If you're a regular attendee of our RevFit programming, then you have probably noticed that we rarely call for a 1 rep max effort in a given lift. (If you aren't a regular attendee, then we'd love to have the conversation about coming alongside you in your health journey) Our Hellbender Barbell Club also isn't working off of a 1RM anymore. Still, we've obviously utilized the 1RM over the course of our 5 years, and you're likely familiar with it. So why don't we rely on the 1RM much now?
The purpose of establishing a 1 rep max is to determine the absolute highest load that you can physically move through a full range of motion in a given lift. The only way to truly to assess this threshold is to work to failure. Typically, this information is then used to program a percentage-based cycle. For example, we'd call for you to perform 5 reps at 70% of your 1RM. Research also suggests that heavy strength training for singles can help the central nervous system boost muscle growth due to the release of Testosterone and HGH from the spinal cord.
However, the pursuit of a 1 rep max can often come at all cost. So, here are 5 reasons why we don't often use the 1 rep max:
1RM may not be true. More often than not, a 1 rep max accomplishment cannot (or should not) be replicated. The stars aligned and the spine didn't in order for the lift to be made. This is why it is common for a solid program that's leveraging the 1RM number for percentages to call for 90% to be taken first before the day's actual percent. Programmers do this to account for the fact that the athlete likely can't (or shouldn't) replicate that 1RM total and won't be demanding a load for the day that is higher than realistic capacity.
Time allocated for a true 1RM. A proper session to safely test a 1 rep max would include an extensive warm-up and then 10-12 work-up sets. Each of these work-up sets would have between 2:00 and 4:00 of rest, depending on the load. Simply based on the math, that goes well beyond the time constraints of our normal group class. Then, as is customary in the group-based, functional fitness space, members don't want to steal 60 minutes from their hectic lives just to come do 10 work-up sets to failure of a lift. So, this style of fitness training will rush a 1RM in 15:00-20:00 and then hit you with a quick MetCon to keep everyone happy. An unsafe test to failure just got more unsafe.
Go for 2 and hit 1. Why call for an at-all-cost 1 rep max when we can call for a 2 rep max? Why does that change things? If you know you will be attempting 2 reps, you're not as likely to select a weight that will require the stars to align and the spine to not. You will attack the first rep with higher confidence and - probably - better body position. If you succeed with both reps, then great! But, even if you fail the second, you likely hit a solid 1 rep that CAN be repeated in the future. You can also still get the hormonal benefit associated with high-load singles.
Translates into WODs and real life. There's a school of thought that we once needed an evolutionary capacity for absolute strength. However, today's world doesn't require us to rip the jaws off of sabertooth tigers. Instead, we need endurance, stamina, versatility, and strength under fatigue (any of my mommas want to throw in an amen?!?!). Coming up soon in the RevFit program, you'll see a 4 rep max cycle for a number of lifts. Rather than a test of absolute strength, we want to test your functional strength under fatigue. Not only will this translate better into the daily WODs, which ultimately improve your overall long term health, but this type of strength translates better into your overall daily life.
Can still use heavy singles. But, at the end day, lifting heavy for one rep doesn't have to be taboo. In fact, we utilize it often, just not in the sense of going for broke where the stars align and the spine doesn't. Progamming heavy singles WITH A CLEAR EXPLANATION OF THE STIMULUS EXPECTATION can have tremendous benefit. It gives you a chance to grow strength, but it also gives you a chance to grow confidence. These should not include misses (with the occasional technical breakdown on an Olympic lift). They can also give you information about your capacity on a given day when selecting what weight to choose in the MetCon. Heavy means how it feels for you ON THAT DAY, not a percentage or a number in your log book. If this is used properly, it leaves no need for a max to failure on a single rep.
As you pursue control of your long term health, we hope this gives you a little insight into the investment we are making into your success. Keep working hard to #livebetter and improve 1% every single day. And we'll keep working hard to journey alongside you.
And, if you are one of those people not currently journeying with us toward successful control of your long term health, let's start that conversation with no financial or work investmant by booking a free No Sweat Intro HERE