Everything You Need To Know About Dynamic Effort

WRITTEN BY Martijn Koevoets

Confused about dynamic effort training? Read this to discover what percentages to use and how it works for raw powerlifters.

Years back when multiply powerlifting was still a thing, every month I would hop in my old beat up Ford and make the 90 minute drive to my powerlifting friends.

One of them had his garage transformed in a no frills, old school hardcore gym.

Just as ts should be. There was a power-rack, tons of plates and a big range of dumbbells. A few mats, bands, chains and a box. Nothing else.

We would do some crazy shit in there.

But my favorite type of training was dynamic effort squats, followed by dynamic effort deadlift. We were big on the westside method back then.

Westside for Dummies

Maybe not everybody is familiar with Louie Simmons and Westside Barbell.Louie Simmons - Powerlifting University - Powerlifting Blog

The Westside Barbell system is the brainchild of powerlifter and strength coach Louie Simmons.

The program’s principles are borrowing from Soviet and Bulgarian weightlifting training techniques and adapted to powerlifting.

Westside Barbell has some of the strongest multi ply powerlifters in the world. It’s also the reason for it’s popularity and controversy.

Anyway, training like this means doing dynamic effort day… twice a week.

One day was devoted to dynamic effort squat and deadlift and on the other day we did dynamic effort bench press. It’s part of the “offical” Westside Barbell Schedule. I’ll explain it later.

In the style of the westside powerlifting program, I would wear super thick 3 ply powerlifting briefs. Take a super wide stance and try to sit back on the 2 feet high squat box.

I did this for years, and looking back I probably was just fooling myself.

Thinking I was strong, when in reality I didn’t have a 2 cent squat without those briefs.

That’s how I felt anyways when I moved away from multiply lifting and transiontied into raw powerlifting.

I DO have fond memories of those days though.

After making the change I didn’t dump the whole westside barbell method by doing a 180 degree U turn on my training.

I made small changes to keep what worked and only changed what didn’t work anymore. I was doing “westside method for raw lifters“.

You need to make a few changes to the westside barbell system when you are training raw.

The principles still stand.

I can recommend the Westside Barbell Book Of Methods, along with the Westside Barbell Squat and Deadlift Manual and the Westside Barbell Bench Press Manual to anyone.

Westside Barbell Book Of Methods

But saying the Westside Barbell method stays 100% exactly the same when you are changing from multiply lifting to raw lifting is just utter nonsense.

One of the thing you need to chance is dynamic effort training.

What is Dynamic Effort Training?

Did you know that dynamic effort day was originally introduced at Westiside Barbell to replace a 2nd max effort day?

So instead of having max effort and max effort in a training week, it became max effort day and dynamic effort day.

Having multiple max effort days for the same muscle groups was just too much. Even for the behemoths of Louie Simmons and Westside Barbell.

Dynamic Effort Training - westside method - dynamic effort - westside barbell - Powerlifting Blog

Dynamic effort training is one of three methods documented by Dr. Vadimir Zatsiorsky in his book Science and Practice Of Strength Training.

In his book Zatsiorsky states that strength training can be accomplished in 3 ways:

1. Lifting a maximum load – the maximal effort method;
2. Lifting a non maximal load with maximal force to fatigue – the repeated effort method and
3. Lifting a non maximal load with the highest attainable speed – the dynamic effort method.

I don’t think that the first 2 methods need much explanation, but dynamic effort method might. It’s kind of an oddball.

Every body know you get strong by lifting heavy ass weights and everybody knows you get jacked by doing reps.

But what about dynamic effort training?

It doesn’t make you stronger of bigger. Dynamic effort training is aimed at training for speed and power.

Let me explain.

Let’s say when you started doing squat you could squat your own bodyweight and a vertical standing jump of 40 cm.

After 2 years you have a squat of 2xBW and a vertical jump of 60 cm.

You continue training and finally are able to squat 3xBW, but your vertical jump is still 60 cm.

What’s going on?

Box jumps - Powerlifting University - Powerlifting Blog

Obviously  you’re a lot stronger than when you squatted 2xBW, but you are not able to generate more force in time to make a more explosive jump.

Rate of force development is primarily related to neural activation.  The frequency that muscle fibres are fired seems to be the most important factor that contributes to this. Muscle size and fibre type are secondary factors.

Dynamic Effort Percentages

Originally sets with bar weight of 50% to 60% or 1RM in the Westside Barbell squat routine are prescribed. 10 to 12 sets for squats on dynamic day.

