A few questions about maxing out

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KenDowns
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A few questions about maxing out

Post by KenDowns » Thu Mar 10, 2011 10:38 am

When I started out my friend and I would max out about once/month, until we realized this was bad because A) it was ego and B) it wasted a workout day.

So I have not maxed on anything in 3 months, and now I would like to check my progress, so I have a few questions.

My basic understanding is that you do warm up reps, then start somewhere in your working set, then make a few jumps to the max. So you might do the normal warm up, and if doing 5x5, do one or two reps on the lowest weight, jump to to 3rd set weight, and so on.

1) What is a good general warmup progression? Should i do the same warmup I would for a workout?

2) What is a good progression towards the max? And do I do multiple reps at the lower end or just 1 rep at each stopping point?

3) Is there anything to be gained by extending the rest between reps? Or this basically the same as a workout - anything past 3 minutes has diminishing returns.


My last question is about which exercises to max. Like many beginners I had an early fascination with bench pressing, but since I went to the "big 6" that is fading and I'm falling in love with deadlift and squat. But between the big 6, it seems a bit much to max all 6. Seems like the popular 3 would be bench, squat and deadlift. Is this purely a matter of personal preference or are there good reasons to devote limited time to specific lifts?


As a final note, my thinking has shifted away from obsessing over maxing out to obsessing over weights and reps day-to-day, so I'm not focusing on this as the be all and end all, but if I'm going to skip an exercise day to do this, I'd like to get whatever advice I can about making the most of it.

TIA


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Post by robertscott » Thu Mar 10, 2011 11:31 am

a good warmup type progression is a very individual thing, and something you'll just have to work out for yourself. For example before lifting weights I do a few mobility drills and some resistance band work, then just jump right in. It's just something you'll eventually get into as you get more experienced.

If I'm trying for a proper 1 rep max, I will usually just do sets of 5, then 3, then 1 the closer I get to my max for the day. That's how I do it, and other people may do it differently . I rarely test a 1 rep max though, I usually go for 3 reps. The way I see it, if you can hit it for 3, you can nail it for 1 rep 100% of the time.

Again, it's a very individual thing.

The reason squat, bench and deadlift are so popular is because those are the competition lifts (if you are a powerlifter). Personally I put more stock in my overhead stuff but that's just me. I lift for the aesthetic and my chest has always been a strong point, and my shoulders a downright miserable point.

Don't get too caught up in your 1 rep max. Testing it every week will get you nowhere. If you lift a weight for 10 reps one day, then 12 reps the next, you've still gotten stronger. Just pick a rep range and get stronger in it. There's no law to dictate which one you should choose, and after you've done one rep range for a while, switch it up and try a different one.

(I realise that my whole post just there could be summed up by just saying "it depends". You'll find that as you get more experienced, that's pretty much the answer to every query)

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Post by Jungledoc » Thu Mar 10, 2011 4:10 pm

Dave Tate wrote an article about a year ago (I'm guessing) about this, specifically focused on the bench, but I think it would apply to other lifts. He recommends lots of volume at light weights. In the article he didn't recommend these percentages, but just gave an example of going for a particular max. I figured the percentages, and came up with a table that I have used on the relatively rare occasions when I max any more.

Here's the basis of it. The percentages are of the goal max lift.
Empty bar--4x5
15%--2x3
30--3
45--3
55--3
65--1
75--1
85--1
92.5--1
100--1

That seems to work fairly well, but I don't always do as many reps at the light weights. And of course, don't get too married to the exact percentages.

Rest as much as you need to. There may not by much to be gained beyond 3 minutes, but with maxing every little bit helps. I rest 5 or 6 minutes, probably, unless I'm maxing with others, and get caught up in mob mentality, in which case I usually don't make the intended max.

And yeah. Max the lifts you're interested in. I've maxed press, chin-ups, DB rows, as well as bench, squat and DL. But I've noticed something that I think is important. When I max on a big lift, my overall lifting suffers for weeks afterward. A few of months ago I maxed squat and DL within a few days of each other, and I haven't been the same since. There may be other reasons why I'm not lifting as well, but as I look back that's one of the things I noticed.

One of the nice things about 5/3/1 is that once you start gaining, it gives you a new PR, if not a real max, every cycle, without the hammering of a real max. That gives you the satisfaction of proving that you're making progress without knocking you out for a week or two.

