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Max Effort Exercise Selection for Raw Lifters

I keep reading conflicting information on max effort exercise selection for raw lifters. I know much of it will come down to trial and error to find what works for me, but I just wanted your opinions.

  • Are partial lifts recommended? Like floor presses and rack pulls. Some guys say yes. Others say no, and that you need to train full ROM movements and to especially focus on the bottom of the movements. Some talk about the strength curve and how raw lifters need more low end work and equipped guys need more top end strength.

  • Box squats good for raw lifters? Do they carry over to free squats?

  • What are the best variations for ME BB exercises without using specialty bars and accommodating resistance?

Just my 0.02.
Partial range of motion stuff is fine some of the time but it shouldn’t be like a 4-5 board press or pull from above the knees. It should be close to full range.
Box squats don’t carryover at all for me personally. Don’t know if it’s execution or the way I squat.
Anything similar to the comp lift. Change grip, bar position, ROM.

You gotta use the partial lifts to Focus on weaknesses, or in a smart(optimal) way, not in a stupid “overload” way.

Above knee rack pulls would be for beginners, non lifters or dudes coming off injuries. Or maybe as a secondary lift for glutes or to learn to push hips through without hitching.

More useful for regular guys are rack pulls from knee height, where the bar is far away from the hips, leverage is worst and lower back is hit the most. Or lower, where you might have some kind of stcking point.

If you wanted/needed more leg drive you could use deficit deadlifts instead.

You don’t have to do short ROM floor presses. You could do close grip incline press that has a longer ROM than bench press for your triceps.

Also max effort work is like 7 reps per workout. In another workout you do like 25 full ROM lifts.

Box Squats are good, but not everyone is in to them. If you like them, they’ll do great. If you don’t think they’re that cool you can always use them as a secondary/special lift for your hips.

Some ME lifts

Deficit Conventional Deadlift
Rack Conventional

Sumo from Blocks
Stiff Leg Sumo Stance Deadlift

Front Squat
Back Squat to low box

Close Grip Bench
Bench from pins in rack
Close Grip Incline Bench
Max Rep Dumbbell Bench
Touch and Go Bench
Incline Bench


ME is about learning to strain and finding weak points

ME is not for

  • Fixing weak points
  • Muscle growth
  • Technique work

Any and all lifts can be applied as an ME movement, just don’t choose an EGO lift because you can do a shit ton of weight on it for no reason.


Brian alruhe has a good video on this on you tube. I’ve ran conjugate system before for several months so I have some experience with it. The main thing is keeping variations close to what you’re trying to do. Example

Good example- 2 second pause bench press working up to 1,3, or 5 rm

Bad example -4 board reverse band with chains for 1rm

I’ve warched a bit of Matt wennings stuff on conjugate for raw lifters as well he’s a good wealth of knowledge as he’s a former geared lifter that switched to raw and has been successful.

Main point- don’t get to far away from the lift you’re training variations are good but don’t make the variation something that doesn’t resemble what you’re chasing

Front Squat
Back Squat to high box
Back Squat to parallel box
Squat to below parallel
Anderson squat
Anderson front squat
Front squat to chains/straps
Front squat to box
Front squat to high box
front squat to low box
High bar squat
Low bar squat
Pause Squat
Squat to chains/straps
Narrow Squats
Wide Squats
Narrow box squats
Wide box squats
Medium box squats
Medium squats
Wrapped squats
Good mornings
Wide stance good mornings
Good morning to box squat
Squat down to box, good morning, stand up
Good morning to chains/straps

Block pulls
Rack pulls
Deficit pulls
Sumo pulls
Conv pull
Stiff leg deadlift
Stiff leg deficit
Below the knee, above the knee

Close grip bench
Wide grip
Medium grip
JM press
1 board
2 board
3 board
floor press
cg floor press
wide floor press
incline press
cg incline press
wide grip incline press
bench from pins
Flat back bench
Feet up bench

I’m sure there’s about 30 other variations with just a straight bar alone. Add a pause to any of these variations and now you’ve got x 2

As @marcb84 said try to keep it similar to a regular lift but slightly different.


That’s enough lifts to get you through Lil 10 years of training lol good list

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If you don’t know what ME lifts to do then I suggest sticking to the basic lifts that still train full ROM until you find your weakness.

Flat bench
Close grip bench
Overhead press
Pause deadlift
Def deadlift
Front squat
Pause squat

I understand not having access to specialty bars, but just wondering why you aren’t planning on using accommodating resistance? This has been the game changer in my recent training.


Oh my god thank you. This gets missed SO much.

Your strength is getting built from the RE work. The ME work just teaches you how to use it.


Like @littlesleeper said, why not use the accommodating resistance? You can order a set of bands from elitefts or anywhere else for not much money and just throw them in your gym bag.


If you’re feeling beat up, you can still get a good session of ME work. Just pick a variation that doesn’t cause as much systemic fatigue.

For example:
You feel like dog doo so instead of going for that parallel box squat, go for a ME front squat.

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