Percentage-Based Max Effort Black Box - MEBB
Michael Rutherford

One poor assumption I have made with regards to lecturing on the Max Effort Black box deals with the athlete’s experience with finding the daily max effort. I’m up there babbling about finding that best effort for 5, 3 or 1 on a particular move and then suddenly it hits me—The majority of my audience is lost. I often times get the same tilted head, glazed over look my Airedales give me when I’m talking to them. It’s bad coaching on my part and I regret that. Failure breeds innovation. So now we have another way.

After a month on the road, in front of friends, coaches, and athletes I returned to base to tweak out a thing or two. I broke out some training logs, a calculator and excel spreadsheet and found an alternative route to working through the three weeks rep rotation. This is nothing new to those who follow, practice and study the world of strength and conditioning. It’s just a method that I have avoided to keep things a bit less cumbersome and a bit more intuitive.

As a refresher, a particular movement is selected from an inventory of total lower and upper body movements. The first week is an introductory week of 5s, followed by a week of 5 x 3 and finally a week of 5 x 1. The objective each time is to reach a best effort work set on the final set of the day. It’s at this point where difficulty arises in determining how to progress and arrive at that final work set. Percentage based MEBB to the rescue. Now Fans and coaches can plug their athletes into a max and have all their Sets calculated out for the three weeks.

You will need one or all of the following. A chart, a calculator or an excel spreadsheet to do the work. I would suggest finding any one of 1000 max charts or formulas available on the Internet.

If you don’t have a max for an athlete then just do some conservative projections and have them start. Here you go.



Week  2

Week 3
















I can already anticipate the outcry at the oddball percentages. Yes, you can round up to 65,80,and 95 percentages to make your chart neat and tidy.

You can also make your own chart with MS Excel. Find a business/accounting or math friend to help if you are like me.



















Total body moves for the week of 5s and 3s May require a reset after each set for many. No big deal. Dump it safely and go again.

I hope that this helps with the difficulty on finding a best effort and keeps you on track.

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Michael Rutherford (a.k.a. Coach Rut) has over a quarter-century of fitness coaching experience with athletes of all ages. He has also worked in hospital wellness environments and rehabilitation clinics. Rut holds academic degrees in biology, physical education, and exercise physiology and sports biomechanics. He is a USAW-certified Club Coach and is a CrossFit level-3 trainer. His blog is

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Rob Medsger 2009-11-29
After following CF for about four years (participant for only the past 6 months), and being a strength and conditioning coach myself, it's nice to see other coaches utilizing periodization and not being too "random". Positive adaptations come from "constantly addressing" an athletes weaknesses.

I don't want to join in on all the CF bashing that has taken place since the BB Summit. I just have tremendous respect for coaches like you and Greg, who saw the value in CF without completely disgarding all the knowledge you had gained before CF came around. There can be a happy medium between the two worlds. Some "people" just can't see that. I just like knowing that my Masters Degree in Exercise Physiology isn't bullshit to some people.
Chad McKay 2009-12-07
The MEBB seemed to have just started a period of periodization for the lifts, unfortunately I am in the middle of a period of dead lifts.

My question is this: After DL Month comes Squat month and then C&J month and then Snatch month. What do you think about this 3 week cycle for the squat or dead lift? during week 2 you would end up with 15 total reps at 93% is that just asking for injury on a lift like the deadlift?
Chad McKay 2009-12-07
Just re-read it and now i sound like a retard. that would be a 5x3 culminating @ 93% that makes a lot more sense.
Coach Rut 2009-12-13
I'm still not sure if I understand your question. You can certainly use these percentages for the DL & Squat. If you are highly skilled (trained) in the o-lifts then these reps and percentages might not work perfectly for you.
Whitney Rodden 2009-12-16
Chad do you mean you think you have to do 5x3 @ 93%? Because I'm pretty sure you would build up to that and only do one set of 3 @ 93%, right Coach Rut?
Coach Rut 2009-12-17
Coach Rodden is correct. The only set that is at 93% is the final one.
saulj 2009-12-18
Coach Rut,

Can you look at the following pdf of a spreadsheet I made and see if this is what you are talking about? I have two series of three exercises:
Series 1: Deck Clean, Front Squat, Push Press
Series 2: Deck Snatch, Back Squat, Shoulder Press

Series 1 cycles two times so I can confirm that I am using the correct starting numbers for the second cycle of Series 1. I didn't include the second cycle of Series 2 because I just wanted one page.

Thanks for your help in understanding this.
Coach Rut 2009-12-20
Saul-I would select a hang clean to a clean and from a hang snatch to snatch. You might only pick clean or snatch move for this two week rotation. I like your rotation of FS to BS. On the "U" pool I would go with Shoulder Press prior to Push press. You might recall the push press / jerk moves that I initially and in appropriately place in the "U' pool are technically "T" moves.


Jason Brown 2009-12-22
Coach Rut, What percentages would you use for your descending rep scheme? 5 5 5 3 3 3 and 3 3 3 1 1 1?
Jordan Wallace 2010-04-09
Coach Rut, what assistance exercises to you prescribe for Press, Squat, Deadlift and clean?
Tyler Thompson 2011-11-30
How can I incorporate ME deadlifts into the MWF MEBB program?
Coach Rut 2011-11-30
Tyler ~ The dead lift should be included in the total body ('T') movement pool.
Tyler Thompson 2011-12-26
This question was already asked but what percentages are used for the descending rep scheme?
John Frazer 2011-12-29

I collapsed the percentages above into what looks like a logical progression. I've only been using it for a few weeks but it seems to make sense to my middle-aged bod:

Week 1:


Week 2:

Tyler Thompson 2012-01-06
Thank you John and Coach Rut for your input. Personally I am very pleased with the 3 day MEBB cycle. It's perfect for my professional schedule and it gives my body time to recover. I love it because I get to Olympic lift and squat heavy one a week and still hit 3 intense met-cons weekly.
Greg 2012-08-09
After we complete a series at these percentages and we rotate, when we come back to these lifts again is there a certain percentage you recommend upping our Max to? For example if first time around we have a max of 150x1 on the press. Next time we calculate should we do like 155 for our percentages?
Steve Pan 2012-08-13
Greg -

For new cycles you should use your new PR to take the percentages off of. If you didn't make a PR you may be able to push the weights up a bit by feel.
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