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Post by KenDowns » Fri Mar 11, 2011 9:17 am

Jungledoc wrote:One of the nice things about 5/3/1 is that once you start gaining, it gives you a new PR, if not a real max, every cycle, without the hammering of a real max. That gives you the satisfaction of proving that you're making progress without knocking you out for a week or two.
Doc, thanks for the details, I'm going to study that on Sunday when (if?) I max out. I say "if?" because you've half talked me out of it. :)

When I started I was doing single-set-to-fail. That gave me gains during the beginner period for about 3 months before plateauing. Now that I am doing multiple sets with ascending weights, I tend to measure progress by that the reps on that top set.

And as you say, this means I know when I'm making progress and I tend to wonder if I really need to max.

Example: the last time I maxed on bench, 4 months ago, I got 180. Well, since then, I've progressed to a top set of 175 doing 3-4. This means I know obviously I can do 185, probably 190, and my only real question is if I can hit 195.

But just as I'm perfectly confident now of hitting 190, if I just keep progressing I'll have that same confidence of 195 soon enough, do I really need to take off a day to prove it?

Funny thing how your thinking changes with even the smallest bit of experience....

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Post by KenDowns » Fri Mar 11, 2011 9:20 am

robertscott wrote:a good warmup type progression is a very individual thing, and something you'll just have to work out for yourself. For example before lifting weights I do a few mobility drills and some resistance band work, then just jump right in. It's just something you'll eventually get into as you get more experienced.
Robert, I'm increasingly impressed with how individual the entire thing is.

Your answer together with Jungledoc's suggests simply that I have to work it out and figure out what works best for myself. But as I said in my reply to Jungledoc, now that I can see progress during the workouts, I'm wondering "what am I trying to prove?"


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Post by robertscott » Fri Mar 11, 2011 9:27 am

yup, there's SO much variation from individual to individual, you've just got to get in the gym and conduct your own experiments. What works for you might not work for someone else, and vice versa.

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Re: A few questions about maxing out

Post by Kenny Croxdale » Fri Mar 11, 2011 11:44 am

KenDowns wrote:When I started out my friend and I would max out about once/month, until we realized this was bad because A) it was ego and B) it wasted a workout day.
Ken,

Maxing Out

I don't view maxing out once a month as much of an ego trip. It is an effective method of determing your progress.

In fact, I advocate maxing out (so to speak) as part of your training protocol about 3-6 weeks.

By this I mean, pushing your top set of 1, 5, 10 reps, etc to the limit.

As an example, lets say your best set of 5 reps in the bench press is 225 X 5 reps. In 3-6 weeks, push yourself to bench 230 X 5 reps plus...go for it.
So I have not maxed on anything in 3 months, and now I would like to check my progress, so I have a few questions.

My basic understanding is that you do warm up reps, then start somewhere in your working set, then make a few jumps to the max. So you might do the normal warm up, and if doing 5x5, do one or two reps on the lowest weight, jump to to 3rd set weight, and so on.

1) What is a good general warmup progression? Should i do the same warmup I would for a workout?
Warm Ups That Are Workouts

Many turn there warm up sets into a full blown workout. That means they are worn out before they get to their top set.

It is tantamount to a sprinter warming up by jogging a mile, then jogging a half mile, running 440 yard, 220 yards, then sprinting 100 yards. It make NO sense but people do it all the time in the weight room.

The Key To Warming Up

The key to warming up is to save your strength by performing the minimal amount of warm ups sets necessary.

One of the primary goals is to perpare the nervous system for the work to come...not burn it out.
2) What is a good progression towards the max? And do I do multiple reps at the lower end or just 1 rep at each stopping point?
Inverse Pyramid Warm Up

The inverse pyramid allows your to pepare the nervous system for more demanding work.

Example: Bench Press 230 X 5 plus reps

1) 95 X 5
2) 135 X 2
3) 185 X 1
4) 205 X 1
5) 230 X as many and you can perform
3) Is there anything to be gained by extending the rest between reps? Or this basically the same as a workout - anything past 3 minutes has diminishing returns.
3 Minutes Plus For Strength Training

ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) is utilized in strength movements. ATP is the "gas" that insures you get to your destination, let's say 230 X 5 plus reps in the bench press.

