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I'm looking for the nearest comparable phrase to this in Russian. This is a relatively common expression meaning to be working at peak performance. I think more often than not it has the connotation of peak mental performance or at least does when used in a negative manner.

The nearest one I can find is perhaps

уходить с головой

like

с головой уходить в работу

but this doesn't necessarily have the connotation of performing well but being engaged.

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    What about на пределе / грани возможного; на пределе человеческих возможностей? – Yellow Sky Aug 8 at 23:46
  • @YellowSky I feel like that describes the situation well but is quite literal. Also, that seems more like the limits of people in general. – Banach Aug 9 at 0:26
  • @Banach: going forward could you please wait a couple of days before accepting an answer? When you mark the answer as accepted, the user is given points, and when you change your decision and accept another answer, these points are taken away from them. Many users feel disheartened with this happens. Of course it is your right to accept any answer you like or no answer at all, and change your decision any time, so it's just a polite request. Thank you for your consideration! – Quassnoi Aug 10 at 12:35
  • @Quassnoi Yes, I will wait a few days from now on. – Banach Aug 10 at 12:54
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I think, you can use also "работать на всю катушку". "работать на полную катушку".

or "вкалывать" instead "работать" - it's a slang verb..

Or "работать/вкалывать на всех парах" (about steam-engine). This isn't a very accurate and common use of this metaphor, but I think it is acceptable. Usually there is an emphasis on the speed of movement "Вася летел на всех парах" - but I think, and this option will be clear and figurative.

These idioms are sounds more technical.

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    interesting. I may actually make this answer my choice. Thank you. – Banach Aug 9 at 19:43
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For a translation more stylistically close to the original you can use "на всех парАх" (in terms of the steam engine) or "врубил/включил четвёртую/пятую/высшую передачу" (in terms of automotive manual shift gears).

These idioms are mostly used about literal and figural movements but can be applied for any type of activity.

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There are some expressions close to 'firing on all cilinders' in the Russian language. But as far as I understand this one needs something about extremely hard work.I think 'работать как проклятый' is the best because it's about both mental and physical work.Example:

  1. Он всю неделю работал как проклятый, но закончил статью.
  2. Он работал как проклятый, и скоро дом был достроен.
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    Ok, yes работать как проклятый seems fairly fitting. – Banach Aug 9 at 0:28
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You can try also

Работать в полную мощность

which is less idiomatic but fairly accurate.

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