A Week of How-to:
Monday: How to Shop for and Buy Good Barbells, Bumper Plates, etc…
Tuesday: How to Program Strength Into CrossFit
Wednesday: How to Properly Work Up to a 1 Rep Max
Thursday: How to Make Paleo Pumpkin Muffins
Friday: How to Become a Member of “The Garage”
Inspired from yesterday’s post, today we talk about how to work up to a true 1 RM. I promise the how-to’s will get way more varied after today 🙂
Do you know your 1 RM? Is it a stagnant estimate that you haven’t really tested, or haven’t tested in a long time? Personally, I am not an advocate of maxing out on bench press every two weeks like a high schooler who thinks the bench is the only measure of strength. I will max out maybe once a year. However, I lift based off of percentages and volume calculations so I know where I should be. This way the next time I do a max out it is more like a scientific experiment than a guessing game.
Starting Point and Boats
First, we have to determine your starting point. You are probably in one of two boats:
- You have never maxed out and couldn’t even guess a max lift.
- You have an “idea” of what your max is but haven’t tested it in a while.
It’s ok we will work with you. First thing you have to do is go workout. You are going to have to have a pre-max out workout, and then you will actually max out next week. Here is what your pre-max out workout will look like.
Choose the Lift (Bench, Squat, Deadlift, Press, Clean, etc..)
Complete this workout and work your way up slowly. Remember how the sets of 3 reps feel. Journal it if you have to, because next week will be the real thing. Do not do the same weight for all sets of 5 and 3. Each set should be going just a little bit heavier.
Your Number: Take your first set of 5 and double it. This is you estimated max for our max out workout. Write that down.
If you have an idea and are a pretty experienced lifter this will be a little bit easier for you. You are allowed to guess what your max will be for the chosen lift. If you are too unsure you may want to jump up to boat one. If you are pretty sure, always guess too light rather than too heavy. Even if you are a little too light you will build strength and muscle with a 5% margin of error in the lighter direction.
Your number: Write down your guestimate
The Max-Out Workout
Never, ever, under any circumstance should you attempt a max out alone!!! I would recommend taking two spotters (one for each side of the bar) at least. Safety is your main concern, and you don’t want to kill yourself.
I just can’t find a spotter, what should I do? Go back to what you were doing before, you’re not maxing out.
Got your number written down? Going to have to do a little math here.
Hopefully you are not disappointed with your new PR or, should I say, 1 RM. There is no ambiguity to your new number. There is no; “I could do better next time”, “I was tired”, “I could have gone heavier”. Nope. Whatever you get on your last set of 1 repetition is your new max. Notice the last set says 100% plus. If you are finding throughout the workout the number you guessed or estimated is not working out, say too light, then you need to do some on the fly planning for your last set. Likewise if it is too heavy.
Tips for the Actual Max Out
- Visualize – See yourself doing the rep. Visualize the motion before it happens. You may think this is silly, but ask any professional power lifter if they visualize before a lift. Most great athletes see themselves doing something before it happens.
- Concentrate – Don’t worry about what everyone else will think who is watching, you are not here to impress. The only thing you should think about is the lift. People should not even be able to talk to you right before the lift. Plug in with headphones or whatever you need to clear your mind.
- Breathe – Simple, don’t hold your breath for the entire thing and pass out after you lift.
- Tighten – This plays in to safety. Tighten your core on every lift. We don’t want you to blow anything out or get a hernia. If you think it is too heavy, it probably is. Be careful
Did you get a new 1 RM or PR today? Care to share?
Resources: Making the Max Effort Easy, by Jim Wendler
Photo by bgreenlee and Ray Lopez