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Maximal Strength: Definition, Uses, and Benefits

What is Maximal Strength?

Maximal strength refers to the total amount of force your muscles can produce, regardless of how long it takes to generate it. It essentially refers to the maximum resistance you can overcome (typically an external load, such as a barbell) for a single repetition. Factors like muscular development, skill, neuromuscular efficiency, leverages, and excitability affect maximal strength.

Maximal Strength vs. Strength Endurance vs. Explosive Strength

As mentioned, maximal strength is simply a measure of the total amount of force your muscles can produce. This is important for powerlifting, where the goal is to move as much weight as possible through a given range of motion, regardless of how long it takes.

Strength endurance is about repeatedly contracting your muscles to produce force over an extended period. For example, instead of looking at how much weight you can lift for a single rep, you track how many reps you can do with a specific load.

Explosive strength, also known as power, is a practice where the goal is to produce as much force as possible in a limited time. This results in explosive movement, such as jumping higher or lifting more weight on an Olympic lift like the clean and jerk.

How is Maximal Strength Beneficial?

Maximal strength is mainly beneficial for strength sports, such as powerlifting. It also plays a vital role in certain phases of Strongman and Olympic lifts, where endurance and power matter, but sheer muscle strength can be the difference between completing the rep and failing.

For example, maximal strength is crucial for completing the first and last phases of a clean and jerk.

Maximal strength is also a component of explosive strength and strength endurance. By increasing it, athletes can work on other types of strength, depending on the demands of their sport.

For instance, if an athlete heavily relies on strength endurance (such as for the yoke walk in Strongman), building maximal strength and then working on endurance can lead to great results.

The same goes for power, which is crucial for many athletes. By having greater maximal strength, athletes can incorporate power training to teach their muscles to produce the same force but quicker.


1. What is an example of maximal strength?

An example of maximal strength effort is loading your 1RM weight on a barbell and performing a single rep (be it a deadlift, squat, bench press, or another lift).

2. How to train for maximal strength?

Doing multiple sets of 1-5 reps with long rest periods (3+ minutes) is the best way to develop the skill and neuromuscular efficiency to increase your maximal force output.

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