Optimizing Lifting Mechanics: Utilizing Maximal Effort Method

Updated: Apr 1

The most effective training method to optimize lifting mechanics for compound movements (deadlift, squat, press, etc.) is the Maximal Effort (ME) Method.

There is an inaccurate thought process that lifting maximal weights is "unsafe". This thought process is normally held by the pencil neck physical therapist or the “strength coach” who is unable to deadlift his own body weight. In theory, these characters incorrectly and illogically argue, that the ME method is “unsafe”. However, the bottom line is that in practice ME method is the best method to optimize the efficiency of compound movements.

"In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is." - Yogi Berra

Optimzing Lifting Mechanics

The most efficient way to optimize lifting mechanics is to SUBTRACT the ways in which the lift can be accomplished. Since lifting light weights is easy, the body can formulate almost an infinite number of movement solutions that will accomplish the task. For example, if you squat down and pick up a 10lb kettlebell there are literally thousands of different movement solutions, with endless combinations of options that would accomplish the task. You could be on one leg, or you could be on your tiptoes, etc. If you performed this light lift repeatedly, you would use your joints in combinations that you may possibly never use again.

Simply, lifting light weights enables the body to formulate more movement solutions, which increases complexity; thus, decreasing the odds of improving mechanics or using "optimal" mechanics.

Experienced lifters who train compound movements with maximal to sub-maximal to heavyweights/resistance coherently understand this concept. This is why these trained lifters’ heavier sets “feel” and generally look better. Their non-working warm-up sets will not be as mechanically efficient as their heavier working sets, as they can get away with not being 100% on point. Once the weight gets heavier, the body narrows down movement solutions; thus, optimizing lifting mechanics.

The Body Learns Through Subtraction

The body is an adaptable biological complex system, which in this scenario gains knowledge by subtraction, NOT addition [1].

By examining the ME method from a systems perspective, we can see the load acts as a resistance to the musculoskeletal component part of the system. As the load increases, the constraint that is resistance increases which decreases the number of movement solutions that will accomplish the lift. Thus, as the load increases, it acts to assist the central nervous system component part of the biological complex system by narrowing the range of options (movement solutions).

ME Method & Compound Lifts

Training compound lifts using the ME method narrows the movement solutions down to very fundamental and powerful mechanics. For instance, the mechanics of picking up a 10lb kettlebell is going to look very different from the mechanics of deadlifting 315lbs of weight with 200lbs of band tension. Therefore, if the aim of the training is to enhance lifting mechanics, the Maximum Effort Method must be applied.

“The method of maximal effort is considered superior for improving both intramuscular and intermuscular coordination; the muscles and central nervous system (CNS) apart only to the load placed on them. This should be used to bring forth the greatest strength increments."- Dr. Zatsiorsky

Simply put, muscles are composed of muscle fibers that are under the control of motor neurons. This relationship when viewed from a systems perspective is referred to as the neuromuscular system. Lifting maximal weights enhances the performance of the neuromuscular system by removing movement solutions for which the system can formulate, thus optimizing lifting mechanics and enhancing long-term potentiation. This is why in both science and practice of training, the ME method is superior for improving both intramuscular and intermuscular coordination.

learning how to train to utilize the max effort method

No strength coach or training facility has accumulated more time and experience applying the Max Effort Method than Louie Simmons and Westside Barbell. If you are interested in optimizing your compound lifting mechanics here are more resources to check out: Maximal Effort Method by Louie Simmons.

works cited
  1. Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. Random House, 2016.

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