Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Maximize Your Minimums

Over on the EXRX forums, I wrote this:

"I'm more and more convinced a good long-term goal - for me and generally for my clients - is to maximize your minimums rather than maximize your maximums. What I mean is, instead of trying to raise their one-rep max, my goal is to raise their baseline walking around strength. Raising the weights they can get all the day, day in, day out, without any problems."

This is my basic training philosophy for most clients, and for myself.

I have a lot of influences here - Paul Carter's emphasis on everyday strength, talks by Dan John and Charles Staley about training, and my own experiences as a trainee and a trainer. What matters to most people, most of the time, are:

- what they can always do rather than what they can do peaking for a competition.

- what they can do on a bad day, with minimum warmup, without injury or painful strain.

Getting someone's 1-rep max up is great. Getting someone's ability to carry boxes up a few flights of stairs without exhaustion and risk of injury is also great. The latter will be more useful to them, generally, unless they're planning to compete at a one-rep max sport (Powerlifting or Weightlifting).

My goal generally is to get people to be able to lift on a bad day what they used to be able to lift only a good day. Day in, day out - enough to get you stronger, no so much you can't recover from the workout, and working towards a better baseline. Maximizing your minimums.


  1. These are my goals with my clients, too. I would rather get 100 people to do a 100kg deadlift than 5 people to do 200+kg deadlifts.

    Speaking to many fans of the Iron, however, they consider this being a pussy.

    1. I know it! You get this from all enthusiastic trainees, though - MMA guys will run themselves into the dirt day after day trying to get better. There is a great moment in the interview Joel Jamieson recently did with Tim Boestch where Tim says sometimes he feels like he's not working hard enough, and has to remind himself the light days are making him better.

      It is a big temptation to go heavy every day - at least you know you tried your hardest. But some very big and strong guys swear by going hard some days and easy most days . . .


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