What's the difference between "training max" and "competition max"

Discussion in 'Barbell' started by Anna C, Oct 29, 2019.

  1. Anna C

    Anna C More than 5000 posts Elite Certified Instructor

    In various discussions and programs, people talk about a "training max" or "gym max". Supposedly it's different (slightly less) than a "competition max" that you do in a meet.

    For me, there's no difference. I did this 300 lb lift last week in the gym, and 305 lb lift at the TSC on Saturday. The 305 felt exactly 5 lb heavier/harder than the 300 lb... In other words, it seemed to me that my strength and ability on both days was exactly the same, I just attempted a slightly different number.

    On both days, I could do 305 and possibly could have done 310 if I had tried with optimal lifting and rest prior... but 315 and 320 was out of reach on both days.

    I've always felt (and experienced) that either I can lift a weight, or I can't. The setting makes no difference.

    What am I missing? What would you say is the difference between "training max" and "competition max"?
    Bauer likes this.
  2. Marc

    Marc Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    You seem to have a very "stable", "stoic" strength which is a good thing, IMHO.
    For many people the atmosphere of a competition additionally activates their fight or flight response which in turn adds a few pound to their max.
    Anna C likes this.
  3. wespom9

    wespom9 More than 500 posts Certified Instructor

    I like Dan John's differentiation here. I'm going to paraphrase, but in essence a competition max "usually starts with a story, such as I needed to hit___ to win the meet"
    "sort of" max - can hit this without a whole lot of training
    Training max would be after some solid training
    and competition max adds some adrenaline to make the lift knowing it is a "must" do.
    Anna C likes this.
  4. Timo Keskitalo

    Timo Keskitalo Triple-Digit Post Count

    And of course you would never go to a competition in the middle of a training week. Always a little tapering and refreshed, to get the absolute max result.

    Some people might think e.g. for BP that their training max is bigger than comp max, because in training you don't have a judge redlighting your effort. So "flawed" form/technique.
    Anna C likes this.
  5. Bauer

    Bauer More than 500 posts

    When reading about Bulgarian training maxes here on the forum I always thought of it as a reasonable and conservative goal of a training cycle, the 100% that training percentages are based on. I guess @kennycro@@aol.com has a definition of it as he was the one to bring it up.
    Anna C likes this.
  6. Sean M

    Sean M Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    I assume competition max is what you can only achieve after a specific period of training. A training max would be (I think) either a percentage of that (to be conservative) or an actual amount you work up to on an “any given day”, fresh, without days or weeks of prep. I’m sure there is a more technical explanation, that’s just my impression particularly from Dan John’s writings.
    Anna C likes this.
  7. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Forum Administrator Senior Certified Instructor

    @Anna C, I am able to pull much more in a meet than I am in training. Training usually means spacing things out for sufficient recovery to do the next training; for competition, I taper, and feel much more rested and ready to pull something heavy than I do on a normal training day. I remember doing the math when I set a PR a few years ago - in training, I'd never gone about 88% of my previous 1RM, and that number became 85% of my new PR.

    I would have to look this up, but my memory says that I've read that women can do a higher percentage of 1RM for reps compared to men, e.g., something like men can pull 92% for a triple but a woman can do 5 reps. I interpret this as women being tougher than men, btw. What this means, again going from memory here, is that for some/many/most men, with proper training, their competition 1RM can be significantly higher than anything they've done in training.

    And this also very much varies by the person. If memory serves, during the programming talk at the first US SFL, Pavel was writing training plans for Dave Whitley and Fabio, and tailoring them to the fact that Dave was much more of a reps/endurance with heavy weights person, while Fabio would typically stay further away from his 1RM in training. Again, if memory serves, they had similar 1RMs but Dave trained with much more volume at a high percentage than Fabio did.

    Again, apologies to all the people and all the research if I'm remembering incorrectly.

    And, all this said, you could experiment with your training leading up to a competition, experiment with psyching yourself for a heavy deadlift, experiment with having an extra cup or two of coffee the morning of a meet, and whatever else to try to pull something heavier.

