Maxx Charles has fielded his fair share of critiques about his unorthodox training style. Yet no one can argue the results—a 5’11”, 265-pound physique that has snagged a dozen top-five finishes since 2013.
“There’s a purpose to my range of motion, the way I move a weight, and how I adjust an exercise,” says the Haitian native, who makes his home in Long Island, NY. “I used to train like everyone else and didn’t feel anything.”
Nowadays, Charles is all about maximizing tension on the working muscle while minimizing joint stress. Here’s how.
1. Learn Your Range
“People think I do half-reps, but a full range of motion is an individual thing. At the point my muscle is fully contracted, yours may not be. Find the range where the muscle is always engaged—you want to maintain control of the weight and feel each rep in the muscle, not your joints and ligaments.”
2. Adjust on the Fly
“You need to be able to recognize when a move isn’t feeling quite right. In my last leg workout, I was having some lower-back discomfort during hack squats. So I adjusted the exercise to shift pressure from my back to my quads by placing my feet as low as I could on the platform.”
3. It’s not Just About Weight
“On seated barbell presses, I can do 10 reps with 400 pounds, but a lot of the pressure will be on my elbows. If I drop to 300 pounds, I can do 20 to 30 reps with all the tension on the delts. I’d rather make the exercise harder instead of automatically going heavier.”
4. Turn Less Into More
“When I squat, I’ll do one-minute holds in the bottom position, thighs just past parallel, and get two to three reps in a set. Start with five-second holds, then 10, 15, 20, 30, and 45 before trying 60.”
5. Get a Spot
“At first, a new weight can feel awkward, but a spotter giving just the right amount of assistance helps you get comfortable and confident with it. Eventually you’ll be able to move that load without a spot; then add a little more and repeat the process.”