It is convenient to categorise strength training according to methods of reaching maximal muscular tension. In literature, approaches of strength training are occasionally classified according to the exercises used (i.e., isotonic, eccentric, isometric). It might be more ideal to classify the ways to achieve maximal muscular tension in the following three categories:
- Lifting an all-out load (exercising against the highest resistance). This is known as the maximal effort method
- Lifting a sub-maximal load to failure (all through the final repetitions the muscles cultivate the maximum force possible in anexhausted state). This is known as the repeated effort method
- Lifting (or throwing) a sub-maximal load with the highest manageable speed. This is known as the dynamic effort method
Max Effort Method
The process of max effort is regarded as being superior with respect to improving both inter-muscular and intramuscular coordination (the central nervous system and the muscles adapt only to the load placed on them). This method should be used to bring about the greatest strength boosts. With it, the maximal number of motor units is stimulated with ideal discharge frequency, and the trainee then learns to augment and memorise these alterations in motor coordination (on an involuntary level). It should be noted that studies have shown that training at 90% and above for three consecutive weeks will actually impede the beneficial effect as adaptation occurs and the stress on the body soars rapidly. This, however, is dodged by switching the main exercise either every week or every three weeks. The basic application of this method is to choose one compound movement for the first movement of the day and work up to a 1RM (one repetition maximum). Two days are dedicated to max effort training (one for the squat and deadlift, and the other for the bench press). Typically, there are three sets of five repetitions, three sets of three repetitions, one set of two repetitions, and lastly three sets of a single repetition (the last three should consist of 90%, 100%, and an attempt at a new personal record!).
Dynamic Effort Method
This method is used to cultivate a fast rate of force development and explosive strength. It is defined as lifting a sub-maximal load at the quickest speed possible (this is applied to the same three lifts, i.e., the bench press, the deadlift, and the squat). Characteristically, you would lower the barbell quickly (though under control), and press up with as much force as your body will allow. Depending on your level of experience and work capacity, the load used can vary from 50% to 70% of your 1RM. What is often the case is that lifters make use of what is known as accommodating resistance. What this means is that they add on chains and/or training bands, which essentially serve to help eliminate deceleration during the lift. This is typically done for nine sets of three repetitions (for the bench press), nine sets of two repetitions (for the squat), and nine sets of a single repetition (for the deadlift). The duration of rest remains the same irrespective of which exercise you are doing (normally one minute of rest between each set). The most vital thing to remember when using this method is that maintaining speed of movement at a constant pace is more important than the load used, as this method is not used for developing maximal strength.
The repetition method, otherwise recognised as the bodybuilding method, is the top method for the development of muscular hypertrophy. It is the technique where in all accessory and supplemental exercises are trained and is defined as lifting a sub-maximal load to muscular failure. It is well-documented that maximal force is produced by the muscles in a physically drained state (due to the recruitment of the most powerful motor units). This structure of training has a great influence on the advance of muscle mass. A great advantage of the repetition method is that there is an increase not only in strength (as a larger cross-sectional area of the muscle corresponds to an increase in strength) but also in endurance. This method is normally used for all exercises that complement the main compound movements, i.e., the deadlift, the squat, and the bench press.
Alternative: Brief Maximal Tension Method
If the speedy display of maximum strength is essential, then the brief maximal tension method should be given priority in training. It is distinguished from the common progressive resistance method in that hefty loads (85% to 95%) of 1RM, or your 3RM to 5RM are used and are pooled with the lifting of lighter loads (in a single training bout) and maximal loads (one repetition once or twice per week). Nevertheless, the number of sets should be amplified to more than three. Accordingly, it is suggested that trainees execute five to six exercises for six to ten sets of one to three repetitions in one workout. It improves the ability to focus neuromuscular effort and produces a superior training effect than the widespread progressive resistance method for improving maximum strength and the capacity to show it rapidly. What’s more is that it increases strength without increasing muscle mass, which is crucial for sports which entail predominantly the improvement of relative strength (like Olympic weightlifting). It is suitable to use this technique when the repetition method has become unproductive for strength development and when it is essential to improve strength speedily in a comparatively short period with a trifling volume of work.
- Simmons, Louie. Westside Barbell Book of Methods. Columbus, OH: Westside Barbell, 2007.
- Verkhoshansky, Yuri Vitalievitch, and Mel Cunningham Siff. Supertraining. 6th ed. - Expanded Edition. Rome, Italy: Verkhoshansky, 2009.
- Zatsiorsky, Vladimir M. Science and Practice of Strength Training. Second Edition ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2006.
Simmons, Louie. Westside Barbell Book of Methods. Columbus, OH: Westside Barbell, 2007.
Verkhoshansky, Yuri Vitalievitch, and Mel Cunningham Siff. Supertraining. 6th ed. - Expanded Edition. Rome, Italy: Verkhoshansky, 2009.
Zatsiorsky, Vladimir M. Science and Practice of Strength Training. Second Edition ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2006.