A geyser of energy drink erupted from my nostrils as I read an article from the Huffington Post claiming that Monster Drinks may be linked to five deaths.

Source:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/22/monster-energy-drink-deaths_n_2002787.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

If proven, I believe this would be more deaths attributed to a product than both anabolics and weed combined. Energy drinks are available almost everywhere and sold to anyone, regardless of the purchaser’s age. Despite this, I personally would hate to see energy drinks taken off the market. I am going to guess as long as alcohol stays on the shelves, we won’t need to worry about our daily Monster pick-me-up. But, as a strength and performance meathead, this story did make me think about speed in general and how it relates to training.

The basis of any speed development discussion begins with a discussion of the dynamic effort method. I think it is time to repost some aspects about this method and how to use it. While many think it is worthless, I fall in the group that completely disagrees. I am firmly convinced that dynamic effort work is one of the most important methods of training. The problem is most people have no idea how to use it.

The dynamic effort method is used to train the box squat and bench press. This method is defined as lifting a non-maximal load with the greatest speed possible. This reduced load should be coupled with compensatory acceleration. This means you must apply as much force as possible to the barbell. For example, pushing as hard and as fast as you can in the concentric phase of the lift. If you squat 700 pounds and are training with 400 pounds, then you should be applying 700 pounds of force to the barbell.



The weight used should be non-maximal in the 50-75% range. In the book Supertraining, Siff and Verkhoshansky state the best range for developing explosive strength in the barbell squat is two-thirds of your best one rep max. Angel Spassov defines this as 50-70%. This method isn’t used for the development of maximal strength, but for the improved rate of force development and explosive force. Let us consider the athlete that may have hit a genetic limit on their strength development. If this lifter has been stuck for five years, can he not get stronger?

There was a point in my training evolution that I was told by several university professors in the field of exercise science that I had reached my personal strength limit. What they forgot is that if I learned how to better synchronize my muscles to perform, then I could get stronger by enhancing my neural activation. The result was 300 more pounds on my total! This is because at the time, I may have only been activating 50% of my absolute strength potential. Through dynamic effort training, I was able to activate 70-80%. (The percents are used as examples, this was never tested.) This is also the reason why training percentages should never be as important as bar speed. Everybody has different motor learning and the advanced strength athlete will activate more than a novice athlete. This is why the more advanced the lifter is, the harder the work is.

For example, if both athletes performed a set of 10 reps in the barbell squat with 80%, the novice would walk away like it was no big deal, while the advanced athlete wouldn’t be walking anywhere because he’d be on the floor! If you’ve followed Louie Simmons’ articles over the years, you’ll notice how the percents he writes for the squat and bench press have reduced over the years. This is because the gym as a whole has gotten so much stronger and more experienced. The percent for the bench press used to be around 70, now it’s around 45-55%. Many have asked, “How can this be?” Well, as stated above, the athletes are now recruiting more motor units than before, so less percent is needed to produce the desired results.

The best way to determine what your training percent should be, is to begin with 50% and have someone videotape your bar speed. If you can maintain this bar speed, then increase the percent. When the bar slows down, then decrease the percent.
The dynamic days are scheduled as follows:

Friday: Dynamic effort squat day

Sunday: Dynamic effort bench day

These dynamic days are to be done 72 hours after the max effort day to allow for proper recovery. The training scheme for the dynamic days begins with plenty of warm-up sets and progresses onto the work sets. For the bench press, use 8 sets of 3 reps and for the box squat use 8 sets of 2 reps. There are many reasons for this set and rep structure.

The first reason is because of Prilepin’s charts (see below). Prilepin studied weightlifters to see what the optimal number of reps in each intensity zone should be. Louie applied this research into the training of the powerlifts. At the time, the bench press was being trained in the 70% range, while the squat was being performed in the 80% range.

This would equate to an optimal number of 18 lifts for the bench press in a range of 12 to 24 reps, and 15 lifts for the squat in a 10 to 20-rep range. He decided on two reps for the squats and three reps for the bench press because of time specificity of the competitive lifts. The time to unrack the weight to the completion of the lift in competition came out very similar to two reps in the box squat and three reps in the bench press.

Optimal Number of Lifts by Percent (Prilepin 1974)
Percent Reps Optimal Range
70 3 -6 18 Lifts 12 -24
80 2 -4 15 lifts 10 -20
90 1 -2 7 - 10 Lifts 4 -10

The second reason for this set and rep structure is because it has stood the test of time and has worked over and over again without flaw. This has created an evolving system where the optimal number of lifts has remained 16 for the box squat and 24 for the bench press for weights under 80%. We’ve also found that weights above 80% needed to be handled for 10% of all lifts. This is accomplished by working up after your sets are completed. These extra bonus sets shouldn’t be used every workout, but should make up ten out of every 100 lifts.

Sample Dynamic Box Squat Workout
Sets Reps Weight Rest
2 2 135 1 Minute
1 2 225 1 Minute
1 2 315 1 Minute
1 2 405 1 Minute
8 2 455 1 Minute

The squat workout should begin after a general warm-up of exercises such as reverse hypers, sled dragging and pulldown abs. These exercises should be light and used to warm- up and get loose. The first sets should be light and concentrate on good technique. Do as many sets as you need with the lighter weight until you feel warmed up. Then, progress up to your desired training weight. Once at your training weight, the rest period becomes critical. You’ll only rest one minute between sets.

The goal of this is to fatigue the fast twitch muscle fibers. These are the fibers responsible for explosive strength and power. We want these muscle fibers to become fatigued because over time, they’ll adapt and become stronger. The other reason is that the more you fatigue, the more fibers will become activated with each set. A fatigued muscle fiber won’t work as well, so the body will activate more and more muscle fibers to complete the workout. A one-minute rest constitutes about a 1:6 work to rest ratio and anything over 1.5 minutes will defeat the training effect.

Sample Dynamic Bench Press Workout
Sets Reps Weight Rest
2 3 45 1 Minute
1 3 135 1 Minute
1 3 185 1 Minute
1 3 225 1 Minute
8 3 275 1 Minute

The bench press workout should begin with a light general warm-up consisting of upper body sled work and warm-up exercises for the bench press. These can include light shoulder raises to the front, side and rear, as well as some light triceps extensions or pushdown movements. After the warm-up is when you move onto the actual bench press movement.

Begin with the bar for as many sets as necessary to feel loose and warmed up. Increase the weight with 20 or 50 pound jumps depending on your strength level and begin the dynamic work sets with whatever the prescribed percentage is for the day. You’ll perform 8 sets of 3 reps in a dynamic fashion. These reps should be performed with compensatory acceleration.

When you finish the bench press movement, you’ll move onto the supplemental exercise for the day. This exercise should be some type of triceps press or extension movement. The best ones for this purpose are the close grip bench press, JM press, barbell extensions or dumbbell extensions. The intensity should be high and the volume low. We’ve found sets in the range of two to four with 3 to 8 reps to be excellent. These sets are started after all warm ups for the exercise have been completed.

The accessory exercises that follow should include movements for the shoulders and lats. These movements should be of moderate intensity for intermediate rep ranges. This may be three to five sets of 8 to 15 reps. You should leave one or two reps at the end of every set. This means you won’t go to failure, which will ensure proper recovery for the next workout. Upon completion of these movements you’ll move onto prehabilitation work consisting of external rotation moments for the shoulders and light pushdowns and/or light sled work for the upper body.

So, while you may feel it is prudent to curtail your daily Monster Drink allotment, DO NOT write off dynamic effort work in your quest to reach your ultimate powerlifting potential. You just may be cheating yourself of some monster strength gains.