    Pantrolyx, Molson, kiwipete and 2 others like this.
  8. Sean M

    Sean M Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Also, I'm assuming the concept comes from the world of professional lifting where 2-5% differences are dozens of kilos/pounds, so it has a bigger effect on the training cycle if you're talking about a lifter with several hundred pound maxes in squat and deadlift. For us mere mortals, 2-5% is 5-15 pounds so I think a recent "peak" max is still good enough to go on for programming.
    Anna C and Bauer like this.
  9. Anna C

    Anna C More than 5000 posts Elite Certified Instructor

    Great inputs. So I gather these all may be factors:
    • Getting psyched up in competition (which I don't tend to do... perhaps could learn to)
    • Learning and using whatever tricks work in competion like caffeine, sniffing ammonia, etc. (never tried)
    • Being rested and fresh for competition (which I did to some degree by having an easy week prior to TSC, but didn't seem to make a huge difference)
    • Peaking for competition with heavy singles and doubles (which I did for a few sessions, but was before the 300, so about the same effect)
    • Being male vs. female (male being able to display more of a true max due to neuromuscular efficiency due to testosterone)
    • Being more of a reps/endurance person vs high 1RM person (I am probably the former)
    When you add all that up, I can definitely see why it would be more of a "thing" for some people than others.
    Steve Freides likes this.
  10. Philippe Geoffrion

    Philippe Geoffrion More than 500 posts

    A training max should be a lift you can hit at any given time or day. Jim Wendler, and others, say around 90 % of a comp max. Generally, I do not perform 1rm in training, but will hit singles with a training max. However, this doesn't mean I can not hit a higher number, just merely for training and freshness purposes, it is best to limit the actual maximal lifts during regular training. A true max is what I find to be a special event max. There is adrenaline, psych and the anticipation leading up to such an event , all of which allow a greater access to our strength potential. Under such do or die scenarios (if one really takes their competition seriously and is willing to give an all out, above and beyond effort) one will lift more weight. This shouldn't be done often during training due to the overall stress that is placed on ones system, hence using a training max for a buffer. Emergency situations have been known to evoke such a state in untrained individuals, such as lifting cars off victims and the likes.
  11. Anna C

    Anna C More than 5000 posts Elite Certified Instructor

    Yes, this the description I've heard before. It just doesn't resonate with me... I simply don't believe I have this "greater access to strength potential" in an event. (Maybe the belief itself is actually limiting me? I'm willing to consider it...). But the factors in the post above help explain why that may actually be the case.

    I really wonder about this one. Would the same variables affect one's ability to have superhuman strength?
    Philippe Geoffrion likes this.
  12. Bro Mo

    Bro Mo Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Competition creates some adrenaline in me that gives me an edge too. Depends on the seriousness of the competition whether or not that happens though.
  13. Philippe Geoffrion

    Philippe Geoffrion More than 500 posts

    I certainly believe that the mental aspect of strength is often overlooked. Remember, elite lifters still only access 90 % of their actual potential. So you have that extra strength....accessing it is the issue.

    Proper training can also affect mental state, positively or aversely. When one has a clear visual goal to achieve that is months away, it takes discipline and patience to realize this. Every session s geared towards that goal. If one is uncertain, in their plan or their strength, they will change the parameters of their program, take random maxes, missing or making them but completely obscuring their cycle. These folks will hit a big lift in training and totally bomb out at the meet, because they didn't save their strength. Or they'll miss a lift in training and their confidence will plummet.

    Meanwhile, the professional will start light, practice perfectly and save their strength. They know when they hit 75 % 8 weeks out and it feels light to NOT go heavier. For them, this restraint is money in the bank or pounds on the bar...Months later, at their auspicious event.

    The best lifts seem to come after months of preparation with no distraction. Some, seem to come out of nowhere but are really the sudden realization of prior training effects. Anyways, I've rambled but my main point is, you do have that extra strength. You are all ready as strong as you need to be. That key is just letting that strength out at the right time, which more often then not, as you get stronger, means exercising patience, focus and often restraint from "testing your max" in the middle of a training cycle rather than believing in your strength and path and letting it all come together for your meet.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2019
  14. Anna C

    Anna C More than 5000 posts Elite Certified Instructor

    Good thoughts...

    I'm not elite, so my program was not as focused than what you describe. Just general strength building, but then a little emphasis the weeks prior to the TSC on triples, doubles, singles instead of just sets of 5. Did the 300 on a heavy singles practice 8 days prior to the event which wasn't an all out max and was plenty of time to recover. (Actually the whole idea that a max effort takes weeks to recover from is another one that I've heard and don't "get"... but that probably goes back to the male/female difference of "true max"). And doing those heavy singles absolutely built my confidence rather than making it plummet. I then knew exactly what to attempt and exactly what I could do in the TSC. The only unknown was my 3rd attempt at 320, but it didn't go up... I guess I could say "as expected".

