June 21, 2024 2 min read

By Shane Robert

It can be confusing for beginners and, truthfully, even some advanced athletes to know the best way to train. There are an unimaginable number of programs to follow, leading to the oft-heard question, “Does X program work?” Of course, the usual answer is, “It depends.” It depends on what you are trying to accomplish and factors such as your training history, strength level, etc. I’m told that the Couch to 5k program is great for neophyte runners looking to do their first 5k race. I’m willing to bet my retirement account that it isn’t a great program to follow for your first powerlifting meet.

Fortunately, we can look at the 4 methods of training to determine whether a specific program is appropriate for your goal or not.

The 4 strength methods are:

Maximal Effort Method – Lifting a maximum load 

Repeated Effort Method – Lifting a non-maximal load to failure

Dynamic Effort Method – Lifting (or throwing) a non-maximal load with the highest possible speed

Submaximal Effort Method – Lifting a non-maximal load a given number of times NOT to failure

Each of these has benefits and drawbacks. Look at the table below for a quick snapshot and comparison.

Maximal Effort


  • Causes greatest strength increases
  • Improves both intramuscular & intermuscular coordination
  • Lowers CNS inhibition


  • Higher injury risk
  • Low hypertrophic effect
  • Easy to burn out (due to arousal levels required)

Repeated Effort


  • Most effective for hypertrophy
  • Low injury risk
  • Ideal for general health and fitness



  • Too much work for high-level athletes
  • Final reps happen in a fatigued state - less effective for strength 
  • Most “painful” to do

Dynamic Effort


  • Increases rate of force development
  • Increases explosive strength
  • Should allow for ideal technique


  • Challenging to find the correct weight
  • End range of motion inhibition for no-thrown objects
  • Negligible effect on hypertrophy 

Submaximal Effort


  • Increases movement skill 
  • Less centrally fatiguing than maximal and repetition methods
  • Allows for higher total volumes 
  • Causes the greatest long-term adaptation 


  • Less hypertrophy effect than repeated effort method on a set-to-set basis
  • Lower direct benefit to maximal strength
  • High volumes can lead to long-term wear on joints


Most programs will be a combination of repeated effort and submaximal effort training. For an average person trying to simply be healthier and look better, that’s probably just fine. For someone training for the javelin or shot, it would not be ideal. They need a greater rate of force development (dynamic effort) and maximal force output (maximal effort). A weightlifter or powerlifter will need high levels of movement skill (submaximal effort) with some amount of hypertrophy (repeated effort). Depending on the lifter, a focus on explosive strength (dynamic effort) or maximal strength (maximal effort) might be needed, sometimes, though rarely, both are needed at the same time. A bodybuilder who never employs the repeated effort method is leaving gains. 

Lifters love to focus on the maximal effort method and the repeated effort method as they are the most “hardcore” and suit the gym mentality of “no pain, no gain.” While this axion is true to an extent, it ignores the other methods that some lifters might need.

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