Are you the type that's constantly trying to smash your PRs every single week? Here's why you need to stop that ASAP.
Let's face it.
At some point in our lifting careers, almost all of you reading this were maxing out your lifts every single week.
You were benching, squatting and deadlifting 105% of your previous max from the week before.
I was the exact same when I first started.
I thought the only way I could track my progress and ensure that I was still advancing towards my goals was to test my strength and beat my max from the previous week.
However as I've become more experienced and knowledgeable, I've come to realize how stupid this approach to a training program really is.
If this all sounds like you, keep reading, because I'm going to go over why you shouldn't be maxing out every week, how it impacts your potential gains and how you can still max out and test your PRs without hindering your progress too much.
But before I begin, I need to stress that one rep maxing can be an important part of a training program if it's specific to you, for example if you're a powerlifter or an Olympic lifter.
I'm mainly talking to the people who are just in the gym wanting to build muscle and get a little bit stronger, without aspirations of competing in weightlifting events and are maxing out too often.
Why Should You NOT Max Out Every Week?
When you max out your lifts, you effectively try to lift the most weight possible for a single repetition of an exercise.
This is normally done on the barbell squat, bench press and deadlift, but can technically be done on any exercise.
Now, although you are still 'training hard' and are seeing improvements from the gym, you need to realize that maxing out every week can have negative impacts on the gains you could be making.
You could be missing out on gains because you're maxing out every week.
Because it's a waste of time and energy.
Time and energy that could otherwise be spent doing other workouts that would actually produce some real results.
You see, if your goals are anything along the lines of building muscle or getting stronger, constantly attempting one rep maxes every week isn't going to help you very much.
We'll go over the reasons for this below.
The Opportunity Cost
Maxing out takes a long time.
When I used to max out every week on a Saturday with my group of mates, I would easily take up 3 hours in the morning to go through all the warmups and testing for the squat, bench press and deadlift.
Some people might need less time than this, while others might need even longer.
In this time, I could've easily fit in a good workout to further fuel my muscle building journey, or even split that 3 hour session into 2 actual training sessions that would've actually yielded some real results.
Maybe I could've spent that time doing stretching, core workouts or other accessory work to build up weak points and keep my body healthy and functional instead of just strong and capable in the gym.
Or, I could've used that time to simply spend more time with family and friends, doing things that mattered more than simply boosting my ego with hitting new one rep maxes that didn't mean anything towards my training program.
There are so many better things that I could've been doing with my time over testing my one rep maxes for 3 hours each week.
The opportunity cost is massive if you're maxing out too often.
One Rep Max Testing is VERY Fatiguing
If you've done one rep max testing before, you've probably noticed that it got you feeling very tired after the session.
Placing your body under maximal loads is going to place a lot of stress on your muscles and joints, and it's always going to lead you to feel fatigued and tired.
If you don't do your recovery properly, or you simply are the type of person that naturally needs longer to recover from workouts, then this can have big impacts on your subsequent sessions.
For example, let's say that you did a full one-rep max testing day on Sunday. Even if you take Monday off and go back to the gym on Tuesday, you might still feel sore and tired, and notice a hindered performance in terms of your strength.
You might notice hindrance in your performance on the work that's actually going to build muscle and help move you towards your goals, because you spent all your energy doing one rep maxes.
This might not be too bad once or twice, but it will quickly add up to a lot of lost gains over time if you're maxing out every week.
Risk of Injury
As with all weightlifting, there is an inherent risk of injury.
With one rep maxes and placing your body under completely maximal loads, the risk of injury is amplified.
If your form is slightly off, or something tweaks by accident and you're under the maximal loads you could handle (or sometimes, even above what you're capable of handling), there's a pretty good chance you're going to get injured.
You might get a severe injury that takes you out of training for days or weeks, or a chronic injury that lasts a while and doesn't really go away.
I'm not saying this to scare you, but just to make sure you're careful when doing this stuff.
There's a reason you barely see bodybuilders, even those at the top levels, ever doing one rep maxes.
