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Maximum strength: what is it and how to learn to control it?

Less is more, in many aspects of life. And the same is true in fitness. When training, we can focus on improve strength endurance (lots of reps with 50-65% loads at slow to medium speed), the force speed (moderate repetitions with loads of 65 to 85% at a high speed) or the one known as maximum or absolute force: few repetitions with charges from 85 to 100% at an ‘explosive’ speed or, what is the same, as quickly as possible. That is to say, in the case of the third option, the one that concerns us, we will not need to invest a lot of time in training, even though we must use the greatest force that the muscles can develop. But many questions arise: What are its real benefits? Are there risks? Is this way of training suitable for any athlete?

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What is maximum strength?

We’ll start at the beginning: What is maximum strength? “It is the neuromuscular capacity to perform a maximum voluntary contraction, that is, perform the maximum force in the shortest possible time. It is performed with high loads and low repetitions, with the aim of moving it as quickly as possible”, explains the personal trainer Juan Ruiz Lopez. “Although we achieve improvements at the muscular level, its main benefit has to do with adaptations in the nervous system.”

The objective of maximum strength, continues the director of the JRL Personal Training Center, is to increase the motor unit recruitment (motor neurons) and increase firing rate (activation) of the same, which causes adaptations to occur at the nervous system level, in addition to increase the highest level of force (known as peak force) that a person can generate.


The benefits have to do with the aforementioned neuromuscular adaptations, but also with muscle hypertrophy, even though “maximum strength is not the best option to achieve it”, in the words of the graduate in Physical Activity and Sports Sciences. Among the main benefits we can highlight:

  1. Muscle hypertrophy.
  2. neural involvement.
  3. Improvement of sports performance.
  4. Greater caloric wear.
  5. Injury prevention.
  6. Body stability.


When working with few repetitions and very high loads, In the opinion of Juan Ruiz López, people with little experience in strength training should not do this type of training, as it could be harmful. “Personally, I don’t do this work with any client until I have at least one year of experience in strength training, master the technique of the exercises correctly and have good control”.

The main risk of training maximum strength lies in performing the exercises with poor technique, which increases the risk of injury. “If we add to this that for maximum strength training the load that we will use will be higher, both the risk and the extent of harm may be greater, since the tension that we will receive will be greater”, warns the personal trainer, for whom this is avoidable with a adequate warm-up, correct technique and supervision.

How is the maximum force a person can lift calculated?

exist encoders or even some apps that can tell us what our maximum strength would be. “The maximum force in its greatest expression is described as RM (Maximum Repetition), which would be that load that we can move only once (maximum possible weight that we can use for a single repetition)”, continues Juan Ruiz López. “There are also formulas where, by introducing a series of variables, you can estimate the maximum force. Although they are usually somewhat inaccurate, they could give us an approximation”.

maximum strength workout

Maximum strength sessions are shorter than those of hypertrophy or other methods, since having a high nervous component and generating great fatigue at the level of the nervous system we shall work with a lot of intensity (few repetitions and a lot of load), but Low volume (minus total sets per workout).

  • Squat 1×6 2×4
  • Deadlift 2×3
  • Bench press 1×6 2×4
  • Weighted pull-ups 2×4

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