Incorporating The Dynamic Effort Method

by Jordan Syatt September 8, 2011

I have a confession to make….

Two of my four weekly training sessions primarily focus on using weights in the 50-60% range of my 1 repetition maximum (1RM).

Knowing my general belief system in regard to training with maximal loads and Incorporating The Maximal Effort Method, you may be wondering why in the hell I would devote half of my weekly training sessions to using weights which I have so adamantly stated will do nothing to develop maximal strength.

This article will be devoted to answering that question.

The Dynamic Effort Method

The Dynamic Effort Method is defined as: Lifting (throwing) a nonmaximal load with the highest attainable speed (Zatsiorsky 1995).

The Dynamic Effort Method was originally created to replace a Maximal Effort Workout for those who could not handle multiple heavy training sessions throughout the week (Simmons 2009). However, as knowledge has progressed (mainly due to the work of Louie Simmons and Westside Barbell Club) the proper use of The Dynamic Effort Method has proven to be extremely beneficial for several causes, including but not limited to:

Replacing a Maximal Effort Workout

– Improving Rate of Force Development (RFD) and Explosive Strength

Preventing the formation of a speed barrier and suffering the Law of Accommodation

– Improving Special Physical Preparedness (SPP) and General Physical Preparedness (GPP)

Utilizing The Dynamic Effort Method in an efficient and intelligent manner may yield results which, notably in the context of athletic performance, are not only of the utmost importance but are essential if one is to ever compete at an elite level.

Replacing a Maximal Effort Workout

As Zatsiorsky explains in The Science and Practice of Strength Training, The Maximal Effort Method “is considered superior for improving both intramuscular and intermuscular coordination…and should be used to bring forth the greatest strength increments.”

It is well documented that some of the best athletes in the world have taken advantage of this knowledge and integrated The Maximal Effort Method into their training in order to create some of the strongest and well-developed athletes in history. Notably, the Bulgarians used the Maximal Effort Method almost every day of the week in order to build some of the greatest lifters the world has ever seen. However, while the Bulgarians certainly created some freakishly strong men, they also had an endless supply of athletes, bred from birth to be as strong as possible, waiting to to be given the chance to train at an elite level. As such, despite their enormous drop-off rate and early age of retirement (largely due to burnout) the Bulgarians always had fresh/young athletes at their disposal.

While The Maximal Effort Method is undoubtedly the superior method for improving maximal strength, the fact of the matter is that performing maximal effort work too often will almost inevitably result in burn-out or injury. Therefore, incorporating The Dynamic Effort Method into ones training routine may be of extraordinary benefit as it will allow for increased health and longevity in sport making ones long-term success a realistic and feasible outcome.

Improving RFD and Explosive Strength

Simply put, RFD and Explosive Strength refer to how much force can be produced in the shortest amount of time.

As any successful coach will attest to, incorporating specific drills to improve explosive strength and RFD is one of the most important components involved in creating almost any athletes’ training regimen.

Regardless of whether you’re involved in football, soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis lacrosse, powerlifting, sprinting, or nearly any other sport you can think of, improving explosive strength and RFD will almost always carryover to an improved athletic performance.

To illustrate the importance of these two athletic qualities, let’s pretend we have two linebackers (Linebacker A, and Linebacker B) trying out for the final starting position available on their Universities football team.

As a standard test of strength, the coaches have decided to see which athlete has a superior deadlift by working each of them up to a 1RM. While Linebacker A was able to quickly accelerate the bar and deadlift 500lbs without a hitch (no pun intended), it took Linebacker B several seconds longer to get the bar off the floor and was only able to get 500lbs up to his knees before failing and dropping the weight.

Q: Why is it that both athletes were able to produce 500lbs of force, but only one of them was able to complete the lift?

A: Despite both athletes being capable of producing the same amount of total force, Linebacker A was able to produce more force in a shorter period of time. In other words, as a result of Linebacker A’s ability to produce a maximal amount of force in a minimal amount of time he was able to generate enough bar speed to help him finish the lift.

As we all learned in grade school, Force(F) = Mass (M) x Acceleration (A). Taking this equation into account, it’s easy to understand why being able to move a weight quickly is extremely important. Louie Simmons says there is no such thing as light weights and heavy weights, there are only fast weights and slow weights; this is rather ingenious. What he means is this: it doesn’t matter how strong a person is…if they are lifting a maximal load then it will inevitably look as though it’s moving slowly despite the fact that the person is trying to complete the lift as quickly as possible. Similarly, take any person and have them lift a relatively light weight and it should move extremely fast and seem almost effortless. By training an athlete to increase their speed and RFD, they can become more efficient at producing force quickly and will subsequently be stronger, faster, and more explosive.

