Category Archives: Strength Training

How to Determine Loads for PR-Based Programs

I’ve received a lot of questions so far by 2 x 4: Maximum Strength customers inquiring as to how to go about determining maximal loads. Apparently I wasn’t clear enough on this topic, so I filmed a video to further explain.

I hope this clarifies things. If you have any more 2 x 4 questions, please ask in the comments below.


Reduced Load & Effort for Increased Results

One reason why my strength has improved is because I quit maxing out so often and quit taking every set to failure. If you train a lift once per week, then you can go all out. But if you train more frequently, then you have to be conservative.


I’ve found that one heavy session and one submaximal session per week per main lift provides a potent strength-building stimulus; a 1-2 punch if you will that maximizes results. The maximal stimulus packs the bigger punch, but the submaximal stimulus builds weak links, grooves technique, and adds volume/frequency without compromising recovery.

In the video below, I demonstrate the 3 submaximal methods that are utilized in 2 x 4: Maximum Strength, namely the super-strict method, the pause method, and the explosive (aka dynamic effort or compensatory acceleration training) method.

Think these methods are for sissies? Think again. Several of the world’s strongest lifters employ these methods with great success. Sometimes you get more with less.

Know Thy Personal Records: Are You Aware of Your Indicators?

Everyone should be aware of their personal records (PRs). You should know multiple PRs for each variation.

Before I did 2 x 4 Maximum Strength, I didn’t have an adequate grasp of my PRs, therefore I wasn’t fully aware of my training efficiency.


I wanted you all to have this PR Sheet (click to download) from 2 x 4 so that you can know your indicators of progress. 

2 x 4 will help you determine these PRs within 14-weeks, which will benefit your training immensely. With my second time running 2 x 4, I found that my PRs were even more accurate/reflective of my true strength, and I believe that this made a big difference in helping me do well at the powerlifting meet a few weeks ago. Even if you don’t do 2 x 4, you should figure these PRs out over time.

Remember: pulls (deadlifts and block pulls) are reset, not bounced, presses (bench, military, close grip, and floor press) are paused for a one second count, and squats (back and front) are taken to parallel or deeper. Make your training harder so that competing (or testing 1RM) is easier.

With straight sets, you use the same load for all 3 sets. With ascending sets, you ramp up in weight so that your heaviest load is done on set 3 (so it can be thought of as a maximal set).

2 x 4 strength

Why Percentages Fail Some Lifters

The following is an excerpt from 2 x 4: Maximum Strength

Many programs utilize percentages for loading schemes. To name a few, Shieko, Smolov, and The Russian Squat Routine each provide the lifter with detailed set and rep schemes based off of percentages of 1RM. For example, a particular training day might have the lifter performing 7 sets of 5 reps with 80% of 1RM. These types of programs are very convenient as they take all of the guesswork out of the equation and allow the lifter to get in and get the job done.

Sounds incredible in theory, right? Problem is, programming just isn’t that simple. My colleague Brad Schoenfeld and I recently collected data for an upcoming study we intend on publishing that examines the EMG activation in the leg muscles with heavier weight (75% of 1RM) versus light weight (30% of 1RM) to failure. While we weren’t particularly interested in the number of repetitions the subjects achieved during exercise performance, we were intrigued to find that with the 75% of 1RM loading, the ranges of repetitions achieved by the subjects varied dramatically from one lifter to the next. While most subjects performed between 10 and 15 repetitions, one subject performed a whopping 21 repetitions, and another subject performed just 7 repetitions (with 30% of 1RM, the range was 30 to 71).


This jives with my experience as a personal trainer. Thirteen years ago, I trained a very strong 107 lb female client who could squat 135 lbs for 20 reps below parallel and deadlift 155 lbs for 20 reps. Impressive, right? She could grind out reps like a champion. Guess what her 1RM’s were? 160 lbs for the squat, and 175 lbs for the deadlift. She could squat 85% of her 1RM for 20 reps and deadlift almost 90% of her 1RM for 20 reps.

Ten years ago, I trained a freakishly strong male 225 lb client who could incline press 385 lbs. He was one of the most explosive lifters I’ve ever seen. One time I wanted to see how many times he could incline press 135 lbs. He petered out at 20 reps. He could only lift 35% of his 1RM twenty times.

What does this mean for training programs involving percentages? It means that some of the lifters employing the program will receive a great training effect. The load, set, and rep scheme will be just what the doctor ordered to boost the lifter’s strength for the following week. However, for other lifters, the prescribed percentages will be too easy (and will therefore fail to elicit an optimal training stimulus), or they will be too hard (and the lifter will physically be unable to complete the reps). Something like 7 sets of 5 reps with 80% of 1RM would be very easy for the female client I described, but impossible for the male client I described.

Some lifters will thrive on these types of programs, others won’t be sufficiently challenged, and others will be run into the ground. However, a program such as 2 x 4 won’t fail any lifters because it’s centered on setting PR’s in a systematic fashion. 2 x 4 does use percentages for submaximal methods, but they are conservative percentages, and the methods can be adjusted to provide the proper dosage of stimulus.