Train Submaximally, for MAX effort!

When owners have aspirations on wanting to compete or participate in competitive weight pull, they will often times, unknowingly set their dogs up for failure. Even with the best intentions, we ultimately push dogs too fast and too hard when they are just beginning. Whether that is taking a novice dog to a club style practice and prematurely placing them on a wheeled implement with heavy weight…..or adding a ton of chains in efforts to slow a dog down. Imagine if you walked into the gym for the first time, never having any prior experience, and your personal trainer or coach decides that you should start learning to bench press with 150lbs. Doesn’t seem like such a bright idea for new lifters or exercise enthusiasts….so why is it acceptable for dogs and strength sports?

Competitive weight pull is an old school sport that involves a dog pulling maximal weight down a 16 foot track. The distance is short, and the weight is heavy. Newcomers to the idea of competition will try to prepare in a way that makes sense…. so why not hook dogs up to weight and increase it to push them to their limits? The end goal is maximal weight, so in order to see how much they can pull… it would make sense to push them with each session… right?

Wrong. This is where we walk dogs right into failure. We assume that in order to prepare for maximal weight, we need to work with maximal effort….which is “ the amount of weight a dog can pull ONE time”. A “PR”, their personal best.

In training however, we have to help prepare dogs for those moments. I am not just talking about weight. I am talking about in order for dogs to pull maximal effort, they need the physical capability and body to support max effort. In order to do that, we gotta have strong joints, muscles, ligaments and soft tissue to support pulling 2,000+lbs…AND a mindset strong enough to handle self doubt and adversity. Regardless of the breed you have, all dogs will need and deserve the proper foundation. In order to perform their best, they need solid build up.

Mental resilience is also crucial for success. A dog who truly believes he or she can move anything, and has more determination in the face of self doubt, will go much further than brute strength with a weak, unconditioned mind. You don’t develop resilience by continuously pushing a dog to maximum effort and failure. You develop that by repeated reps of successful weight. I am not making this up here. Much of the theories and concepts I used for the CRT training program are crossed over from human strength and conditioning. There is a ton of literature and statistics that prove submaximal work is the best way to improve your max effort attempts.

This is where you need to do a lot of submaximal work. Submaximal work is weight that is below the dog’s truest capability. Ideally, it is under 75% of their one rep max. Much of your training time should be spent with weight much less than a dog’s true capacity. Submaximal effort work isn’t sexy like max effort work, but it will prove more prosperous in the long run. There is nothing wrong with using a weight that you know your dog can handle… in fact, you will be undoubtedly be proving to them, that he or she CAN actually do it. On occasion however, you would be smart to test the max effort, but that is only to get the percentages needed for weekly training!

Now maybe as you read this, you are left wondering how to train submaximal work….check out the new Digging Deeper Program, which is the sequel or next level of the CRT training program. We touch upon dynamic effort and move into submaximal work as you prepare to hit the track!

Ashley Sculac