Workout of the Day

Defining Maximal


Let’s clarify the concept of maximal in the context of training. When you attempt a max effort lift -- we’ll use the deadlift as an example -- we can’t take the term “maximal” too literally. There are caveats, addendums, and fine print involved.

Maximal lifts are intended to train and test the most weight you can move with a particular technique and through a given range of motion. Taken a step further, the well-executed (read: safe and effective) maximal lift will maintain body positions that we intend to train. We could sum up this requirement with the vague term “good form.” In the context of the deadlift, this means your maximal lift should be the maximal load your can lift with a neutral spine and concurrent hip and knee extension. A lift that abandons neutral spinal position or involves “hitching” veers away from being a truly productive maximal deadlift, and enters the realm of being an unsafe and all-around unproductive attempt at “move that thing from there to here.” Can you get the weight from the ground to your hips? Perhaps. Are you risking injury? Most likely. Are you productively training strength of position? No.

In this context of safety and efficacy, your maximal lift will, by necessity, be submaximal in regards to movement and position. The most weight that you can safely and effectively deadlift (i.e., your “max deadlift”) will be (slightly) submaximal in regards to the load under which you can maintain a neutral spine and extend through the hips and knees. When the load causes deviation from position, you have exceeded your max deadlift and reached failure.

This way of thinking of maximal is sometimes called a “technical max.” But the real point of distinction is that this is the way we should consider maximal in all training contexts. In the context of competition, our definition of maximal may expand to include movements that abide by required standards of movement and ranges of motion, but may deviate from position. If you find yourself in a meet vying for a place at the podium, then you may have the conversation about whether you’re willing to give up position and risk injury in an effort that exceeds your technical max. But if we’re just looking to be stronger, more able humans, let’s stick to keeping maximal efforts safe and productive.

- PS


  • Make 2 attempts at a max effort 200m sprint (rest ~2-3 mins)


  • 1 min max cal row

  • Rest 3 mins


  • Every 3 mins for 12 mins

  • For time, row # of cals rowed in 1 min max effort