-“Training for Maximal Strength – Part II”
-“Athlete Performance Testing & Fitness Assessments”





The most important factors in training for “maximal strength” are the choice of exercise, the exercise intensity (“load”), and the volume of training (# of repetitions combined with the frequency of training). Other factors that may be of importance include the technique and tempo of the lift, training to failure, the amount of recovery between sets and between training sessions, and the order of exercise. We will examine these assisting factors in: MAXIMAL STRENGTH TRAINING – PART II.


Do all sets need be performed to muscle fatigue/failure? Failure is defined as the inability to maintain proper exercise technique OR the inability to complete a contraction. Training to failure may promote maximal motor unit recruitment and indeed does promote maximal motor unit recruitment.


However, training to failure may not be a good idea all the time, as Dave Tate from the legendary Westside Barbell club believes that this will lead to cumulative nervous system stress. This high-intensity training might also increase the risk of injury and therefore periods of lower-intensity may be needed to heal injuries, promote recovery, and eliminate possible overtraining. 


What is the recommended rest interval length between sets?

Research suggests that amongst untrained subjects, there is no a 1 minute rest is as beneficial as a 10-minute rest between successive attempts at a 1 RM. However, there is little research on the length of the rest interval between multiple sets of high-intensity weight training.


Therefore, concrete recommendations can not be given. I suggest that the rest interval allow heart rate and breathing to return to normal at a minimum. Anecdotally and through my training experiences with clients, a 3-minute rest interval appears very effective in permitting a good performance in successive sets at a high-intensity.


How many sets and exercises should be performed?

Multiple sets appears more beneficial, BUT/ remember the law of diminishing returns. Two sets are not twice as good as 1 set, etc. The first working set should be the highest intensity possible. Following an adequate rest, the second set will still result in a decrease in force production. When force production is reduced by 10-15% after multiple sets, move to another exercise. For example, if the first set is performed at 200lbs for 6 reps (and at a goal of 6 RM), the exercise should be cut off when only 170lbs can be performed for 6 reps. 


What is periodization? How does this apply to maximal strength training?

Periodization is based on the need for an athlete to change the intensity OR volume of training. For example, periods of low-volume OR low-intensity training are necessary to prevent overtraining OR excessive fatigue. Athletes can concentrate on higher volumes of training in the off-season, BUT/ require a higher training intensity in-season.


Classic periodization program design calls for a gradual progression in training intensity and reduction in training volume as competition approaches. Research has yet to validate of the superiority of periodization in comparison to traditional training programs.


How does maximal strength training affect power training?

For untrained individuals, power training such as plyometrics will increase strength levels. However, athletes that have trained for maximal strength may lose strength if they perform only plyometric exercises. These athletes should also train for strength maintenance (see above). Therefore, a combination of strength and power is better than either method in isolation for increasing performance.


What are the physiological adaptations to maximal strength training?

Some strength coaches suggest that strength should increase without a concurrent increase in hypertrophy (muscle size). The low-volume high-intensity type of training does appear disproportionate in its increases in strength over mass.


For example, it may help explain the ability of a 130lb woman to bench over 200lbs OR how approximately a dozen individuals have been able to bench over 3 times their bodyweight. Hypertrophy will not be completely eliminated by using only this type of training. A study conducted by D. Sale et al. from McMaster University did not show a difference in the amount of biceps muscle hypertrophy following 8 weeks of training at intensity of 1-3 RM in comparison to training with a 10-12 RM load in the biceps curl exercise. 


Maximal strength development may be attenuated by concurrently performing endurance training. Therefore, it may be necessary to limit additional training when the goal is to develop maximal strength. 





Whether you are training specifically for a sport OR if you are training for general fitness, periodic evaluations of your strength and other physical attributes can be both educational and inspirational. Tests can help determine your weaknesses so that your training program can be altered to address areas that may be hampering performance. For example, a poor leg strength test and poor vertical jump test may suggest that a focus on leg strength should be made. This may be the first step toward improving vertical jump…


“Performance” testing judges the effectiveness of a training program, identifies the amount of detraining following an injury OR other lay-off from training, and reflects the commitment of the athlete to their training program. This testing can also help motivation, goal setting, practice design, and determines conditioning emphasis. 


After testing, goal setting is appropriate and encouraged to further increase motivation. Goals should be attainable, sensible, and developed through short-term training to encourage frequent self-assessment to monitor progress. Finally, training logs assist achievement of measurable results and provide detailed histories and may identify ineffective (OR effective) training methodologies. 


End of off-season testing -- indicates effectiveness of program


Mid-season testing -- guards against detraining effects of season

     -- manipulate conditioning volume based on these results 


End of season testing – to assist off-season program design around weaknesses.





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