The dynamic effort method is one of the most popular powerlifting training methods in the world. It was originally popularized by Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell powerlifting team in the 1980s.
Today many of the world’s strongest athletes including World’s Strongest Man winners Brian Shaw and Eddie Hall use this training method to take their training to the next level.
The dynamic effort method involves lifting a submaximal weight as explosively as possible. A powerlifter might train the squat, bench press or deadlift with 8-10 sets of 1-3 reps using 60% of their 1-rep max.
The powerlifting coach Louie Simmons likes his athletes to perform 8-10 sets of 3 reps on the bench press, 6-8 set of 2 reps on the squat and 4-6 sets of 1 rep on the deadlift.
When you lift explosively and really accelerate the bar all the way to lockout you teach your body to produce as much force as possible and to recruit the fast-twitch muscle fibers. Just take a look at the following equation:
- Force = Mass x Acceleration
You can produce maximum force by lifting a heavy weight. However, you can also produce maximum force by lifting a slightly lighter weight as quickly as possible. Here is a powerlifter giving a perfect demonstration of the dynamic effort bench press. Check it out:
Josh Bryant is teaching one of his clients how to use the dynamic effort method. He is screaming “Press!” right when the weight touches his chest on every rep. This is what the dynamic effort bench press is all about: exploding weights right off of your chest and driving them all the way to lockout!
The dynamic effort method should not be used as a stand-alone training method. If you want to get as strong as possible then you still have to train with heavy weights. However, the dynamic effort method works awesome when used as part of a well-rounded training program.
There are at least 4 major advantages to using the dynamic effort method in your training program:
- It improves your maximal strength
- It improves your rate of force development
- It improves your powerlifting technique
- It is less taxing on your body than heavy sets
Talk about a powerful training method! In this comprehensive guide I will teach you everything you need to know about how to get as strong as possible using the dynamic effort method.
Here is an outline for the rest of the article:
- Part 1: The Westside Barbell Training Program
- Part 2: The Josh Bryant Powerlifting Program
- Part 3: The Dynamic Effort Method For Strongman
In part 1 of this article I will teach you how Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell powerlifting team use the dynamic effort method to break powerlifting world records. Louie believes that you perform heavy sets and dynamic effort sets each week on separate training days.
In part 2 I will teach you how Josh Bryant uses the dynamic effort method as part of his own powerlifting program. He believes that you should train your heavy sets and your speed sets on the same training day for optimal results.
Finally in part 3 I will teach you how strongman competitors like Brian Shaw and Eddie Hall use the dynamic effort method in their training. They believe that alternating between “heavy” weeks and “speed” weeks is the way to go for getting as strong as possible.
Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this cutting-edge information! Note: if you have any trouble reading the routines presented here then check out this article on how to read a training program. Now let’s get down to business…
Part 1: The Westside Barbell Training Program
The Westside Barbell training program is one of the most popular powerlifting programs in the world. It was developed by the powerlifting coach Louie Simmons in the 1970s.
Louie Simmons believes that the best way to organize your training is to train the squat, bench press and deadlift twice per week. Louie believes you should perform your heavy sets and your dynamic effort sets on separate training days for optimal results.
Here is the Westside Barbell training schedule:
- Sunday: Dynamic Effort Bench Press
- Monday: Max Effort Squat / Deadlift
- Wednesday: Max Effort Bench Press
- Friday: Dynamic Effort Squat / Deadlift
The Westside Barbell program uses a 4 day upper / lower split. The max effort workouts are the “heavy” workouts where you work up to a 1-rep max on some type of special exercise.
The dynamic effort workouts are the total opposite: you perform up to 10-12 speed sets using around 60% of your 1-rep max. Louie Simmons calls this “wave periodization” because the training intensity varies from one workout to the next. This prevents your body from accommodating to any one training stimulus and helps you to make progress year-round.
On the dynamic effort training days you perform your speed sets first followed by several accessory exercises for the supporting muscle groups. Here are some guidelines for the sets and reps on your dynamic effort days:
Dynamic effort method guidelines
- Bench press: 8-10 sets of 3 reps @ 50-70% of your 1-rep max
- Squat: 6-8 sets of 2 reps @ 50-70% of your 1-rep max
- Deadlift: 4-6 sets of 1 rep @ 50-70% of your 1-rep max
It is very important that you stick to these set and rep schemes when using the Westside Barbell training program. Louie Simmons believes these loading parameters are optimal after experimenting with his world-class athletes for decades.
Here are some videos of the Westside Barbell team using the dynamic effort method:
- Dynamic Effort Bench Press
- Dynamic Effort Squat
- Dynamic Effort Deadlift
As you can see every set is performed as explosively as possible. The bar is practically flying out of their hands or off of their back in the top position of the exercise!