All lifters at Westside Barbell wear powerlifting briefs that will help out of the hole in the squat. Some briefs might help anywhere between 50 to 100 lbs.

It’s one of the reasons lifters at Westside Barbell use bands and chains to make the lifts harder at the top. This is called accommodating resistance.

It makes the list just as hard at the bottom as it is at the top. The strength curve throughout the whole movement is more or less constant.

The chains and bands should provide 25% of the weight at the top.

For instance, 50% bar weight + 25% chain weight equals 75% at the top.

But this just confused raw lifter all over the world.

Was the 1RM taken from raw lifts or equipped competition lifts?

Are the percentages for raw lifters the same? And would that be 50% to 60% or 75% to 85%?

Meme - Powerlifting University - Powerlifting Blog

I’m not sure but Louie Simmons might have taken the recommendations from a study called Periodization of strength training for athletes by Garhammer et al. in 1979.

In that study, it’s recommended that for power training to train with loads of 75%-85% for 1-3 reps and loads of 90% for 1-2 reps.

Personally I think the latter is more suited for powerlifting where just one rep counts. But Louie measured the times of hundreds of competition lifts and found out that the time of a competition squat is about the same time as a double in dynamic effort squats.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure about Dynamic Effort Deadlift Percentages… I have it somewhere, but I can’t seem to find it at the moment. So I’ll save it for another time.

Dynamic Effort Bench Day

For dynamic effort benching things are bit different.

Instead of 50% to 85% of 1RM, the percentage on dynamic bench day the percentage was originally 50%. For both raw and equipped bench presses.

But instead of doing 10 to 12 sets for doubles, Louie Simmons found out that a max attempt on the bench press took about the same time as a triple when done on dynamic effort day.

So for bench pressing you should bench with 50% of 1RM, and maybe add mini band or a pair of light chains and do sets of 3 reps for 9 sets.

The bands and chains will keep the strength curve more or less constant and will provide a better stimulus for muscle growth, strength and power.

Does it get any better?

This is very different than from what Garhammer found in 1970, but Louie Simmons has over 40 years of powerlifting experience and knows how to get guys strong.

Doing dynamic effort bench pressing at 50% of 1RM might be something you can try.

Dynamic Training Exercises

I like to make my your power training movements as sports-specific as possible. For powerlifting, that means squats, benches and deadlifts. But any variation of those excessive is OK by me.

So front squats, alternative stance deadlifts for example are fine.

Curls NOT!

 Curls In the Squat Rack - Powerlifting University - Powerlifting Blog


We talked a lot about how to adapt the “classic” Westside Barbell Method style of Dynamic Effort to suit raw lifters. And it can be a good addition to an athlete strength training program.

You can read more about on the westside method for raw lifters on EliteFTS.

And of course feel free to check out the Westside Barbell Book Of Methods, along with the Westside Barbell Squat and Deadlift Manual and the Westside Barbell Bench Press Manual

Since I feel this article became quite a clusterfuck when writing it, I’ll try to leave you with the main takeaways below.


  • There are 3 methods of strength training according to Dr. Vadimir Zatsiorsky in his book Science and Practice Of Strength Training.
  • Dynamic Effort Training is one of them, but it is not aimed to increase absolute strength.
  • Dynamic Effort Training is aimed at increasing speed and power by increasing rate of force development.
  • Rate of Force Development is improving the amount of muscle fibres that can be fired in the fastest time possible.
  • Raw lifters should train for power by doing sets of 75% to 85% for 1 to 3 reps, or 90% for 1 to 2 reps.
  • For bench press one might try doing 9 sets of 3 reps at 50% of 1RM.

Despite all my ramblings about dynamic effort training and training for speed and power… You do not NEED to use dynamic effort training!

But it’s a damn good option if you’re feeling beat up and it’s a lot of fun.

Pulp Fiction Meme - Powerlifting University - Powerlifting Blog

Aaaaand that’s a wrap amigo!

If you enjoyed this Everything You Need To Know About Dynamic Effort blog post feel free to tag and share this with your friends. They will appreciate it.


Author: Martijn Koevoets
Martijn is head honcho of Powerlifting University, a powerlifter, author, blogger, online coach & extreme metal aficionado. He also loves a good whiskey. He has been featured on websites like EliteFTS, JTSStrength, JMAX Fitness and more.

Get your hands on my cheat sheet for setting up training programs that took a 132lbs. skinny weakling from not being able to bench the bar to deadlifting 3x his own body weight and winning silver at the nationals.



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