Advanced Options With the Max Effort Black Box

One thing I’ve fought with the implementation the MEBB template was the overachieving, what-else-can-I-do personality. So, I added speed and volume tiers.

I guess I’m an awfully good sponge. I absorb ideas from every course I can, and put them to practical use. Then I improve them until they become of some value. The ideas which I use are mostly the ideas of other people who don’t develop them themselves. – Thomas Edison, when complimented on his creative genius

Since 2004, when I first proposed the overlaying of effort lifting with CrossFit GPP (the Max Effort Black Box aka MEBB), I’ve worked on numerous template designs. I’ve listened to athletes and coaches from various walks of life and different sports. The questions have come from those who just love CrossFit and want to do it better to the high school and college coach who wants to employ CrossFit but also needs more strength work. Several CrossFit Games participants have confessed to using my templates, and testimonials from multiple individuals are littered throughout my blog.

To date here’s what we know for certain occurs to the athletic fitness profile of MEBB users:

  • Enhanced athletic fitness
  • Improved CrossFit performance
  • Improved athletic movement
  • Better training variety
  • Enhanced power and explosiveness
  • Reduction in orthopedic stress
  • Long-term improvement, with no theoretical limit
  • Increases in lean body mass
  • Flex use of components

But even given all that, I’m never quite satisfied with the status quo. So, I’ve been working on an advanced template. I’ve had this out in BETA in different variations since the spring of 2009, and I’m going to share elements of this program with you today.

Adding Speed and Volume Tiers

One thing I’ve fought constantly with the implementation of any of the MEBB templates was the overachieving, hyperactive, what-else-can-I-do personality. If I didn’t hand out additional assignments, these people will go off the rails and just do something random. This got me thinking that I needed to consider another way to harness that energy in a productive way. As a result, in addition to the effort tier, I have added a speed tier and a volume tier. Adding speed and volume are elements from a concurrent, Westside-style template.

Speed Tiers

These are sub-maximal loads (50% of 1RM) executed at maximal velocities. Examples of this would be 10 sets of 2 reps with 50% of the 1 RM squat with 1:00 of rest. Another would be a hurdle hop or high box jump. Westside barbell founder Louie Simmons has trained a number of sprinters with the concurrent method and speed tier work is an important element in those training plans.

Effort tier work (strength-speed) displaces the force-velocity curve by working on the force component. The speed (speed-strength) helps to further displace the curve by working on the velocity at which the force is applied.1

coach rut, michael rutherford, MEBB, max effort black box, MEBB crossfit

Volume Tiers

Volume tiers add dimension to muscle fiber, thicken connective tissue, and increase capillary density. Volume tiers are high-repetition sets reaching close to, if not to, muscle failure. Think bodybuilders. For the upper body, an athlete could perform 3 sets of 20 reps of suspended push ups. Bilateral lower body tiers are balanced with unilateral lunge patterns in the volume tier. Total body volume work is best accomplished with complexes using barbells or dumbbells.

Effort, Speed, and Volume

The advanced template concurrently trains power, speed, and muscle density components. The order is effort tier, speed tier, and finally the volume tier. A daily session might look like this:

  1. Warm Up Moves
  2. Hang Power Snatch 3 x 3, 3 x 1
  3. Squats 8 x 2 @50% of 1RM
  4. Suspended Push Ups 3 x RM
  5. Glute Ham Raise 3 x 15
  6. Post Stretch and/or Foam Roller

Weekly Template: 3/1, 2/1

To date our best feedback points to a three-on with one-day rest followed by two-on with one-day rest. We rotate two or three effort/speed/volume tier days with two or three CrossFit couplets or triplets.

I must note that selecting ideal CrossFit couplets or triplets takes a keen understanding of the athlete’s unique skill set. It’s not a perfect science, but let’s be frank, nothing in applied exercise science is or has been perfect.


1. William J. Kraemer and Steven J. Fleck, Optimizing Strength Training: Designing Nonlinear Periodization Workouts. (Human Kinetics, 2007).

Photo courtesy of CrossFit Impulse.