There's no reason for them to do so, and the risk of injury is far too high to outweigh the rewards.
Even if you're a powerlifter, it makes sense to lift heavy all the time.
However, you need to think about it this way.
Every time you max out, you're essentially rolling the dice and praying you don't get injured.
It makes sense to do all your training with heavy loads so that when you do eventually go on stage and roll the dice, you not only win, but also reduce your chances of injury by becoming a proficient lifter.
However if you constantly roll the dice and test one rep maxes when you don't need to, you give yourself more chances to get injured.
So I Shouldn't Max Out At All?
Well, you still could if you wanted or felt it was necessary.
Because if you're a weightlifting athlete of some sort, you're going to need to know roughly how strong you are.
For example, if you're a powerlifter and you're not even sure what your one rep max is or have an idea of what it is, you're in trouble.
Also, there are some other reasons why you might want to test out your one rep max.
These would include:
Sport specific training (think powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting)
Test the effectiveness of your strength workout program
Maxing Out Your Lifts for Specific Sports
Now, I'll start this section out by saying that most powerlifters, whose entire sport is based around lifting as much weight as possible for a single rep (literally maxing out), only test their one rep maxes once or twice a year.
Not every week, not every month, but once or twice a year.
Yes, this includes some of the top powerlifters, and some of the strongest people on the planet.
This is because they realize that this extra time spent testing their maxes could otherwise be spent on doing productive workouts that would build even more strength, and help them more in winning their competitions.
However, it is still important to know roughly how strong you are so you do need to be testing them every once in a while, but work with your coach to determine when that will be.
Otherwise, if you're really curious you can simply take a recent set that you took to failure, and plug that into the one-rep max calculator that we have here for you at Gympulsive.
We also have a one-rep max FAQs section at the bottom of that page to help answer some of the questions you might have!
To Test the Effectiveness of Your Workout Program
Of course, if you're not sure whether your strength training program is actually working and you're not a competitive athlete who has specific training blocks to stick to, then it can be a viable option for you to go for a one-rep max week where you try and see how strong you've gotten compared to last time.
Again it might be better for you to simply put your numbers into the one-rep max calculator, but if you really do still want to, you can go for one rep maxes to gauge the effectiveness of your strength training workout program.
Now, this is probably one of the less convincing reasons why you'd go and attempt a one-rep max, but sometimes you will be feeling like you've got no motivation, and it might be rewarding for you to go and attempt a one rep max to break a new PR, and find the motivation to keep on pushing for more.
Bear in mind this is not a very good reason to go off track and go for a one rep max at all, but who are we to stop you?
So How Do You Go About Testing Your One-Rep Maxes?
The best way to go about this is to dedicate an entire week out of your schedule (remember, this won't work well unless you're a non-competitive athlete with only your own schedule to follow).
If you're short on time you can test all three powerlifts (squat, bench press and deadlift all on the same day, but ideally you should split these three exercises up into three training days, with a day's rest in between.
Do a solid warmup before each 1RM test, and make sure that you're doing everything carefully safely and sensibly.
Don't jump 10kg or 25lb into weights you've never touched before if you're not sure whether you can hit them.
Always remember, safety comes first.
For a very detailed breakdown of what your testing should look like, check out Barbend's article here!
Hopefully that cleared up some of the questions you had regarding why you shouldn't be maxing out your lifts every week.
Remember, don't feel guilty if you've done this before in the past because I'm pretty sure almost everyone that's taken weightlifting seriously has done this before.
That includes me.
Maxing out is a great technique that you can use to gauge the effectiveness of your training program and get a benchmark or indication as to where you're sitting at the moment, but it shouldn't be done too often as there are far better, more productive things that you could be doing with your time instead.
I hope you've enjoyed reading through this article and have been able to learn something from it!
If you did, don't forget to share it with your friends so we can reach more people and help keep the world knowledgeable when it comes to fitness!
How often do YOU max out your lifts in the gym?