Imagine that it is moving day and you are trying to compile your biggest, burliest helpers you need to help you move your heavy couches and televisions.
Do you call up the guys and girls that can dead-lift the most? Or do you call up the friend that can do the most pull-ups? Who’s stronger? Who is going to be able to carry the load?
There’s always a debate about strength. Most of the time it has to do with a numbers game. Johnny squatting 600 pounds for one rep. Joey bench pressed his bodyweight 30 times.
In my opinion, it’s the latter. I’ve come to the conclusion of why unless you are a professional athlete, power lifter, competitor, or olympian then you should never have one rep maxes (1RMs) in your training program.
Well, I should never say never. In fact, it might be OK every 6 months to play around with your buddies and try and see who can pick up the most weight.
Loser buys the beers.
There is also only one reason why you should attempt to lift something once. It all matters how many years you have spent “underneath the bar”.
I’m thinking that in a scenario when someone asks for your training, they’re looking for a plethora of things. They want to look better. They want to be stronger. They want to be healthier. They want to have a low body fat and high lean muscle mass. Unfortunately, lifting something once doesn’t aid in any of these.
Do you think you’ll have more help with someone who can carry a dresser up the stairs from the truck by himself? Or someone who can move a 900 pound piece of furniture 2 inches? I can prove that it will make you a better “goal hitter” and it’s much safer to start carrying furniture up a flight of stairs.
Let’s look at your muscle structure in the first place. You have two main fibers that make up your muscles. We will call them Type A and Type B.
Let’s say they are best friends from grade school, however they both like different things.
Type A likes being the stronger fiber. So therefore, he only gets bigger and stronger when you lift something heavy. After one or two reps though, he’s pooped out. He can’t function anymore.
Let’s say his buddy Type B, likes the long endurance training sets. He can only get bigger and stronger when you do something in the 8 to 20 rep range. After one rep of something, he’s barely breaking a sweat.
That’s how your muscles are constructed. These two types of fibers are weaving in and out of each other to make up your muscular system.
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE lifting heavy. However, I’ll never purposely try and do a one rep exercise. If I do, I consider it a failed attempt. I can take a 300 pound lady and ask her to push a 600 pound sled 1 foot, but that doesn’t make her strong or fit. It just makes her force stronger than the sled’s force. What is that doing for your client that is trying to get “in shape”? Not much.
Try training your clients or yourself on a systematic scale of reps and sets. I love using rep ranges. Especially for people who haven’t even been lifting for a couple years.
Pretend like your muscle structure is computer software. Right when you open up the box, it knows nothing about what you need it for. It has to ability to become a genius and help you with any project though. That is much like your body. You have to protect your body and download anti-viruses, create bookmarks, update your iCloud, and save all your documents. This is only done with time spent with a bar in your hands and years on your resume.
If you’re trying to be “strong”, the rep ranges I recommend are 3-5 reps for the Type A fibers, and max rep sets for the Type B fibers.
What is a max rep set?
Pick an exercise. Dumbbell chest presses.
Doing a max rep set and becoming more overall stronger would include you doing as many reps as possible until the weight starts to interfere with proper form. Even if you have been lifting for a year, this still doesn’t mean your able to do one rep sets. You still may struggle with the mobility in some joints and progression that you need. Unfortunately, learning your 1RM takes time. It also takes a bunch of zip drives, folders, and maybe even another hard-drive to save your files on.
Start off with bodyweight exercises, like push ups.
This will allow you to transition rather quickly for most bodies that contain muscle memory. Slowly for people that have been sitting around for the past 20 years (this is why it irks me when trainers allow people who have never worked out to try and attempt a 1RM within 3 months of training).
One of the things I do at Jungle Gym Newport News is 5 rep max sets. This allows us a couple reps to still be in the safe zone but pushes us to gain our best lift and work all muscle fibers. Remember, odds are you probably aren’t a competitive lifter. A competitive lifters one rep is WAY different from their 5 rep. For us, experienced or non-experienced non competitors, our 5 rep and 1 rep are rather close in weight. Think about it. What’s your 5 rep dead lift? Now, what’s your 2 or 3 rep dead lift?
There are two things that I’ll never forget on my research of learning the best and most affective way to train myself and other people.
1.) The most important muscle group to train is the back or as I refer to them; your pulling muscles. It’s located near the core which is where big powerful lifts usually derive from. I’ve seen dudes with the biggest arms in the gym, but yet they can’t squat their bodyweight. I’ve also seen some big legged gym rats out there that can’t do 30 push ups. I also don’t see anyone doing 1RM Bent Over Rows.
If they are, stop them!
This is why we hit dead-lift variations, farmer’s walks, pulls, renegade rows, and lots of shoulder health in Jungle Gym.
The fitness world, CrossFit games, and YouTube has gotten into this progression of powerlifting because they want to stray away from bodybuilding. While bodybuilding may not be the best overall muscle treatment either, neither is lifting heavy shit one time. It’s a balance. All the fitness world is doing now is trying to convince inexperienced lifters who aren’t capable of lifting heavy, that they are capable of lifting heavy. Try to tell someone that it’s OK to start doing 1RM every week on box jumps, dead lifts, bench presses, squat or even cleans, is like telling a linebacker to only play the first down.
2.) Next time you see or hear about someone lifting something one time, don’t invite them to move furniture. You’ll be doing most of the moving yourself.
The great news is that you can be conditioned for both! You can run like a cheetah, be strong like a gorilla, and last forever like a frozen banana. Just by adding rep ranges, max rep lifts, lots of conditioning, and pushing until the last drop; you can be the life of the moving party.
This is where your body changes,