The Dynamic Effort Method - Mat Woods @redbeard49

The Dynamic Effort Method - Mat Woods @redbeard49

Popularized by Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell, the Dynamic Effort Method is one of three pillars to a complete conjugate program.  Typically, you’ll find this same method in other style of programs but it may not be as pronounced or labeled as such. To understand the Dynamic Effort Method, we must first look at this basic physics equation:


F will equal Force

m will equal mass

a will equal acceleration

In the equation above, the mass variable is found using the Max Effort Method to find the maximum weight used.  Bar speed does not matter as much because we are trying to find the max weight that can be used on that movement.  The acceleration variable is found using the Dynamic Effort Method to increase overall bar speed. With mass and acceleration, the end result is total force production.  

A common misconception is that strength is measured in weight moved.  Strength is measured in time, how fast can a lifter move a certain amount of weight.  For example, if lifter A can squat 400lbs in 5 seconds (time from descent until completed lift) and lifter B can squat 400lbs in 3 seconds with the same parameters, who is the stronger lifter?  Lifter B would be the stronger one because that lifter was able to move the weight faster. The question remains how does a lifter increase bar speed? By training with sub-maximal weight amounts and moving the weight used at the maximum speed.  This will train the motor units and muscles to explode rather than the old adage “slow and controlled rep”. Most experts will put the ideal bar speed at 0.8 meters per second, but this number is found using special equipment that the majority of lifters will not have access to.  

The easiest way to find the ideal bar speed is to start at 50% of 1 rep max of an exercise and see how fast the bar moves.  Increase the weight by 5% and check the bar speed again. If bar speed stays the same, keep increasing the weight by 5% until the bar speed slows down.  If the bar speed slowed down at 65% of 1 rep max, then a 3 week wave of weight selection would be 55% for week 1, 60% on week 2, and 65% on week 3. While using sub-maximal weights, it is imperative that max force is applied to the weights being used.  For instance, if a lifter has a max bench press of 300lbs and while using sub-max weights during a dynamic effort bench session the lifter is only applying 150lbs of force then the max bench will stay at 300lbs. To bench press over 300lbs, force above 300lbs must be applied to the barbell.  

This where the Dynamic Effort Method comes into play, it teaches the lifter to move the barbell faster.  Another favorite example of the effectiveness of this method is box jumps. To jump on a platform that is 6” high, the lifter will not have to produce a lot of force and not have to generate a lot of speed to complete the jump.  However, if we move that platform to 60” high, then the same rate of force and speed used on the 6” high platform would not work for the higher jump. Therefore, in order to increase the height of the jump the lifter must increase the rate of speed of the jump.

Here are some examples of 3 week waves for the squat and bench press listed below.  This list does not incorporate bands or chains because the explanations would be too long for this particle article.

Squat 3 week wave using the box squat at a parallel height.  Once a 3 week wave is finished, a different bar can be used or different box height

Week 1 – 50% of 1 rep max, 10 sets of 2

Week 2 – 55% of 1 rep max, 10 sets of 2

Week 3 – 60% of 1 rep max, 10 sets of 2

Bench Press 3 week wave using the flat bench with 3 different grips.  Once a 3 week wave is finished, a different bar can be used or different bench angle.

Week 1 – 50% of 1 rep max, 9 sets of 3; 3 grips (wide, normal, close) changing every 3 sets

Week 2 – 55% of 1 rep max, 9 sets of 3; 3 grips (wide, normal, close) changing every 3 sets

Week 3 – 60% of 1 rep max, 9 sets of 3; 3 grips (wide, normal, close) changing every 3 sets

These are very basic examples of speed box squats and speed bench press.  The percentages used are just guidelines and should be tailored to the lifter’s own abilities.  The variables that can be altered are infinite and each lifter will experience his/her own set of benefits from the ever-changing world of variables on speed day.  Speed work will only have a carryover to the main lifts if it is done explosively and quickly, no need to worry about extended bouts of time under tension. The less time a lift takes, the better.

In regards to the deadlift, speed pulls are done for dynamic work with sub-maximal weights.  These can performed conventional or sumo style and at different heights or from the floor and deficits.  Bands or chains can be added, but to keep this simple we won’t add those in to the mixture. Use the same technique as above to find the optimal bar speed by starting at 50% and adding 5% until the bar speed starts to slow.  Speed pulls are unique because typically only 1 rep is done rather than 2-5 reps on other main lifts on speed day. One rep is used because 99.9% of the time, the 1st rep of a deadlift is the best and fastest.  Anywhere between 5-10 sets of singles is a good starting point at 50%-75% of 1 rep max.

A sample 3 week wave would like this using the stance that is the weakest and immediately following speed squats:

Week 1 – 50% of 1 rep max, 5 sets of singles

Week 2 – 55% of 1 rep max, 6 sets of singles

Week 3 – 60% of 1 rep max, 7 sets of singles

After the 3 week wave is over, a different stance or bar height can be used for the next wave.

For some lifters, the dynamic effort workouts are more exhausting than the heavier max effort days.  The reason for this is the exertion of force into the bar. The lifter is training with sub-maximal weights, but is trying to produce maximal force in order to increase bar speed.  Rest periods are relatively shorter during speed workouts, which also contribute to the overall GPP of the lifter. Using the templates above, these can be customized to fit any lifter for one speed lower body day and one speed upper body day per week.


Muscle & Mirth / Garage Gym Powerlifting strongly recommends that you consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

You should be in good physical condition and be able to participate in the exercise.

Muscle & Mirth / Garage Gym Powerlifting is not a licensed medical care provider and represents that it has no expertise in diagnosing, examining, or treating medical conditions of any kind, or in determining the effect of any specific exercise on a medical condition.

You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release and discharge Muscle & Mirth / Garage Gym Powerlifting and its affiliates from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown.

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