Big Arms Now!
Are you getting stronger? There’s a good way to find out. Here’s how to make sure your one-rep max is all it can be
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A proper one-rep max test isn’t something to try every week but, done smartly, it’s something to work towards because it’s a good indicator of where you are in your lifting life. If you’re planning to compete in strongman, powerlifting or Olympic lifting it’s a must, though you might want to save the genuinely all-out efforts for competition day. For everyone else, working up to a big single rep is something to plan for every few months. Here’s how to do it.
GET YOUR BLOOD PUMPING
Preparing for a one-rep max (or 1RM) is different for everyone. For some people, it’s a carefully plannedout process – for others, it just means hitting a big lift on a day you feel strong. Generally, though, you should aim to warm up as you would for any other big day in the gym: plenty of movement to get your heart rate up, then some specific lifts.
“I’ll often do a barbell complex,” says powerlifter Tom Hamilton. “Maybe some squats, presses, Romanian deadlifts and hang cleans with an empty barbell. I’m also a big fan of bodyweight movements: press-ups, pull-ups, inverted rows, hanging leg raises, lunges, squats.” Pick three moves, do three to five reps of each, and repeat twice.
GET UNDER THE BAR
How many warm-up reps you should do with the lift you’re planning to max out on is a tricky subject. You want to be fully warm but don’t want to wear yourself out. The solution? Do most of your reps with minimal weight. If you’re planning to max out with a 120kg squat, for instance, you might do two sets of five to ten reps with an empty bar, one set of five with 60kg, another with 80kg, then a set of three with 100kg and a single at 110kg.
“You’re only likely to have, at most, four top-end lifts in the tank on any given day,” says Gym Jones general manager Rob “Bobby Maximus” MacDonald. “Make them count.” Don’t feel comfortable maxing out just yet? Not a problem. Keep a record of your records with higher reps - your 3RM or 5RM max, for instance - and use an online calculator like exrx.net to work out your approximate max. Remember, it’s better to keep chugging along and make gains than go out in a blaze of glory.