Louie believes that you should use a 3-week wave for your dynamic effort sets. For example:
Bench Press 3-Week Dynamic Effort Wave
- Week #1: 10 x 3 @ 50% of your 1-rep max
- Week #2: 10 x 3 @ 55% of your 1-rep max
- Week #3: 10 x 3 @ 60% of your 1-rep max
By varying the training percentages from one week to the next you prevent you keep your body off-balance and prevent it from adapting to your routine. These training percentages are not set in stone. However, Louie generally believes you should train in the 50-70% range using 3-week waves.
If you are using accommodating resistance such as bands and chains then the training percentages become less important. It is more important that you can explode the weight all the way to lockout. If the weight slows down too much then the weight is too heavy.
Now let’s look at some sample Westside Barbell dynamic effort workouts. Here is a basic template for the dynamic effort bench press day:
Dynamic Effort Bench Press Template
- Dynamic effort bench press
- Bench press supplementary exercise
- 1-2 tricep / shoulder accessory exercises
- 1-2 upper back accessory exercises
The dynamic effort bench press is the most important part of this training day. It is performed first before anything else.
Then you move onto accessory exercises for the most important bench pressing muscle groups such as the triceps, shoulders and upper back. Some of Louie Simmons’ favourite bench press accessory exercises include dumbbell presses, triceps extensions, lat pulldowns and rows.
Here is a sample Westside Barbell dynamic effort bench press workout that you may want to try. Check it out:
Sample Dynamic Effort Bench Press Workout
- A1: Floor press with chains (competition grip), 10 x 3, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- B1: Incline DB press, 2 x 12-15, 1/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Rolling DB extension, 3-4 x 10-12, 1/0/X/0, no rest
- C2: Standing band pushdown, 3-4 x 10-12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- D1: Standing cable face pull, 3-4 x 12-15, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- E1: Standing DB hammer curls, 3-4 x 10-12, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
Here is the training video for this workout:
For this workout the Westside Barbell team decided to use the floor press with chains rather than the regular bench press. This is probably not something a beginner should do. However, for an advanced powerlifter it can be a great way to mix things up.
Now let’s look at Westside’s dynamic effort squat / deadlift training day. Here is a basic template for this workout:
Dynamic Effort Squat / Deadlift Template
- Dynamic effort squat
- Dynamic effort deadlift
- 2-4 lower body accessory exercises
The dynamic effort squat and deadlift are performed first in this routine. Louie Simmons likes his athletes to perform 6-8 sets of speed squats and 4-6 sets of speed deadlifts. Sometimes Louie has his athletes perform rack pulls against bands instead of the speed deadlifts but that is a story for another time.
After the speed sets Louie has his athletes perform 2-4 assistance exercises for the lower body. Some of Louie’s favourite assistance exercises include glute-ham raises, reverse hyperextensions, belt squats, sled drags and different types of direct ab work.
Here is a sample Westside Barbell dynamic effort squat / deadlift workout that you may want to try. Check it out:
Dynamic Effort Squat / Deadlift Workout
- A1: Speed box squat with bands and chains (wide stance), 8 x 2, 1/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- B1: Speed deadlift with bands, 6 x 1, X/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- C1: Reverse hyperextension, 3-4 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds est
- D1: Glute ham raise (hold DB at chest), 3-4 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
Here is the training video:
For this workout the Westside crew used a combination of chains and bands for the dynamic effort squats. This is a great way for an advanced powerlifter to use the dynamic effort method to continue making gains.
The bottom line is the Westside Barbell program takes full advantage of the dynamic effort method. Louie believes that you should train your heavy sets and your speed sets on separate training days for optimal results.
Of course it is not the only way to use the dynamic effort method…
Part 2: The Josh Bryant Powerlifting Program
Josh Bryant was a world-class powerlifter and the youngest man in the world to bench press 600 pounds. Today he is one of the world’s best powerlifting coaches. He has worked with some of the strongest athletes in the world including the world’s strongest bench presser Julius Maddox.
Josh uses the dynamic effort method with all of his powerlifting clients. However, the way he uses the dynamic effort method is completely different from how Louie Simmons uses it. Josh likes his powerlifters to perform their heavy sets AND their speed sets on the same training day!
Here is a basic template for Josh’s powerlifting workouts:
Josh Bryant Powerlifting Workout Template
- Part 1: Heavy Sets
- Part 2: Dynamic Effort Sets
- Part 3: Supplementary Exercises
- Part 4: Accessory Exercises
As you can see Josh has his clients perform their dynamic effort sets right after their heavy sets.