With the exception of a rare few sporting conditions, being able to produce a large amount of force in a short period of time is an essential capability for all athletes. Whether you need to quickly change direction, run, jump, throw, dive, lift, or sprint to the finish line, being capable of exerting as much force as possible in the shortest amount of time will make you faster, more explosive, and not to mention significantly scarier…which is always a good thing in athletic performance.

Preventing The Formation of a Speed Barrier and Suffering The Law of Accommodation

Through using The Dynamic Effort Method correctly, it is possible for an athlete/trainee to never suffer The Law of Accommodation or unnecessarily create a speed barrier.

But what is The Law of Accommodation and what is a “speed barrier?”

As I’m sure most, if not all of you have already experienced, if one uses the same training routine, the same loading patterns, and/or the same movements for too long he/she will eventually fail to make any further progress. This is known as The Law of Accommodation.

Similarly, by continuously training at the same speed while running, swimming, squatting, throwing, or any other form activity, you will inevitably develop what is called a speed barrier. In other words, through consistently performing a movement at the same speed your body and central nervous system (CNS) will quite literally “learn” that speed of movement and become incapable of moving at a faster rate.

Needless to say, failing to make progress or being incapable of improving speed of movement is the last thing any athlete would want to occur.

In order to make progress, one must find a way to never adapt to their training. As Louie Simmons once told me, “to adapt to training is to never adapt.” Through using The Dynamic Effort Method properly, it is possible to never adapt to your training while consistently improving speed, strength, explosive power/RFD, coordination, flexibility, and any other athletic quality making you an overall better athlete.

Improving SPP and GPP

Before I get into any great detail allow me to define GPP and SPP respectively:

SPP: Special Physical Preparedness, sometimes referred to as Sport-specific Physical Preparedness, “is the status of being prepared for the movements in a specific activity, (usually a sport).” Basically, SPP is composed of the drills and training sessions devoted to specifically improving performance in an individual sport/sport movement. For example, while squatting may improve athletic performance in many sports, it can really only be considered SPP for Powerlifters and Olympic Lifters as they are the only athletes who legitimately squat during competition. Likewise, certain variations of medicine ball throws may be considered SPP for throwing athletes such as baseball players, shot-putters, and water polo players as they have a direct carryover to specific movement patterns in each of their respective sports.

GPP: General Physical Preparedness covers the broad-spectrum of one’s physical abilities including strength, power, endurance, conditioning, flexibility, mobility, coordination, and all other qualities of athleticism. Generally speaking, a strong base of GPP must be built before an athlete begins focusing specifically on SPP.

In order to be a successful athlete one must constantly be aiming to improve their GPP and SPP. One of the greatest aspects of The Dynamic Effort Method is that it naturally aids in the improvement of both GPP and SPP. Since dynamic effort training makes use of “light(er)” weights and limits rest-periods, it allows an athlete to perfect form and technique (improving SPP), as well as develop speed-strength or strength-speed, strength-endurance, explosive power, RFD, and conditioning (improving GPP).

Incorporating The Dynamic Effort Method

Now that I’ve spent enough time ranting about the benefits of properly using The Dynamic Effort Method, it’s time for me to show you how you can incorporate it into your specific training regimen.

1)Speed: The Dynamic Effort Method is perhaps the best method of training to be used when the goal is to improve speed of movement and RFD. However, if the athlete is not actively trying to move as quickly and explosively as possible they will not experience optimal results. Therefore, as a coach it is absolutely necessary for you to use verbal and visual cue’s to remind the athlete to go as fast as possible on each and every repetition.

2)Specificity: One of the main reasons why The Dynamic Effort Method is so successful is because it allows each individual trainee to perform exercises closely mimicking the movements displayed during an athletic event. However, in order for this to work you must not overload your trainee with too much weight; doing so will make it significantly more difficult to learn the proper form as the trainee will most likely be focusing on the weight instead of the specificity of the exercise. Likewise, during each and every set (notably with beginner trainees), it is of the utmost importance to verbally remind the athlete to focus on performing the movement as they would during competition.* This will help the athlete remember to put an emphasis on improving sport-specific technique.

*I’d note that in many cases it’s neither practical nor safe to try and use the exact sporting technique during training. In these instances, slight variations in technique is fine as long as the athlete does not perform these variations for too long as it may provoke the use of poor technique during competition.

