Striv­ing to im­prove your one-rep max in one of the ma­jor strength lifts? Don’t let these com­mon er­rors de­rail your ef­forts.

Muscle & Performance - - Lift - BY MICHAEL BERG, NSCA-CPT

Notch­ing a one-rep max on a ma­jor lift is ex­hil­a­rat­ing, and the feel­ing of ac­com­plish­ment when you set an all-new per­sonal record is like noth­ing else. Thing is, peo­ple tend to make a lot of mis­takes in the pur­suit of those PRS, turn­ing an al­ready chal­leng­ing process into a frus­trat­ing back­slide.

To ID those costly er­rors head-on, we re­cruited Heather Farmer, a per­sonal trainer, Crossfit group-class in­struc­tor and top-ranked na­tional Olympic weightlift­ing com­peti­tor based in New York. Here, Farmer calls out the six most heinous mis­takes she sees and the Rx she rec­om­mends for hit­ting those PRS.

Mis­take #1: Ex­pect­ing to make fast, un­in­ter­rupted progress.

As you train, your strength may ini­tially ad­vance more rapidly than your abil­ity to ex­e­cute proper tech­nique, and you may ac­tu­ally need to dial back on your weight for a while to fo­cus on form. “You can’t al­ways ex­pect to just add weight or reps with­out plateaus in your progress,” Farmer ex­plains. “A cy­cle is pro­gres­sive. It’s de­signed to build up your strength over time.”

When squat­ting, for ex­am­ple, your back may be a weak link, un­able to sta­bi­lize prop­erly in the bot­tom. Tak­ing time to strengthen this body­part is es­sen­tial when try­ing to build to a max, ac­cord­ing to Farmer, and should be pri­or­i­tized.

Mis­take #2: Only per­form­ing the lift you want to PR.

“If you want to PR your snatch, you can’t just snatch all day, ev­ery day,” Farmer warns. “You need [to per­form] aux­il­iary ex­er­cises to strengthen the com­po­nents of the lift.”

But­tress your train­ing with move­ments that hit the same mus­cle groups and stim­u­late sim­i­lar mus­cle re­cruit­ment pat­terns as the lift you’re tar­get­ing. For in­stance, do hack squats and lunges to bol­ster a squat, and over­head squats and bar­bell pulls from the floor for a snatch, says Farmer.

Mis­take #3: Fail­ing to fo­cus.

Try to do too much all at once and ev­ery­thing will suf­fer. “Pick one or two ex­er­cises at most to fo­cus on as your pri­mary train­ing goal,” Farmer sug­gests. “Those should take pri­or­ity in de­sign­ing the rest of your pro­gram.” For in­stance, if you’re work­ing on your squat max, put your leg/lower-body train­ing day first in your split, af­ter a rest day. Your squat should be done first af­ter a warm-up, when you’re strong­est. And the in­ten­sity for the rest of your lifts and body­parts should be scaled back ac­cord­ingly to al­low for op­ti­mal re­cov­ery of the main tar­gets.

Mis­take #4: Do­ing higher-rep sets in your pre-max train­ing mode.

If you want to hit a one-rep max you’ve got to pro­gres­sively move to­ward that rep range. And though you might start with heavy five-rep dead­lifts at the be­gin­ning of a cy­cle, you should phase into lower-rep sets to pre­pare for your ul­ti­mate goal.

“There is deeper mus­cu­lar re­cruit­ment re­quired to hit a one-rep max than a 10-rep-max set,” ex­plains Farmer. “Make sure that as you near the peak of your cy­cle, you’re em­pha­siz­ing a rep count sim­i­lar to that at which you want to peak.”

Mis­take #5: Ig­nor­ing flex­i­bil­ity train­ing.

“If you lack mo­bil­ity in any lift, you’ll be limited in what you can ul­ti­mately achieve, or you’ll de­velop strength in a short­ened range of mo­tion,” says Farmer. To that end, you’ll want to do dy­namic stretch­ing pre­work­out and stretch and foam roll af­ter­ward, pay­ing ex­tra at­ten­tion to your trou­ble spots such as the hips, ham­strings, calves and shoul­ders.

Mis­take #6: Skip­ping ac­tive re­cov­ery.

While Farmer thinks true over­train­ing is rare, it’s im­por­tant to be aware of the signs. “Sore­ness and fa­tigue, which are nor­mal ef­fects of train­ing, should not be con­fused with loss of ap­petite, dif­fi­culty sleep­ing and racing rest­ing heart rate, which in­di­cate a more se­ri­ous over­train­ing is­sue,” she says.

Con­sider re­cov­ery modes such as sauna, mas­sage, swim­ming, and even recre­ational games like ta­ble ten­nis or basketball, as part of an ac­tive re­cov­ery plan to pre­vent over­train­ing and avoid in­jury. n

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