The 20-Minute Max Out

By Colin Farrell

I really helps if you reverse-engineer the problem.  An excellent book, one I’d highly recommend (one of those books I wish I had read earlier in life, as it would have saved me a lot of trouble and heartache), is “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey. This blog post absolutely will not be the last time I reference it around DCF.  One of the habits Covey espouses is, “Start with the end in mind.” So, let’s do exactly that as we try to answer the question,

“How do I safely, and effectively, reach a max effort lift in the
confines of a 20-minute lifting session?”

Start with the end in mind.

At 19:30, I want to start my last heavy set. So, before that, I need at least 3 minutes of decent rest. Before that rest interval, I will have knocked out my second attempt, and before that, I would like to have had 2 or 3 more minutes worth of rest;

this is what our timeline looks like so far:

13:30 - 16:00 Rest
16:00 -16:30 Second attempt (95-100%)
16:30 - 19:30 Rest
19:30 - 20:00  Final attempt (105%)

… let’s keep building it out.

I will hit first heavy lift at 13:00, again with 2 minutes worth of rest or so prior to that. Before all of that, I’d like to hit sets of 1 and 2 every minute to two minutes, adding weight with each set. Prior to all of this, it’s good to start with some empty barbell work.

This is what our timeline looks like now.

0:00 - 1:00 Empty barbell work
1:00 - 1:30 Warm-up double (50-60%
1:30 - 2:30 Rest
2:30 - 3:15 Warm-up double (60-70%)
3:15 - 4:15 Rest
4:15 - 5:00 Warm-up double (70-80%)
5:00 - 6:45 Rest
7:45 - 8:30 Warm-up double (80-85%)
8:30 - 10:30 Rest
10:30 - 11:00 Warm-up single (85-90%)
11:00- 13:00 Rest
13:00 - 13:30 First attempt (90-90%)
13:30 - 16:00 Rest
16:00 -16:30 Second attempt (95-100%)
16:30 - 19:30 Rest
19:30 - 20:00  Final attempt (105%)

I, along with most coaches, would not advise going for more than 3 or 4 attempts at, near, or above 100%. More than likely, especially if there were a few failed attempts mixed in there, if you haven’t hit a specific target number by the third or fourth attempt, hitting it on a fifth or sixth attempt is unlikely.

The above is not the only way to reach a maximal load inside of twenty minutes, but if you’re lost and looking for suggestions, here is a decent place to start.

Start with the end in mind, have a plan, and stick to it.

Happy lifting!


Andrew Killion