3) Variation: The reason The Dynamic Effort Method is so successful at preventing the creation of a speed barrier and/or suffering The Law of Accommodation is because the training stimulus is always changing! Basically, in order to avoid creating a speed barrier or accommodation one must constantly change the movement variation, loading pattern, and/or accommodating resistance (use of bands/chains/weight releasers) every 1-3 weeks. The changes can be slight (as in changing the height of a box, width of a stance, axis of loading, type of resistance, etc.) but there must be some form of a change.

4) Frequency: As Zatsiorsky explains in The Science and Practice of Strength Training, the optimal amount of rest between extreme workouts is roughly 72 hours. Therefore, assuming it is the off-season and the athlete is not currently concerned with upcoming competitions, I have generally found devoting 2 sessions per week to dynamic effort training, one for upper body movements and one for lower body movements, to be extraordinarily successful. However, if time for training is limited (which it usually is), it is acceptable to perform dynamic effort training for upper body and lower body on the same day.

5) Intensity: Intensity, in the context of this article, refers to the amount of weight being used relative to the trainees 1RM and is extremely low compared to Maximal Effort Training. As I previously stated, The Dynamic Effort Method is used to improve RFD, explosive power, and speed of movement in specific sporting techniques. Therefore, the use of “heavy” weights (80-100% 1RM) is not only dangerous, but is impractical and will most likely produce sub-optimal results. Consequently, when using The Dynamic Effort Method coaches should aim to use weights between 40-75%1RM, the lower percentages being reserved for “stronger” athletes who need more concentrated work on the development of speed, and the higher percentages for “weaker” athletes who need to develop a stronger base of strength.

6) Volume: While the intensity of The Dynamic Effort Method may be low, the volume should vary between moderate and high. However, while an athlete may perform up to 40 repetitions specifically for movements devoted to dynamic effort training, it is important to note the repetitions per set are relatively low. This is done for numerous reasons, such as:

– Each set should resemble, as closely as possible, the amount of time it takes to complete one play in the individuals sport. For example, 1 set of speed squats for a powerlifter should be about the same time it takes to complete 1 maximal effort squat. Likewise, 1 set of box jumps for a linebacker should be about the same length of a single play (i.e. about 7 seconds).

– More sets and lower reps allow for more focus to be put on form and technique. The higher the reps the more fatigued the athlete will get and the harder it is to focus on the technical aspects of the movement. Reduce the repetitions and increase the number of sets to have more chances to critique and correct issues related to form.

– More sets and lower reps allow the athlete to apply as much force as possible into each and every repetition. Higher repetition sets cause the athlete to fatigue and sometimes forget to apply maximal force/speed.

7) Rest: In an attempt to fatigue and recruit the maximal amount of motor units possible it is necessary for rest periods to remain at a minimum. Additionally, by decreasing rest periods an athlete can increase their work capacity which should transfer to an improvement in sports performance. Generally speaking, rest periods should last about 30-60 seconds between sets.

Below I have outlined 4 sample training sessions, 2 for upper body and 2 for lower body, depicting how you can incorporate The Dynamic Effort Method into your training routine. Refer to the list above and the examples below as a reference when designing your own dynamic effort training regimen.

Dynamic Effort Lower Body, Examples:

Variation: Dynamic Effort Lower Body: Example 1 Dynamic Effort Lower Body: Example 2
Week 1 Straight Bar Box Squat to Parallel: 12 x 2 @ 50% 1RM Bilateral Box Jumps w/ 5lb dumbbells: 5 x 6
Week 2 Straight Bar Box Squat to Parallel: 12 x 2 @ 55% 1RM Bilateral Box Jumps with 10lb ankle weights : 5 x 5
Week 3 Straight Bar Box Squat to Parallel: 10 x 2 @ 60% 1RM Bilateral Box Jumps with 15lb Weighted Vest: 6 x 4
Week 1: New Variation Cambered Bar Below Parallel Box Squat: 12 x 2 @ 50% 1RM Unilateral Lateral Broad Jump vs. Bands: 6 x 6 per leg

Dynamic Effort Upper Body, Examples:

Variation: Dynamic Effort Upper Body: Example 1 Dynamic Effort Upper Body: Example 2
Week 1 Straight Bar Bench Press: 9 x 3 @ 50% 1RM Med Ball Throw variation w/ 2lb ball:  5 x 8
Week 2 Straight Bar Bench Press: 9 x 3 @ 50% 1RM Med Ball Throw variation w/ 3lb ball:  6 x 5
Week 3 Straight Bar Bench Press: 9 x 3 @ 50% 1RM Med Ball Throws variation w/ 4lb ball:  8 x 3
Week 1: New Variation Floor Press: 9 x 3 @ 50% 1RM Clap Pushups: 5 x 8

Wrapping Up

The Dynamic Effort Method is defined as: lifting (throwing) a nonmaximal load with the highest attainable speed (Zatsiorsky, 1995).

