benjamyn smith doing a one rep max

Your One Rep Max Doesn’t Matter

I’m having fun challenging conventions, so I’m just gonna run with it! Last week it was pull-ups, this week it’s the one-rep max. It’s a staple of program design and a standard test that most everyone uses to test performance and improvement. But for most of us, it really doesn’t matter.

What’s Wrong With Testing 1RM?

There are some fundamental problems with testing for your 1 rep max. It’s very dependent on a lot of factors. It’s also an incredibly specific test. It depends very heavily on the gym setting.

It’s also most commonly done with only the squat, deadlift, and bench press all with a barbell. Some people will test the Olympic lifts too, but most don’t have the skill to do it safely. Small variances with the equipment used in these tests can have major changes in how much you can lift.

If you’re a competitive lifter or only workout in a conventional gym setting, you can get some useful information from your one-rep max test. However, since the tests require such a specific setting and gym equipment the numbers don’t translate well to real-world movement.

If you practice natural movement in a varied environment, you’ll have little use for one-rep max testing. It’s better to expand the skill level of a movement across a more varied environment rather than to focus intently on a single specific environmental setting.

The one-rep max isn’t a total bust though. It can be a decent rough indication in a strength improvement. And the real reason I enjoy occasionally going for a max lift… To just see what you can pull off.

If you’re going to do max lift movements, use your imagination and apply the test to less conventional movements. Don’t box yourself in with the traditional gym max testing!

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