Brief Maximal Tension Method

After re-reading Supertraining, I came across a short description of the “brief maximal tension method.” The authors cited aren’t listed in the back of the book so I believe Siff took it from a Verkhoshansky text. The description is somewhat vague and I was hoping someone on this forum would be kind enough to explain it to me. Thanks for the help.

Is that related to Jacobson’s progressive relaxation method?

Sorry but I’m not familiar with Jacobson…from what I gathered the method I’m inquiring about involves 3-5RM exercises combined with “the lifting of lighter weights” in 1 workout and 1RM exercises once or twice a week. “Isometrics” are mentioned as well but I’m confused whether or not they’re combined with the method Mel Siff describes.

Any ideas?

I don’t think isometrics are included with the brief maximal tension method the way it is described in supertraining. Most of what I have here is probably the same stuff you’re looking at but here is what I have:

The Brief Maximal Tension Method:

  • Is appropriate to use when repetitive effort method has become ineffective or when it is necessary to increase strength quickly in a short time with small work volume.

  • Increases strength and the ability to display strength quickly without an increase in muscle mass.

  • Develops the ability to concentrate neuromuscular effort better than progresive resistance.

  • Is given priority if rapid display of max strength is of value.

-Heavy weights of 85-95% 1rm for 3-5 reps are primarily used and combined with lighter weights (in 1 training session) and maximal weights (1 rep once or twice per week). The # of sets per exercise should be no more than 3.

  • It is recommended that weightlifters execute 5-6 exercises for 6-10 total sets of 1-3 reps in one training session.

IMO, the mention of “isometrics” under the description of the brief maximal tension method seems out of place then.

I don’t know if I have a different edition than you but mine reads "the number of sets should be increased to more than three (Berger, 1962).

What’s confusing to me is the recommendation of 5-6 exercises for 6-10 sets of 1-3 reps in 1 session. However, within the same paragraph, the method reads 3-5 RM combined with “lighter weights” in 1 session and 1-2 RM once or twice a week.

I don’t have any of the references cited or the Verkhoshansky texts so I can’t confirm the specifics of the method. Perhaps it’s in Zatsiorsky’s Science and Practice of Strength Training.


Plyometrics is one form of BMT. The muscle actually holds isometrically against the lengthening tendon.

Don’t read too much into it.

Mel could be very vague a lot of the time in Supertraining, but essentially all he’s saying with the BMT idea is to use heavy weights in the 85-95% range, for 3-5 reps and an overall low volume, with occasional max attempts thrown in.

Consider isometric and shock methods as discrete training methods that could be used in concert with a BMT workout.