Autoregulating the “Max Effort” Day

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw 

If you’ve followed my TTP writings for any length of time, you know that I follow (albeit loosely) a Westside-esque, Conjugate-leaning methodology in my personal training.  Though I do a lot more running (sprinting) and bodyweight/bar work, and less dedicated “assistance” work than the “pure” Westside Conjugate system, I do keep to a rough template of that style style vs any other method of western or linear-type periodization. At some point I should actually name this hybrid methodology of mine.  TTP Conjugate, maybe?  Conjugate for the Masses?  The TTP Method?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I’ll need a chapter-long “hat-tip” section to give proper shout-outs to all of those programs that I’ve riffed on; Westside more than any other.  Because the truth of the matter is that I’ve “invented” nothing; I’ve only combined elements of many different systems into something that’s worked extremely well for me.

And this is no different than what I’ve done at Efficient Exercise.  I simply answered the question of “what if all I can negotiate is a half hour, twice a week to dedicate to training?”  Take that question, pass it through the lense of the Five Ts and add some uber-effective, proprietary equipment — and, viola!  The Efficient Exercise method.  Innovative equipment coupled with intelligent programming.  It’s a beautiful thing! 

Ok, back to my personal training.  As many of you know, one of the core principles of Westside’s Conjugate system is the concurrent training for both limit strength and peak power production.  More traditionally, strength, speed and power production would be trained in sequential, isolated (and/or undulating) blocks; accumulation, transmutation and realization phases.   I think both systems, done right, are fantastic.  And both, too, have inherent limitations; the pros and cons of which can be argued ad nauseam.   Now, for my personal purposes, I believe a modified Conjugate system (the TTP Method?) best fits my goals and Five Ts.  However, I’ve been part of a football S&C program that utilized an undulating block system with superior results. So both are great systems, but know this: your ass can only ride one pony at a time.  Pick the system that best fits your needs, and embrace it.  Then, do the work!

My time in the weight room can usually (there are always exceptions, of course) fall within what would be considered, in Conjugate terminology, Max Effort or Dynamic Effort days; one each for both the upper and lower body.  That’s four “major” lift days per week.  And if I look back over the years, that’s usually about what I average out to over the year.

But even here I deviate from Westside’s take.  My Max Effort days are not always a work up in a particular lift to a maximum single or double.  Sometimes, yes — that’s exactly what I do.  Or, I might work some high-force ARXFit singles, or various time-under-tension schemes.  But other times I may work up (in an Autoregulated format) to as high as a 5, 6 or 7 RM on a standard barbell compound movement.  And yet in other instances, I may use that 5, 6, or 7 RM as the basis for a 21 to 25 rep “density maximum”.

Note:  to put some scale on this, I’ll also use a 3 RM to hit 18 to 21 rest-pause reps.  

Let’s look at an example of how the later two rep schemes might be used as max effort day compliments.  

First, let’s consider using Autoregulation to dial-in a particular rep zone maximum and, more specifically, how this particular dip session was utilized (using a basic Autoreg scheme) to dial-in what turned out to be a 6 rep max.

Now, with that 6 rep max in my back pocket, I can play a bit with the density side of things.  So in a recent ME upper workout, I performed the following 25 rep, rest-pause sequence:

Weighted dips: BW/12, 45/8, 75/6, 100/3.  

Then, I dove into the 25 rep rest-pause sequence at 115 lbs (my 6 RM, as defined previously).  I also kept track of the total time for this sequence, as that will be another variable I can manipulate (autoregulate) later.  So the dip sequence continued on at 115 lbs, finishing like this:

5, 5, 4, 4, 3, 2, 2 (total time, 5:45).  

I then dropped to 95 lbs and knocked-out another 8, going to failure.  Why?  Just to add a bit more volume.

So, a few things here:

1. I’m not a competitive power lifter; nor, a competitive anything, really.  But as a former athlete, I recognize the underpinnings of a superior system, and don’t hesitate to manipulate said systems to fit my needs.

2. I’ve greatly expanded my definition of “max effort” and “dynamic effort” (within the Conjugate system) again, unabashedly, to fit my own needs.

3. I utilize some aspect of autoregulation with each and every training session.  In the 25 rep scheme about, that would look like (if I were feeling subpar), a much longer time to total rep completion or more “chipping away” at the reps — maybe 10 total sets vs the 7 in the example above.  Also, I could choose to ditch the follow-on drop-down set if I were particularly skunked.

Just another way to approach your programming. 

Oh, and one other thing: don’t forget to swing by the Paleo f(x) Vimeo on-demand page, and pick-up your fare share of Paleo knowledge awesomeness.  Then, make plans immediately to attend the next Paleo f(x) shindig in Austin, April 23rd – 26th, 2015.  Details on that show coming soon!


In health, fitness, and ancestral wellness -


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