If your goals include increasing your strength and/or muscle mass, you are probably familiar with maxing out. But how often should you test 1RM?
The answer is once every 3-4 months. Find out why you probably shouldn’t max out more often by reading below!
You may also like our 1RM calculator!
Why You Shouldn’t Always be Maxing Out
It’s common for lifters to test their strength by attempting a 1RM. And in theory, this is a good practice. Working with near maximal loads increases neural drive, validates your strength program, and just feels good!
However, doing so regularly can be dangerous, especially as you progress in strength. Lifting loads over 90% of your max lift can lead to damaged muscles and tendons, increase your chances of serious injury, and can actually decrease your performance in the gym. That said, there are other ways to test your 1RM.
Risks of Maxing Out Too Often
Testing your 1RM too often has far more risks than benefits. These risks include:
- overuse/chronic injury
- serious injury
- neural fatigue
- hormonal disturbances
- decreased immune function
- muscle atrophy
- increased body fat
Alternatives to Testing Your True 1RM
Performing a one rep max set isn’t the only way to find your max. Although it is the most accurate, it is also the hardest on your body and will not increase your strength. Therefore, you should only be testing a true one rep max 3 or 4 times a year.
Here are some alternatives that can be performed more frequently without doing as much damage.
Multiple Rep Max Test
One common way to gauge strength on a specific lift is to perform a 2-5 rep max set. This type of test is less dangerous than a 1RM test and can be performed about once a month.
This type of test is precisely what 1RM calculators come in handy for!
RPE-Based Rep Max
An RPE-based rep max is similar to a rep test; however, you aren’t taking yourself to true failure with it.
For example, you may lift a specified weight for three reps at an 8 RPE (8 out of 10 rate of perceived exertion). If you lift a heavier weight for the same reps at the same RPE, you know you are making progress.
This style of max test is significantly easier on the body, helps increase strength (unlike a true 1RM test), and can be done about once a week.
Increasing Your 1RM
If your main goal is to increase your 1RM we recommend following a strength training program that is built to do just that.
If you are already familiar with strength training but you are needing to push yourself to the next level try one of our other powerlifting programs like Smolov Jr. or browse all of our programs here.
How Often Should You Test 1RM?
Answer: Not very often if you plan on lifting long-term. 3-4 times per year is recommended. However, with the right tools, you can still see what kind of strength progress you are making in the gym!
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