Josh loves the dynamic effort method because it is extremely effective for maximizing force production and building maximal strength on the squat, bench press and deadlift. However, it is FAR less taxing on your body than heavy sets performed in the 1-3 rep range. This means you can perform a high volume of work without overtraining your central nervous system.
Here are the loading parameters for Josh’s speed sets:
Josh Bryant Dynamic Effort Method Loading Parameters
- Squat, Bench Press And Deadlift: 3-10 sets of 2-4 reps @ 60-90% of your 1-rep max
Josh has his powerlifting clients perform anywhere from 3-10 sets of 2-4 reps for their dynamic effort sets. This all depends on how far out they are from their next competition.
As a general rule of thumb Josh likes his athletes to perform 12-week peaking cycles to get ready for their powerlifting competitions. They slowly handle heavier and heavier weights over the course of the 12 weeks until their strength is peaked on the day of their competition.
Here is how Josh likes to periodize his speed sets on the squat, bench press and deadlift:
Josh Bryant Speed Sets Periodization
- Month #1: 6-10 sets of 3-4 reps @ 60-70% of your 1-rep max
- Month #2: 4-8 sets of 3 reps @ 70-80% of your 1-rep max
- Month #3: 2-6 sets of 2 reps @ 80-90% of your 1-rep max
Josh has his clients perform more sets and reps at the start of their peaking cycle. As they get closer to their competition they perform fewer sets and reps at a higher percentage of their 1-rep max.
I know this can be confusing so let’s take a look at a full 13-week peaking cycle. This is one example of how Josh Bryant might program the speed sets to make you as strong as possible on the day of your competition. Check it out:
Month #1 Speed Sets
- Week 1: 6 x 4 @ 65% of your 1-rep max
- Week 2: 8 x 4 @ 65% of your 1-rep max
- Week 3: 10 x 4 @ 65% of your 1-rep max
- Week 4: Deload (no speed work)
Month #2 Speed Sets
- Week 5: 8 x 3 @ 75% of your 1-rep max
- Week 6: 7 x 3 @ 75% of your 1-rep max
- Week 7: 6 x 3 @ 75% of your 1-rep max
- Week 8: Deload (no speed work)
Month #3 Speed Sets
- Week 9: 5 x 2 @ 85% of your 1-rep max
- Week 10: 4 x 2 @ 85% of your 1-rep max
- Week 11: 3 x 2 @ 85% of your 1-rep max
- Week 12: Deload (no speed work)
- Week 13: Competition week!
As you can see Josh builds up the overall training volume in the first month. Then in months 2 and 3 he slowly tapers the training volume down. This taper is so important because it helps you to peak your strength on the day that matters: your competition day!
Remember, powerlifting is all about lifting maximum weights on the competition platform. No one cares about how much weight you can lift in the gym!
Now let’s look at some sample Josh Bryant powerlifting workouts featuring the dynamic effort method. Here is a squat workout that Chad Wesley Smith performed on his way to squatting 905 pounds and breaking the raw American squat record. Check it out:
Chad Wesley Smith Squat Workout
- A1: Back squat (competition stance), 1 x 3**, 1/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
- B1: Back squat speed sets (competition stance), 5 x 3***, 1/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest
- C1: Dead squat w/ safety squat bar (from parallel), 8 x 1****, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- D1: Unilateral DB Romanian deadlift, 3 x 5, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- E1: Hanging leg raises, 5 x 15, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
Here is a video of Chad’s top set from this workout:
Talk about an impressive squat – Chad makes it look so easy! This is a perfect example of how Josh Bryant organizes his clients’ squat workouts.
First Chad performs a reasonably heavy triple. Then he performs 5 sets of speed squats with a lighter but still somewhat heavy weight. Finally Chad performs his supplementary and accessory exercises for all the important squatting muscles.
James Strickland Bench Press Workout
- A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 2, 1/1/X/0, 4 minutes rest
- B1: Speed bench press (competition grip), 5 x 3, 1/1/X/1, 4 minutes rest
- C1: Reverse band bench press (shoulder-width grip), 3 x 2, 1/0/X/1, 4 minutes rest
- D1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 2 x 5, 1/0/X/1, 2 minutes rest
- E1: Prone seal row, 3 x 5, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- F1: DB floor flys (neutral grip), 3 x 10, 2/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- G1: Standing rope cable pushdown, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
Here is the full training video for this workout:
James follows the same workout template as Chad Wesley Smith. First he performs his heavy set and his speed sets on the bench press. These sets are performed without any bands or chains. Then he moves onto his supplementary and accessory exercises.
