Are you one of those people who constantly obsesses over their one rep max? Do you regularly push your limits to see how much weight you can lift? While striving for strength gains is an integral part of any fitness routine, there comes the point where testing your one rep max can do more harm than good.
In this article, we’ll explore why you should stop obsessing over your one rep max and what you can do instead to continue progressing toward your strength goals. From the dangers of excessive testing to more sustainable and effective strength-building strategies, we’ll give you the tools to take your strength training to the next level. So, if you’re ready to break free from the one rep max testing cycle and achieve long-term success, read on!
What’s Your Max?
If someone asked you about your max bench, squat, or deadlift, you could probably quickly answer with what your one rep max was in any of those lifts.
But! If they asked you how much weight you could move for 8, 10, or 12 reps, you’d probably have to think about it for a while. If you could answer at all! That’s a problem.
Does It Matter?
Gym culture seems to always care about maximum poundage. But why? Does a one-rep max represent how hard you work in the gym? No.
There is far more that goes into play with any one rep max. Genetics, levers, training style, technique, and more can all massively affect your 1RM.
There is a caveat to this. Some sports do rely on one rep max. For example, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, and a few others heavily depend on knowing how much weight an individual can throw on the bar for one rep.
The rest of the lifting community could largely ignore these numbers, though.
But, as a quick thought exercise, let’s weigh the pros and cons.
The Pros of Testing Your 1RM
Proof of Strength: You can show others and yourself that you can lift more.
Motivation: Hitting new PRs is highly motivational.
Confidence: Sometimes, knowing you can lift more weight is all you need to be more successful in other areas of the gym
Acute Injury: Poor technique that often comes with max attempts can put your body in positions it shouldn’t be in while lifting.
Overuse Injury: Heavy weights are incredibly hard on joints and connective tissues. Training at max or near-max weights too often breaks them down even faster.
No Growth: Training at max loads doesn’t directly increase your strength or hypertrophy. In fact, it can often negatively impact your results.
Stress: Cortisol levels and nervous system strain drastically increase when lifting at or near max weights.
As you can see, the cons of constantly testing your 1RM outweigh the pros. But continuously working towards that new number can be highly motivating! So what can you do instead that will work in the same motivational way, be less damaging, and be more effective? We have the answer!
Do This Instead
A higher 1RM is a great goal to have in the gym. However, it is hurting your results to test it all the time. But there is a simple answer if you like this type of simple goal!
Track multiple rep maxes. Instead of aiming to increase your 1RM over the next month, try to increase your 3 rep, 5 rep, 8 rep, or even 20 rep max. These numbers are all more effective for hypertrophy and strength, and they don’t have the same potential to damage your body.
Another great benefit to this type of training is that you can have multiple goals. Feeling strong today? Try for a new 5 rep max! Have an unusual amount of energy? Shoot for a new 20 rep max!
You’ll feel better and build a whole lot more strength and muscle than you will by constantly testing your 1RM.
Of course, you’ll probably still want to know what your 1RM is. We recommend tracking it using a one-rep max calculator. You’ll still get to watch that maximum weight go up, and you’ll be getting better results while you do it.
Stop Testing Your 1RM
Testing your one rep max might seem like the ultimate way to measure your strength, but it can do more harm than good. From the potential for acute and overuse injuries to the lack of direct impact on strength and hypertrophy, there are many reasons to avoid constantly testing your 1RM.
Instead, try tracking multiple rep maxes like your 3 rep, 5 rep, 8 rep, or even 20 rep max. This approach will help you avoid injuries and provide more effective strength-building results.
And if you still want to know your 1RM, don’t worry! You can use a one-rep max calculator to track your progress without putting your body through unnecessary strain. By taking a more sustainable and practical approach to strength training, you can achieve your goals while protecting your body for the long term.
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