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Debunking Dynamic Effort: 4 Ways to Enhance Your

Speed Sets
The dynamic effort method is one of three methods documented by Dr.
Vladimir Zatsiorsky and popularized by Louie Simmons. The basic premise
is that in order to create tension you must either lift as heavy as possible
for that repetition range, lift submaximal weights as fast as possible, or lift
submaximal weights for as many repetitions as possible.

Now, there are many parameters that go along with these three methods.
But, for the most part these three methods fit nicely in the conjugate
periodization system. These three methods are sometimes broken down
even further into the circa-maximal and a sub-maximal methods.
Although, most of us found these methods implemented in the Westside
barbell method of training, it has since been implemented with different
terminology in other training methods such as the tier system, the cube
method, and others. For this article I will concentrate solely on the
dynamic effort method, specifically how it relates to programming for
athletes in a sports setting.
Strength and conditioning is not powerlifting. The first thing that we all
must understand is that lifting weights for powerlifting is specific physical
preparation. Lifting weights for athletic performance is general physical
preparation, or GPP. The term GPP may be the most misused term in the
industry. The difference is specifically what the testable performance task
1. I am going to benchpress to improve my benchpress if I am a
2. I am going to benchpress to improve specific tasks on the field or
court. EX: The bench press equals better pass blocking abilities.

So in this case, the dynamic effort method for athletic performance is by

nature, more broad of a spectrum, due to the lack of necessary specificity
for the skill.
The Dynamic Effort Method Dilemma
Three issues with traditional dynamic effort message a.k.a. speed squats,
speed pulls, or speed bench for the thought of preparation.
1. Adaptability
For powerlifters, squatting or bench pressing two days per week is
imperative for additional technique work, which is a very good attribute of
dynamic effort work, But for athletes, the increased frequency of axial load
on the spine, and the increased stress on the joints may not be necessary.
Specifically, during certain seasons of the year. This may be more relevant
for lower body exercises, but multiple days of horizontal pressing may add
to the already prevalent imbalances most athletes arrive at college with.
2. Practicality
Whether you are in the small college, high school, or private sector;
training athletes more that twice per week may not be a possibility. We all
as coaches have been programmed to implement a 3-day or 4-day system
for most sports. The combination of multiple seasons (with athletes being
in-season), limited scheduling opportunities, and lack of appropriate
coaching ratios; reduction of exposure is evident.
I have talked with Dan Stevens several times and we are both in
agreement that athletes can get very strong and adequately prepared for
their sport requirement training 2 days per week. We agree it is not
optimal but certainly not an obstacle. It just becomes a mathematical
equation. Here's an example from when I was at Denison:

My weight room safely fit 30 athletes training at one time.

There are 450 athletes I will need to train.

I have 5 hours per day to train athletes 5 days per week equaling 25
training hours. Larger schools and coaches without secondary
coaching and teaching assignments will have more.

So if every athlete only trains once per week, that would mean I
could host 15 full sessions IF each lifting group was evenly

If every athlete lifts twice per week. That would mean I need to host
30 lifting groups. You see where I am going here? The solution? Less
sessions, overlap sessions, have some sessions outside the weight

3. Mastery

How much time as coaches do we need to spend on the basic fundamental

lifts? And, no matter how fundamental they are to your program, unless
you are training lifters, they are merely GPP. Now General Physical
Preparation is often misused when describing training methods, but please
understand that physical preparation is only a small portion of the total
athletic preparation of an athletes. This ratio becomes larger in the offseason, but still does not encompass the entire training protocol. This
limits the amount of exposure to the weightroom specific skill and
increases the highly technical skills for the athlete to master.
5 Ways to Enhance Speed Sets
1. Put Down the Barbell
Or at least do some different movement with them.
One of the most simple adjustments you can make as a coach is to
perform your dynamic effort work as Explosive movements. Olympic lifts,
throws, swings, jumps, sprints, bounds and hops. There is definitely a
concern with loading these movement in relation to what quality you are
actually trying to enhance. Here are just a few ideas of matching the
movement patter with the exercise.
Lower Body

Double Leg Push: Seated Jumps, Squat Jumps

Double Leg Pull: Snatch, Clean, Swing, or Throw

Single Leg Push: Hops, Jumps

Single Leg Pull: Broad Jumps, Bounds, sprints

Upper Body

Horizontal Push: Push Throws, Ballistic Push-Ups

Horizontal Pull: Lying Throws

Vertical Push: Jerks, Push-Presses, Push Throws

Vertical Pull: Med Ball Floor Slams

The challenge is often imputing these movements within the overall

2. A More Meaningful Warm-up
Speed sets to work up to a max
The intention of moving the weight fast is as important as how fast the bar
moves when developing explosive strength.
An easy adjustment to get more out of each training session is to reinforce
that the athletes performs each concentric contraction as fast as possible.