It takes approximately 3 minutes plus for full restoration to take place after strength sets. Full restoration allows you to produce the greatest amount of strength and power you have in a movement, like the bench press.

Shorter rest periods are like going on a 300 mile trip with only enough gas to go 100 miles...You are not going to make it to your destination!
My last question is about which exercises to max. Like many beginners I had an early fascination with bench pressing, but since I went to the "big 6" that is fading and I'm falling in love with deadlift and squat. But between the big 6, it seems a bit much to max all 6. Seems like the popular 3 would be bench, squat and deadlift. Is this purely a matter of personal preference or are there good reasons to devote limited time to specific lifts?
Going To The Limit

Again, my recommendation is to max out on your sets every 3-6 weeks by pushing yourself to the limit.

The week after your all out training session is a deloading week. Your allow your body to recovery by dropping the weight down to something easy.
As a final note, my thinking has shifted away from obsessing over maxing out to obsessing over weights and reps day-to-day, so I'm not focusing on this as the be all and end all, but if I'm going to skip an exercise day to do this, I'd like to get whatever advice I can about making the most of it.
3 Week Cycle Example

Think of each training week as a warm up set.

Your first week of a new training progrm is your first warm up set, it is easy.

Your second week of training is your second warm up set. It is moderately hard but not that hard.

Week three is your max out. You push it to the limit.

Week four is now week one, your first warm up set of where you re-cycle.

The 3 week example can be written up as a progressive 4, 5, or 6 week program. You need to re-cycle your program at least every 6 weeks.

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Post by Paperclip » Sat Mar 12, 2011 6:54 am

Kenny and the others, what do you think about maxing out often in training for, say, 3x a week. I'm just thinking about back/front squat as I'm trying to bring the numbers up.

Example for a 100kg 1RM back squat:

Sets x Reps Weight
- 1x3 70kg
- 1x2 80kg
- 1x1 90kg
- 1x1 100kg (max)
- 1x2 80kg (back off set)
- 2x3 90kg (back off set)

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Post by Kenny Croxdale » Sat Mar 12, 2011 9:04 am

Paperclip wrote:Kenny and the others, what do you think about maxing out often in training for, say, 3x a week. I'm just thinking about back/front squat as I'm trying to bring the numbers up.
Paperclip,

Overtraining

Maxing out 3Xs a week doesn't make much sense. That will lead to overtraining., You will end up going backwards.

Think of it like this. Let's say you are going to have a powerlifting meet on a Saturday.

How well would you do on Saturday if you maxed out on Tuesday and Thursday before the meet?
Example for a 100kg 1RM back squat:

Sets x Reps Weight
- 1x3 70kg
- 1x2 80kg
- 1x1 90kg
- 1x1 100kg (max)
- 1x2 80kg (back off set)
- 2x3 90kg (back off set)
Back Off Sets

What is the purpose of going from 100 kg to 80 kg then back up to 90 kg? You must have a reason.

Which would you rather do 1X2 with 80 kg or 2X3 with 90 kg? Which back off set will be the most productive for building strength?

The back off set with 80 kg is going to deplete your ability to perform you back off set with 90 kg. So again, what is the point?

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Post by Paperclip » Sat Mar 12, 2011 9:32 am

Kenny,

I admit that I'm not that experienced (at all) in designing programs. I made that squat routine after looking at how Bulgarian lifters squat (which is dumb considering the discrepancy of skill and experience involved):

http://www.owresource.com/training/images/bulgarian.jpg
1. 1x2 70kg
2. 1x2 90kg
3. 1x1 100kg
4. 1x1 130kg
5. 1x1 150kg
6. 1x1 170kg
7. 1x1 210kg
8. 1x2 230kg
9. 1x1 235kg (probably max?)
10. 2x1 230kg
11. 2x2 220kg
*I was mistaken about the backoff set intensity.

The complete article:
http://www.owresource.com/training/bulgarian.php

I'd like to ask again about maxing out, do you think that maxing out everytime/very often in snatch and clean&jerk is a different matter than, say, squatting? I think many weightlifters often max out their snatch and c&j in training.
Last edited by Paperclip on Sat Mar 12, 2011 9:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Kenny Croxdale » Sat Mar 12, 2011 9:36 am

robertscott wrote:a good warmup type progression is a very individual thing...
Robert,

Extensive Warm Ups

I don't see much of a need for exensive warm ups for anyone. The driving force behind extensive warm ups is more psychological than physiological.