Johnnie Jackson Deadlift Workout
- A1: Conventional deadlift, 1 x 3**, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Speed conventional deadlift, 6 x 3, 1/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- C1: Deficit conventional deadlift (1 inch deficit), 2 x 3, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- D1: Cable pull through, 3 x 12, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- E1: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet dorsiflexed / neutral), 3 x 6, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- F1: Suitcase deadlifts, 2 x 3, 1/1/1/1, 60 seconds rest
- G1: Pull ups (wide / overhand grip), 3 x 6, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
Here is the full training video for this workout:
Once again this workout follows the standard template of heavy sets, then speed sets, then supplementary and accessory exercises.
If you want to use the dynamic effort method to get as strong as possible then Josh Bryant is a great role model to follow. He uses the dynamic effort method with almost all of his powerlifting clients and never fails to produce results.
Part 3: The Dynamic Effort Method For Strongman
The dynamic effort method isn’t just for powerlifters! Many of the world’s best strongman competitors including the World’s Strongest Man winners Eddie Hall and Brian Shaw use the dynamic effort method as a core part of their training program. This is especially true when it comes to training the deadlift.
Eddie Hall and Brian Shaw train their deadlift once per week. However, they alternate every week between a heavy workout and a speed workout. For example:
Strongman Deadlift Training Schedule
- Week 1: Heavy Sets
- Week 2: Speed Sets
- Week 3: Heavy Sets
- Week 4: Speed Sets
This is an extremely effective way to organize your deadlift training if you are an advanced strongman or powerlifter. Guys like Eddie Hall and Brian Shaw can deadlift well over 1,000 pounds! They need more rest between their heavy deadlift workouts in order to make progress.
On their lighter weeks they perform lots of dynamic effort deadlifts to build explosive strength and work on their technique.
As a general rule of thumb Eddie Hall and Brian Shaw like to perform 8 sets of 2 reps @ 60% of their 1-rep max on their dynamic effort deadlift days.
Here is the exact training cycle that Eddie Hall used to deadlift 1,102 pounds in competition. Check it out:
Eddie Hall 1,102 Pound Deadlift Training Cycle
- Week 1: 65% 3 x 10 (warm up week)
- Week 2: 70% 3 x 8 (heavy week)
- Week 3: 60% 8 x 2 (speed reps week)
- Week 4: 75% 3 x 5 (heavy week)
- Week 5: 60% 8 x 2 (speed reps week)
- Week 6: 80% 3 x 3 (heavy week)
- Week 7: 80% x 1, 85% x 1, 90% x 3 x 1 (heavy week)
- Week 8: deload (no training)
- Week 9: (competition week): 85% x 1, 93% x 1, 100% x 1
*****Note: all training percentages were based off of his target 1-rep max of 1,100 pounds. If you are using your current 1-rep max then the percentages would be slightly higher for each workout.
Here is Eddie Hall deadlifting 1,102 pounds at the end of this training cycle:
Talk about a fast deadlift – Eddie made it look like a speed deadlift! As you can see Eddie generally alternates between a heavy deadlift workout and a speed deadlift workout. This is how Eddie builds up his deadlift strength without overtraining his central nervous system.
In case you were curious here is a typical Eddie Hall speed deadlift workout. Check it out:
Sample Eddie Hall speed deadlift workout
- A1: Conventional deadlift, 8 x 2**, X/2/X/0, rest as needed
- B1: Seated cable pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
- C1: Seated cable rows (v-handle), 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
- D1: 1-arm dumbbell row, 3 x 10-15, 10/1/0, rest as needed
**Performed at 60% of your estimated 1-rep max on competition day
If you are a strongman competitor then you have to try Eddie Hall’s deadlift program. Alternating heavy weeks and dynamic effort weeks is easily one of the best ways to build a world-class deadlift.
The dynamic effort method has passed the test of time as one of the most effective training methods for building strength.
Many of the world’s best powerlifting programs including the Westside Barbell training program and the Josh Bryant powerlifting program use the dynamic effort method as a core training method. Many strongman competitors such as Brian Shaw and Eddie Hall have also used the dynamic effort method to build up their deadlifting strength.
The dynamic effort method is not for everyone. Some people find that it is too hard on their joints. Others find that it just doesn’t help their squat, bench press or deadlift.
Stan Efferding even called the dynamic effort method a “waste of time!”
However, real-world experience has shown over and over that the dynamic effort method is one of the best tools you can use in your training program. I strongly recommend you give it a shot!
If you enjoyed this article then make sure you check out my article on compensatory acceleration training. In that article I show you how to train explosively with light AND heavy weights for maximum results.
“How do you turn the invisible into the visible? The first step is to define your dreams precisely. The only limit to what you can achieve is your ability to define with precision that which you desire.”
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!
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