afraid to lift, but I am afraid to be stupif again, haha.

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Really amazing dude Nice try keep it up:grinning:

Returning to this thread because I don’t want to sell my man short … Brandon Smitley owns the all-time world record raw squat with wraps @ 132 of 565 lbs. I did not know that when he was coaching me.

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I understand. I went through a year when I was reading about lifting more than I was lifting and trying to apply everything and work every little muscle in the same weekly schedules. I’m glad I came to my senses before I hurt myself.

My motto in my own language goes as “Всеки е малко тъп”. That means “Everyone is a little stupid.”

So you will be stupid again, the important part is to take something out of being stupid! That’s what smart people do - they use their stupid to be notstupid! lol

just wanted to say that, keep on reading

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Oh yeah, don’t get me wrong; I think injuries are invaluable. They are an excellent opportunity to learn and grow, and I find that people who are absolutely averse to ever getting injured tend to not get very strong or be very successful in lifting. The point I’m making is that it wasn’t lifting that got me injured, so it’s not something I feel a need to be afraid of.

Op read stormthebeach’s Westside method thread on here. He basically goes into detail about setting up cycles, rotation of lifts, accessory work, gpp/extra workouts etc.