The Max Effort Black Box Program Adapted for Weightlifters

Prior to a national weightlifting competition, I took a non-traditional approach to my training. What follows is an outline of the program I created.

Weightlifting is my sport of choice, but I enjoy the fitness return from incorporating just the right amount of CrossFit mixed mode sessions. Several years ago, prior to a National Masters Weightlifting competition, I took a non-traditional preparatory approach for the twelve weeks prior to the event. What follows is an outline of the program I created and followed.

Assumptions and Limitations of This Program

This programming approach assumes an intermediate status as a weightlifter. If you are a beginner or have large technical issues, then this approach may not be ideal. I also believe that a solid strength base should be established prior to attempting this approach.


  • Large return on investment
  • Greater focus and intensity
  • Good for masters-aged lifters with reduced recovery skills
  • Good confidence builder, since you work with heavier loads every week


  • Mechanics and technical skills ignored.
  • Psychological stress from lifting heavier
  • Heavier loads can sometimes lead to injury

Movements and Rotation

This minimalist approach to training takes on a Spartan look and feel while borrowing intensity from the Bulgarian lifting approach. Typically, I took a day for snatch work, a day for jerk practice, and a third day to check my progress through practice of all three Olympic lifts:

Snatch Day Movements Used:

  • Hang Snatch (Pocket)
  • Hang Snatch (Knee)
  • Snatch (Deck)
  • Front Squat
  • Posterior Chain

Jerk Day Movements Used:

  • Hang Clean (Pocket)
  • Hang Clean (Knee)
  • Clean (Deck)
  • Clean and Jerk
  • Jerk
  • Back Squat

Snatch and Clean and Jerk Day

On this day I worked up to a projected opening or I performed 8 to 10 singles at 90%. At the point at which I was pulling from the deck, nothing less than 85% of max was employed. Other than squats this approach was and is all about singles and doubles. This approach for selecting load, sets and reps is useful:

The Weekly Rotation

  • Monday: Snatch Session
  • Tuesday: CrossFit
  • Wednesday: CrossFit or Sled Drag
  • Thursday: Clean Session
  • Friday: Brief CrossFit or Sled Drag
  • Saturday: Snatch, Clean and Jerk Session
  • Sunday: Rest or Walk

CrossFit sessions should maintain and support the lifting objective, but not disrupt progress. My preference is for short efforts. Dragging a sled pumps the blood and excludes an eccentric load and is therefore helpful where another metabolic-conditioning work would be ill advised. In addition, if you are concerned about your health, fitness, and performance you should be utilizingheart rate variability measurements with your daily routine, especially with a program like I’ve outlined above.

Photo courtesy of Karl Buchholtz Photography.