This takes time for beginners and must be coached consistently. But,
adding a few warm-up sets as the athlete works up can be beneficial. For









85% x 3-6 reps

One negative of adding speed sets is adding mutliple weight changes at

the beginning of the sets.
3. Complex Training
Performing Dynamic Effort work in between Maximal Effort sets
As a small school strength & conditioning coach, you are often dependent
upon your scheduling, staffing, and facility situations. Complex training,
loosely defined as performing an explosive movement after a heavy
movement, can also develop explosive strength. This is a crude way to
incorporate Post-Activation Potentiation. For most coaches, the benefit that
overrides any training effect is the ability to add density to the workout
and increase work capacity. I also despise splitting the workout so that not
all athletes perform the exercise in the same order. Depending on the size
of the group, you can perform a dynamic moment (or two) after the max
effort set. Here's an example for the squat:

4 Athletes: Spot, Squat, Load, Load, Repeat

5 Athletes: Spot, Squat, Jump, Load, Load, Repeat

6 Athletes: Spot, Squat, Jump, Prehab, Load, Load, Repeat

7 Athletes: Spot, Squat, Jumps, Antagoisnt, Prehab, Load, Load,


An even simpler way to incorporate this conceprt is to simply perform

dynamic effort sets afte the max effort movement.

Work up to a 3-5 rep max

Use 80% of that max for 5 doubles

If you are using a percentage based system, it may look like:

85% for 3 sets of 3

55% for 5 sets of 3

Either way, don't be afraid to incorporate dynamic effort work after max
effort work.
4. Total Body Template
There are plenty of good coaches that express avoiding performing
multiple qualities on the same day citing a less-than-desirable adaptation
for each. This is not just a WSBB methodology, Cal Dietz and Dr. William
Kraemer have written about similar models in Triphasic Training and
Optimizing Strength Training respectively.
4a. Addressing all 3 of Zatsiorsky's Methods Each Day
The most common template with utilizing dynamic, max effort, and
repetition methods in each training session is Joe Kenn's Tier System. A
common theme is performing a Total, Lower, and Upper Body movement
under different methodologies.

o a Dynamic effort movement will be performed everyday. The key with
the Tier System is developing you r exercise pool with appropriate
movements. This system works very well in a 3-Day per week program.

Total Body: Deadlift

Lower Body: Squat

Upper Body: Bench Press

4b. Devoting a day for each method.... A Dynamic Day

Another adjustment that can be made in a team setting would be to
perform all Dynamic Effort Movements on the same day. Essentailly an
undulating load parameter system with three total-body days. This is
similar to a Light-Heavy-Medium intensity wave only using Zatsiorsky's

MONDAY: Dynamic Effort (CNS is fresh from two days off)

WEDNESDAY: Max Effort (Big Weight Wednesday)

FRIDAY: Repeated Effort (Able to push athletes hard at the end of the

Cal Dietz had also referred to these days in terms of not only intensity but
time-under-tension. Basically, days were split up by duration of activity
whether it was resistance training or conditioning.

Dynamic Effort: less that 5 seconds of work per set

Maximum Effort: between 5-10 seconds of effort per set

Repeated Effort: more than 10 seconds of effort per set.

I hope this may give you some alternatives for incorporating the Dynamic
Effort Method in a team setting.

Science and Practice of Strength Training (2nd Edition). Vladimir M.
Zatsiorsky & William J. Kraemer. Human Kinetics. 2006.
The Coachs Strength Training Playbook. Joe Kenn. Coaches Choice. 2003
Optimizing Strength Training: Designing Nonlinear Periodization Workouts.
William J. Kraemer & Steven J. Fleck. Human Kinetics. 2007
Triphasic Training. Cal Dietz & Ben Peterson. Bye Dietz Sports Enterprises.