Not every max lift looks the same. If you watch a lifter take a heavy attempt and want to estimate how close they are to their max, you can't simply judge based on slowly the bar moves, because every lifter is different. Some are explosive right up to their max weight, while others slow down at weights as light as 50% but can keep adding plates and grind through heavier and heavier attempts.
This is the topic for today's Table Talk. Dave answers a question about the differences between explosiveness in lifters:
"Why are some lifters more explosive and others can grind?"
The basic answer to this is genetics — it's just how you were born. There is a time, early in life, that you can most optimally develop explosive strength. It happens best at an early age, but you can also continue to build explosiveness later in life. As age increase even more, especially in masters lifters, the focus should be on maintaining the explosiveness you developed earlier in life, as you will naturally begin to lose some of that ability to produce force.
Dave says to think of explosiveness as a continuum. On one end of the spectrum you have someone who isn't very explosive and every rep is slow, but they can grind through heavy weights. On the other end of the spectrum is the person who is very explosive but gets smashed under a weight five to 10 pounds more than their max. These are extreme examples and most people will fall between these two.
Dave points out that this is why it's important to have both dynamic effort training and max effort training within every program that you're doing. This doesn't mean that you need to have a conjugate program, but it's important to find ways to train in both dynamic effort and max effort ways.
In Dave's experience, he has always been more explosive than strong. During his powerlifting years this meant that if he took dynamic effort training out for a while, his strength plummeted. But without max effort training, he didn't lose much strength.
The main takeaway: You can't go from one end of the continuum to the other, but you can always become more explosive and you can always become stronger. If you're a slow lifter your lifts are never going to look like Chuck Vogelphol, but instead you can aspire for your lifts to look more like Ed Coan's. Understand where you are and look to lifters with similarities for guidance on how to train both your strength and your explosiveness.