Be sure to keep the definition and ultimate purpose of the dynamic effort method in mind when creating your own training regimen. The Dynamic Effort Method is not meant to increase maximal strength, nor is it meant to produce radical hypertrophy; The Dynamic Effort Method is meant to:

– Replace a Maximal Effort Workout

– Improve Rate of Force Development (RFD) and Explosive Strength

– Prevent the formation of a speed barrier and suffering the Law of Accommodation

– Improve Special Physical Preparedness (SPP) and General Physical Preparedness (GPP)


To briefly summarize the important aspects to consider while designing your own dynamic effort training routine, I have made a shortened list below:

1) Specificity: Try to mimic sporting techniques as closely as possible

2) Speed: Every movement must be performed with maximal speed (as fast/explosively as possible)

3) Variation: High (Change movement/loading pattern every 1-3 weeks)

4) Frequency: 1-2 training sessions per week (1 for upper/1 for lower or combine both in 1)

5) Intensity: Low (40-75%1RM)

6) Volume: Medium/High (20-40 total repetitions)

7) Rest: Minimal (30-60 sec between sets)

Recently someone said to me:
“Hey Jordan, I’ve been using The Dynamic Effort Method but I only use heavy weights because if I use weights in the 50-60% range I don’t feel like I worked-out.”

I was forced to shut my eyes and take several deep breaths in order to keep myself from slamming my own head into the nearest corner, but once I had recollected myself I realized this would be  a crucial point to make in this article:

Do not let the “light(er)” weights fool you. Do not take The Dynamic Effort Method lightly. Done properly this method should leave you gassed, motionless, and contemplating whether or not you just soiled yourself in the middle of the training facility. If you are not attacking the weight on each and every repetition with each and every fiber of your being then you are only cheating yourself. I did not write this article as a joke. The countless coaches and scientists from whom I have learned this method did not create it for shits and giggles. Champions who have used it have not become champions by some fluke. This method works and it works for a reason. 

Do you want to see progress, or do you just want to “feel like you worked-out?”

The choice is yours.

Never Minimal. Never Maximal. Always Optimal.


Want to Learn How to Lose Fat and Build Muscle?

Then take this free gift. Seriously, take it. HURRY.

    THE SF INNER CIRCLE Members-Only Content

    From Jordan Syatt, Every Month




    Recent Posts

    How To Do A Proper Deadlift

    Have you ever thought that maybe you think deadlifting is bad for you because maybe you don’t know how to…

    Read This

    Deadlifts vs. Squats

    I think it’s time we all get on the same page regarding deadlifts vs. squats. There are so many contradicting…

    Read This

    How To Lose Weight Without Counting Calories

    “Jordan... PLEASE tell me how to lose weight without counting calories!” I hear this question all the time and yes…

    Read This

    How To Stop Binge Eating

    You want to know how to stop binge eating? Ah, right. That’s probably why you clicked on this blog post.…

    Read This

    How to Do Your First One Arm Pushup (Or 10 in a Row)

    Read This

    7 Intense Travel WODS: 15min or Less and Minimal Equipment

    Travel WODSToday I'll show you how to burn fat & build muscle while travelling without a gym. At the end…

    Read This

    101 “Silver Strength Bullets” to Build Strength & Burn Fat Fast

    "Silver Strength Bullets" are my weekly shortlist of quick, actionable bullets to get you stronger, leaner, and performing at a higher…

    Read This

    New Deadlift Drill for Advanced Lifters: Cable Lumbar Extensions

    Before the internet shits itself because I'm rounding my back, this drill is not for beginner lifters or general fitness…

    Read This

    Rapid Fat Loss: It Actually Works Pretty Damn Well

    They get a bad reputation -- especially among some of the fitness goo roos -- but rapid fat loss protocols actually…

    Read This

    The MOST Common Deadlift Mistake Women Make (And How to Fix It)

    I chose this as the feature picture -- not because she has good technique -- but because she's making the same deadlift…

    Read This