    Yes, all the rest about "letting that strength out at the right time" sounds convincing... I just still don't believe it's true for me.
  15. banzaiengr

    banzaiengr Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    I guess I'd agree with you Anna. If you are comparing a training max to a competition max then of course you must be competing.

    So you are not comparing your bench press with what you do in the gym without a bench shirt and is only a touch and go. You compete so it is done with the shirt and with a pause.

    I would think that you would use (at least I did) your competition max to figure out your training poundages. You are wanting to work up to a higher competition max but you are using lower weight than your competition max in training for your doubles and singles. Then depending on how your training is going and how you feel, your last competition max might be used now for doubles. It's just a cyclic and progress thing. You surely wouldn't be training year round handling 90 - 95% of your competition max.

    If you don't compete then I would say you are talking about a training or gym max. The bench is a touch and go without the competition pause.

    In the squat or deadlift your max is maybe done with only a belt and maybe knee wraps but not a suit. JMO
  16. Anna C

    Anna C More than 5000 posts Elite Certified Instructor

    Yeah there's yet another "not applicable" comparison for me. I do wear SBD knee sleeves and a belt, but no knee wraps, bench shirt, or any of that sort of thing. But those seem to be falling out of favor in the powerlifting world from what I see.
  17. apa

    apa Triple-Digit Post Count

    Difference for me is being more rested. Following PttP for a while now and there is a noticeable difference when I have rested over the weekend.
    Anna C likes this.
  18. kennycro@@aol.com

    kennycro@@aol.com More than 500 posts

    Competition Max Training Percentages

    The issue with using a percentage of your Competition Max in training is the it is misleading.

    Your Competition Max is going to be (or should be) the heaviest load you can complete on your best day. It doesn't carry over to your Training Days.

    Example of Competition Bench Press Training Max Percentage

    Let's say your Competition Bench Press is 300 lbs. Let's say you based your training percentage to be 85% of the 300 lbs, which is 255 lbs.

    Let's say your true Training Max Bench Press on that day is 285 lbs; 85% X 285 lbs = 242 lbs.

    That means if you use 255 lbs (85% of your 300 lb max) you're actually performing you Bench Press Training with 89% of your true Training Max Bench Press for that day.

    Training Max

    You're Training Max is going to fluctuate to a certain degree with each training session. Some day you're going to be a little stronger, some a little less so.

    The variance of your strength is dependent on where you are in your Periodization Training Cycle, as well as some other factors.

    As an example, after maxing out in the final week of a training cycle, your strength most like will not have recovery in the following week.

    That is why once you max out in the final week of a training cycle, you dramatically drop the load and then over a period of weeks progressively increase the load. If thing go right, you end up with a new training max.

    I am more of a proponent of using training percentages that are more reality based on what your Training Max is on that particular training day.

    Unfortunately, the only way to know your Training Max for that day is to max out on that day. I don't see the point to that.

    The Take Home Message

    If you base your Training Percentage on your 1 Repetition Competition Max, you need to adjust your percentage down to accommodate for your Training Max.

    Working Backward

    A better way is to estimate your Competition Max or Training Max is to specifically determine what percentages that you use that carry over with certain load for certain repetitions.

    The standard estimation for someone who's max Bench Press is 300 lbs X 2 Repetition is 95%. Thus, that means you should be able to perform a max Bench Press for right at 315 lbs.

    However, that is the generic method of determine you 1 Repetition Competition Max. As with most thing, there is going to be some variance with each individual.

    Max Training Year Round

    This is an effective method of increasing you strength, if your program is well written and executed in a Periodization Training Program.

    Paused and Touch and Go Benching

    Paused Benches are an effective training method for non-competitive lifters that elicit a different training effect.

    Competitive Bench Pressers need to preform some Touch and Go Bench Press Training. Doing so provide some carry over in the Competition Bench Press.

    Kenny Croxdale
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2019
    Bauer likes this.
  19. banzaiengr

    banzaiengr Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    That's is the key, having a good program with the proper periodization. Then it pretty much takes care of itself.
    LoneRider likes this.
  20. Anna C

    Anna C More than 5000 posts Elite Certified Instructor

    So I suppose that's the key... For the general strength trainee, absolute strength does not waver around that much.

    Therefore, the whole concept is somewhat non-useful for the general strength trainee. Any 1RM is basically a training max.

    I guess if my choice is between having a 300 lb deadlift anytime, and having a 310 "competition" + 285 "training" max, I'll take the 300 "anytime" deadlift :)
    Jeff Roark likes this.

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