Dynamic Effort

What does this mean exactly? Now you could go and read Dave Tate or Louie Simmons and they can explain it much better than I can, but I will give you the Cliff Notes version.  Dynamic effort (DE) in my context means nothing more than speed. According to Dave Tate, “Dynamic effort is defined as lifting a non-maximal load with the greatest speed possible.”  If you want to move big weights you must be fast. We use the DE day to teach the nervous system to fire quickly. Think of a lift you have missed. Generally the bar just slows down and the weight stops moving and you miss the lift. You could need more max effort, but you may need more speed.


My basic dynamic effort workout is this:

  • Squat - 6-9sets of 2 reps
  • Dead lift - 6-10 singles
  • Overhead press - 4-7sets of 3 reps

These are the base 3 exercises, but they all have many variations. Depending on where your weakness is you can vary the placing of each movement in the session. For the last year I have really focused on my press, followed by the dead and finishing with the squat. I have changed it all around for the next 12 weeks and am starting with squats and then going to deadlifts and ending with the press. One more note before I dive into the squat. We use no equipment during this session….no belt, wraps, straps. I will use Rehband sleeves that can be found at www.jackalsgym.com. It is a high quality neoprene material that adds support and keeps you warm. By not using any belt I believe the dynamic effort enhances the core strength and in strongman if you have a weak core you will go nowhere!


The squat will be done to varying height boxes (12,14,or 16 inches depending on the trainee’s height and whether you are hitting parallel or just below) or to a parallel rack height. The key on the squat is to keep everything tight during the decent. Once you reach the bottom relax only the hips for a split second and then ram the squat up as violently as possible. Do the second rep the same way and then set it back into the rack. You should only rest 45-60seonds between sets, so once the squatting begins you should be finished in around 10 minutes give or take a minute.

The weight used should vary but should never be more than 75% of ones max. We will wave our squat weights from 50-75%. I am around an 800lb squatter so I use between 400-600lbs for speed if I am using only weight. When doing the lift, you should apply compensatory acceleration which means pushing against the weight with all the force you can muster on the 2 reps. I want to apply 800 pounds worth of squat to the bar even when I am only squatting 400lb. Trust me when the bar gets moving fast the plates will be singing to you!

Once you have established the type of squat and the weight, you must then add accommodating resistance. We do this by adding chains or bands. If you need bands, chains or about anything else that has to do with getting strong go to www.elitefts.com.  They will make sure you get the equipment and help that you need. You can add chains to the bar, bands, or both. Again variations are the key so mix it up and have fun. I currently use bands for 2 weeks, weight only for 1 week, and then chain for 2 weeks.

I have been training with these for about 4 years now and I will do some crazy stuff to myself, but for the rest of you I will give you a few guidelines. First off if you are just using straight weight then just figure the percent you are using by your current max (a 500lb squatter would use between 250 and 375). When adding chains do not include the chain weight in the percent that was set above. The chain will de-load at the bottom of the squat, but is felt at the top end. Squatting with chain is more taxing than just weight at the top, but less in the hole! Dave Tate and Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell wrote the book on band training so if this peaks your interest check these guys out on the web! When I use bands, I lower my actual bar weight to no higher than 40% and then make the difference up in bands. I wave my bands from 25-50% of my max. The bands come in 50, 75, and 100 pound tension levels (depending on how you set it up).  When I squat I use between 200 and 400 pounds worth of bands and add that to a loaded bar of 320. The key on any of these squats is speed. We time the sets to make sure we are not getting slow on each set. Remember I stated we use between 6-9 sets of 2 reps. Once we slow down 2 sets in a row we stop. On those days you feel great maybe you do a bit more and on the days you feel like chewed up bubble gum cut back. The key is speed!



When we dead lift we will pull conventional straight bar deadlifts, rack deadlifts, Trap Bar deadlifts, from the tops of our shoe strings or car dead lifts. Just like the squat we will use either straight weight or the bands and chains. As you can see we love variation!

When we start to pull it does not take long. We only do between 6-10 singles with 30-45 sec rest between reps.  As long as you are not changing huge amounts of weight deadlifts will be done in around 8 minutes. The key is still speed! We use the stop watch again to make sure we stay fast.

Selecting a weight that is right can be tricky. I have spoken with many different people on this topic and the weights vary here from 50-75%. The guys that use closer to 50% pull up to 20 singles…..the 75% guys pull 3-5singles. We use 70% for all our dead lifts whether they are from the floor or rack.

When we pull conventional we will either use straight weight, chains draped over the top or we will put the bar on top of our Jump Stretch Sumo Platform and attach bands to the bar along with the desired weight. The Jump Stretch Sumo Platform can be found at www.elitefts.com.

When I train, I use 70%, of my current max of 775lb, which is 542lbs. If I were to use straight weight it would be easy. With chains and bands I will use less plate weight and more accommodating resistance. When I use bands I will use 300lbs in band tension and then 235 in weight and with chains I will use 120lbs in chain and 405 on the bar. Speed, speed, speed is our only focus here. Once we pull the weight we are done. The eccentric portion of this lift is a guided drop. Eccentrics tend to wear you out and beat you up pretty good. We will vary this each week and it could look something like this:

  • Week 1- Straight weight, conventional
  • Week 2 -Rack deadlifts with bands
  • Week 3- Shoe string deadlifts with bands
  • Week 4 - Trap bar deadlifts

The key is keep good records and make sure you are fast!

The Press


When most people think of the press they think the bench press, but I am speaking of the overhead press. In Strongman, like Olympic lifting, the overhead press is king. Bench press and its cousins are nothing more than accessory work for what we are looking at doing.  Variation is our mainstay from getting burned out and bored. Our DE overhead pressing options are Log press (8in/10in/13in/14.6in diameter logs), Axle press (2” or 2 3/8”), or Viking press. This last year I did not use the 8” log at all since It was not in any of my shows and I only used the big one three times. Most of our pressing will be built around the 10 and 13 inch log, the two types of axles and the Viking press.

Our pressing workout is pretty simple. We do 4-7 sets of 3 reps and then take a 30-60 second break. Dynamic effort is meant to be done quickly and our pressing is done in 7 minutes or less.

The weight used is between 60-75% of your 1 rep max. My best log press is 360 so I use between 220-270lbs. The axle weight is between 230-285lbs and the Viking press is 240-305. This can be split between weight and accommodating resistance.

When we press, the weight must generally be cleaned into position so it is impossible to use chains for the overhead press. We can take the mini bands, stand on them and then do the clean followed by all 3 reps in the press. If we are not using bands, we are using straight weight. One variation that we have tossed in recently is the clean and press on every rep. If you know your contest weight we will use 70% of that for the clean and press, but when doing this you will need about 2x the recovery time until you get into shape!

As you can see, this does not take a lot of time. Granted we warm up thoroughly before we start and then dive right in! Once you get your dynamic session done it is time to move onto your accessory lifts and they will consist of a vertical pull (chins would be an example here), horizontal press (bench), and a horizontal pull (rows). The accessory work is done with 3-4 sets per exercise and using reps that range from 5-20. The key here is to hit the stuff that is your weak point. At this point, it is time for some post session nutrition and a shower!

Train Hard and God Bless!