This past weekend we had the honor of hosting Coach Glenn Pendlay. He came and conducted a seminar for Baystate Barbell.  Coach Pendlay has coached a total of 112 national champions throughout his career, for over twenty years.  He has coached athletes such as Donny Shankle, Jon North, Travis Cooper, Jared Fleming, James Tatum, and the list goes on.  I can honestly say that I learned this weekend more by speaking to Coach Pendlay and through watching him coach than I have learned collectively over the past couple of years.  

Coach Pendlay has been programming and coaching me for the past six months, and I am stronger now than I have ever been.  Since training under Coach Pendlay, I have maxed out more than I ever have and have seen amazing gainzzzz.  As a result, I’ve now had all of my athletes maxing out more in the last few months than we have in in the past. The best part of this past weekend was being able to converse with Coach Pendlay regarding his training philosophy, in particular “Max Out Friday.”  I wanted to know a little bit more about where the idea of “Max Out Friday” came from and why it has been a programming staple of his for so many years.

Throughout his coaching career, Coach Pendlay has always made Friday the heaviest training day of the week.  While training under Coach Pendlay, athletes can expect to “max out” on Friday’s.  Athletes are not always “maxing out” their snatch and clean and jerk, but countless variations of the snatch and clean and jerk.  The reason for different exercises every week is due to the biological law of accommodation. According to this law, the response of a biological object to a given constant stimulus decreases over time. Thus, accommodation is the decrease in response of your body to a constant continued stimulus.  This means that if the athlete “maxes out” on the same exercise every week, their body will get used to that exercise and no physical adaptation will occur.  However, by changing the stimulus (in this case the max out exercise) every Friday, the body will continue to adapt.  An example program would look like this: Week 1- hang snatch (above knee) and hang clean (above knee) max, Week 2- hang snatch (below knee) and hang clean (below knee) max, Week 3-snatch from deficit and clean from deficit max, and Week 4-snatch and clean and jerk max.  

In addition, Coach Pendlay gave several reasons for why he believes in “maxing out” every Friday.  First and foremost, the best way to increase absolute strength is maximal effort.  Maximal effort was first documented by Russian biomechanist Vladimir Zatsiorsky and was popularized in the United States by powerlifting coach, Louie Simmons. Zatsiorsky states that maximum effort is superior for improving both intramuscular/intermuscular coordination.  For an athlete to get stronger they need to lift weights they have never lifted before.  According to Coach Pendlay, athletes will not always set a new PR on Friday. In fact, they may go several Fridays without setting a PR. However, they will get used to lifting heavy weights and attempting weights they have never tried before.  There are too many instances where certain lifters will go months without lifting anything over 90% nevermind a maximum.  Going to a max every week keeps lifters in a certain state of preparedness where they could compete on any given week.  

Maximum effort variations of the snatch and clean and jerk performed every week is also a form of varied practice.  Varied practice is a motor learning theory that includes frequent changes of task, so that the athlete is constantly performing different exercises to be learned information.  In many instances varied practice has been shown to enhance the retention and application of acquired skills. The backbone of varied practice states that the diversity of the tasks may allow the learner to retain the most relevant information. In terms of lifting, this would mean the better a lifter gets at all of the snatch and clean and jerk variations, the better that lifter’s snatch and clean and jerk would be.

Maxing out is vital when it comes to technique.  Any lifter can have decent technique when lifting 70%, but that’s not necessarily true when maxing out. Athletes need to make sure that their technique can withstand a maximum effort. Sure, 101% will not look as technically sound as 70%, but there shouldn’t be that much of a difference.  This type of training not only builds physical strength but also mental strength.  Most lifters are used to maxing out after a two week taper when they are completely rested and their bodies are healed.  It’s a totally different situation maxing out after a grueling week of training when every part of your body is sore.

Lastly, Coach Pendlay also mentioned that Fridays are most often times reserved for “maxes” and not 90%, 95% or 98%.  Lifts in the 90%-98% are circa max and certainly have their place in a training cycle; however, circa max weights are not to be confused with maximum weights. Going to maximum does something completely different to the body than all of those other percentages do.  Coach Pendlay stated that, in weightlifting, athletes should be perfecting their technique and working on speed with weights in the 70%-85% range or training to a max.  Also, most of the training volume will take place during the week, and Friday’s will have very little volume. Most times, lifters will work a training max and be done.