Even Pavel Tsatsouline (the Russian Kettlebell guy) noted that in his book, Beyond Stretching.

As Pavel put it, a rabbit doesn't get on an exercise bike and warm up before the wolf chase him/her.

Pavel also pushes the Inverted Pyramid as a method of warming up, as I do. Less is better. In other words, do the minimal amount of warm ups.
For example before lifting weights I do a few mobility drills and some resistance band work, then just jump right in.
"90% Of The Game Is Half Mental."Yogi Berra

The example of your warm up with a few mobility drills and some resistance bands is for the most part unnecessary. It does more for you head than anything else.

However as Berra noted, if your head is not in the right place, you're done.

So, if your warm up get your head in the right place and doesn't deplete your strength, I am all for it.

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Post by Kenny Croxdale » Sat Mar 12, 2011 10:41 am

Paperclip wrote:Kenny,

I admit that I'm not that experienced (at all) in designing programs. I made that squat routine after looking at how Bulgarian lifters squat (which is dumb considering the discrepancy of skill and experience involved):
*I was mistaken about the backoff set intensity.
Paperclip,

The same application of Bulgarians, for the most part, can be applied by everyone. So, I don't view your skill and experiences as a factor.
Interesting article.
I'd like to ask again about maxing out, do you think that maxing out everytime/very often in snatch and clean&jerk is a different matter than, say, squatting?
Yes, in my opinion. Research shows that eccentric movement are a bit more depanding on the body than concentric only movements.

The Olympic lifts tend to minimize the eccentric part of the movement. Thus, I believe this allow them to recovery a bit faster than movement in which the eccentric-concentric movement takes place.

The squat requires you lower the bar slowly (performing an eccentric). That means that a bit more recovery time is required in performing heavy squats...in performing a heavy eccentric vs no eccentric.
I think many weightlifters often max out their snatch and c&j in training.
Olympic lifters certainly tend to train the lifts heavy more often than others. That appear to be moreso due to the movement being a concentric movement with no or very little eccnetric action.

However, it is questionable how often Olympic lifters max out.

The Secrets of Soviet Sports Dr Michael Yessis

One of the interesting items Yessis noted in his book is the differences in training percentage of the Russians Vs Bulgarians.

Russian Training

Yessis noted that Russians training percentages were based off their best competition lifts. The Russians Olympic lift training percentages revolving around the 90% plus area of thier max, with only a small amount of their lifts being max lifts.

Bulgarian Training

Yessis noted the Bulgarian Olympic lift training percentages were more in the max range.

However, the Bulgarian's weren't really training with any heavier percentages than the Russians!

So, the question is how can the Bulgarian training percentage be the same as the Russians but different at the same time?

Training Percentages--The Rest Of The Story/b]

The Bulgarian training percentages were calculated on their "Gym Max" not their "Competition Max".

A "Gym Max" is lower than a "Competition Max" for a variety of reasons.

Thus, the Bulgarian training percentages APPEARED to be much higher than the Russians.

In reality, the Bulgarians training percentages were pretty much the same as the Russians training percentages.

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The accidental max

Post by KenDowns » Sun Mar 13, 2011 5:21 pm

I decided to hold off on maxing out until I could digest the info in this thread. Here is what happened to best laid plans of mice and men.

Today I was ready to increase the weights by 5, which happens to put my top set at 3 x 180, where 180 is my previous 1RM.

So I did those 3 x 180 smooth and clean and said, "Well shoot I've got to pop one out at 190 to see how it feels." So I did that one, smooth and clean, and then I said, "Well no way I can stop there, let's see what happens at 200." The rep at 200 came off, but it was a grinder, lots of unevenness. Clearly the end of the line for today.

So I decided not to max out but the adrenaline got away with me and I did anyway, at the tail end of a regular session. This also means I've closed half the distance from body weight to 1.5x body weight on the bench, very very satisfying.

This also means I'll have to retire my 10lb 5' department store bar with its max rating of 200lb. I'll take an interim step at a 7' standard rated at 250lb, since I can keep all of my plates, but sometime later in the year I suppose I'll be looking for somebody selling an Olympic set in my neighborhood...


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