Most people who go to the gym and lift weights will be interested in improving their maximum lifts. The one rep max is the true test of maximum strength on any exercise. Doing a 1 rep max will show true strength as strength is defined as the maximum force that can be exerted against a resistance. If you can move 100kg just once for a full rep then that is the maximum force you can exert.
The most common 1 rep max exercises are the powerlifting 3 of bench press, squat and deadlift. You can also do 1 rep max on most exercises like clean and press, standing shoulder press, snatch, or basically any exercise where there is a clear finish point of the movement. Pressing movements are easier to do 1 rep maxes on as a lockout of the arms or legs would constitute a full rep. if you imagine a barbell row would be hard to determine a full rep as your arms can come quite a long way back, so its hard to name a finish point of the rep.
Many people who haven’t been training for very long in the gym may not know what their one rep max is on any exercises. I personally think it’s a great idea to try to find your 1 rep max as you can record it and then set goals for new 1 rep max lifts. When trying to find your 1 rep max lift you will simply have to use trial and error. Keep trying to lift weights for 1 rep until you can’t do a full rep. it is ALWAYS advised to use a spotter when attempting a 1 rep max as there is a large chance you could fail on the rep.
So once you have established your one rep max you will most likely aim to improve it. This is done through strength training. Training with weights in generally quite low rep ranges (1-6 reps) will be the best method for increasing strength. This article is not about how to gain strength though. I have written this article to give you 3 tips on what to do on the day to get the best possible lift on your chosen 1 rep max. achieving a new 1 rep max is hard. Even if you have trained for it and your strength has improved the pressure of lifting a new PB may psyche you out of the lift. Here are my 3 tips to a big lift.
- Sensible warm up sets –
When going for a 1 rep max you cant just walk in the gym and go straight for the lift. You have to work up to it. You also don’t want to do too much before so that you tire yourself out. So what are the perfect amount of sets and reps to do?
Here is my plan for warming up to a 1 rep max:
My maximum bench is 140kg so here is what I do:
Warm up with bar – 20 reps
40% 1RM – 60kg – 10 reps
60% 1RM – 80kg – 5 reps
80% 1RM – 110kg – 2 reps
90% 1RM – 125kg – 1 rep
100% 1RM – 140kg – 1 rep
You want to do warm ups that feel easy. This will put you in a comfortable state of mind to do the lift. You will most likely be able to lift your 90% lift for 3 reps but the first one will feel really easy. You cant go to failure on that lift as that will tire you out and put you in the mindset of failing at a lift. All lifts should fly up with ease to make you feel strong. This set up has worked extremely well for me in the past and it is rare that I fail at a 1 rep max attempt.
- Get your diet right –
A 1 rep max lift is very much an anaerobic effort. You will not be using carbs and oxygen as the fuel for the lift. Rather you will be using the creatine phosphate energy system. However carbohydrates and other foods that will give you energy will make you feel ready for the training session and put you in the right frame of mind. If you are dieting then you will feel generally a bit more tired and sluggish throughout the day. This will lead to lower expectations for the lift. It is taking it quite far but a method of dieting that works well for me before a 1 rep max training day is carb loading. I will deplete carbs for 3 days leading up to the big lift day, then the day before and on the day I will eat masses of carbohydrates. This stimulates the metabolism, fills the muscles with glycogen and gives you loads of energy. So for example if I am going for a PB lift on a Monday I will stop eating carbs on a Thursday. I will eat zero carbs the Friday and Saturday, then on the Sunday I will carb load. I try to get about 500g of carbs. The same on the day of the lift. The energy and muscle fullness is fantastic and it makes a big difference to how I feel before lifting. This method worked very well to aid me in my best deadlift of 220kg for 3 reps.
- Psyche yourself up –
Getting psyched up is the most important part of any lift. The mental attitude you go into your training session with will determine how good your training will be. If you feel a bit tired or you cant really be arsed to train, no matter how hard your training partner may push you, you just wont have a good session. The same thing occurs with a 1 rep max lift. Even if you are strong enough to lift it, you wont be able to lift it if you aren’t mentally prepared. If you think you cant lift it then you most likely wont lift it. You have to psyche yourself up. There are videos on youtube of people shouting before a lift, people getting their partners to slap them in the face, people getting extremely mad and running at the bar. It is a very personal thing getting psyched up. I personally think about people I hate making fun of me and laughing at me being weak and scrawny. It makes me so mad I put every ounce of effort I have into the lift. My friend thinks about his mum in a cage being submerged in water and he has to break her free. It sounds stupid but it forces his maximal effort every time.
So have a go at these 3 tips on your maximum lift day. I guarantee they will help you to get a new PB lift.