Thursday, May 19, 2016

One Rep Max

We never really know what we are capable of unless we find out what we cannot do.

Awhile ago, I had a conversation with one of my sons-in-law. He is a former wrestler (several times New Mexico state champion) with limited weight training backround. He is now taking some classes in weight training as part of his program as a physical education major. My daughter, whom he is married to, is a certified athletic trainer (ATC) and an accomplished lifter who held state records in both Utah and Arizona as well as medaling at the national junior championships. Sometimes they get into deep and even heated discussions about what he is being taught in his classes concerning weight training, so she calls on dad to back her up. They were visiting Kayenta yesterday and were in the weight room while I was training a group of kids. My son-in-law asked, "Do you have your students do a 1 rep max?" "You bet", I replied. He stated that in his program they were taught that a 1 rep max could be dangerous and that there are tables and formulas available that allow one to project a one rep max from repetition. Summoning my patience, I tried to diplomatically explain that all such charts are bogus at best. Anyone who has trained hard for any length of time finds that the only way to determine what a given individual can do for a single rep is to perform a single rep with maximum weight. Some individuals are better at reps than others. There is variation between upper and lower body lifts...etc. There is no chart or computer program that can accurately predict a one rep max for each individual.In the March 2009 Milo magazine author Bill Starr tells a humorous story about a 72 year old man he trains who performed 150 reps on the bench with an empty bar (45 lb.). According to one formula he has a 745 lb. bench press.lol "Ok", my son-in-law said, "so the formulas are bogus, still, is there a legitimate reason for doing a one rep max?" I replied that I believe a one rep max is essential in teaching an athlete to develop and produce a maximum summation of force. Working with young athletes, I find that most do not know how to "go all out". A one rep max teaches this quality. It also is very motivating to know exactly what one is capable of doing and a one rep max is the only truly accurate measure of
maximum strength. Especially in some sports, such as throwing, (our favorite)it is basically a one rep max event. Each competitive throw is a one rep maximum and this is a skill that needs to be practiced. His next question, "Aren't one rep maxes dangerous?" "Is the risk worth it?" I have found that logic to be faulty. How is a one rep max more dangerous than the 5th rep of a 5 rep max for example? It is my experience (and Bill Starr's as referenced in the above mentioned Milo article)that injuries are more likely to happen doing higher reps for max than singles. When dong singles the athlete is focused and prepared. Trying to grind out the last few reps of a 8 rep max for example, the athlete is fatigued and more likely to be sloppy in their technique. His last question, "Then why do football players do the max reps with 225 lb. test in the NFL combines?" Sorry, I really don't have an answer for that.

Bulgarian-born weightlifter Boyanka Kostova caused an international squabble when she decided to represent Azerbaijan at the 2012 Olympics.
Maximum effort is a learned skill.

1 comment:

  1. Good article, kind of reminds me of why I think the academic system is silly. Thought I'd try to explain your son-in-law's last question. This is my opinion, and no more.

    Tests have flaws. Wherever there is a test, there is an exception or a cheat.

    The combine wants a strength test. That is hard to do in a quick and dirty way for dozens of athletes. Depth problems with squat, potential injury problems for deadlift, difficult to compare a strongman contest. So I guess they pick a recognizable lift- bench press, and 225 lbs- a weight most guys understand in the gym. (I think some of this is for hype, and hype = money$$)

    In a perfect world this may work ok. If all football players did BALANCED football-based strength conditioning, and nobody knew how they were going to be tested, then the guys who bench the most reps probably are good at squat, deadlift, and holding/moving the line in the game. And a guy with balanced training who can't bench 225x3, probably isn't very strong anywhere else even if he has long arms.
    Someone like Ollie W. can do many reps of 225 BECAUSE he is overall strong and would excel at any test, not from practicing for 225 for reps. If I trained Ollie's style I would not get as many reps, and the test would correctly show that I'm weaker. So *IF* everyone trained that way, then 225 for reps *could* get a VERY rough idea how strong someone is.
    Michael Jordan's trainer Tim Grover said Jordan was trained for overall athleticism and his 48" vertical was "just a by-product of the training". He could jump well in many positions, angles, situations. He didn't train for just a controlled vertical test like some guys do nowadays.

    Someone who gets 35 reps may or may not be stronger in just the bench press than someone who gets 25-30. But 35 reps definitely beats 10 reps. A guy who does 225x35 may max out at 500, another 225x35 guy can't even do 390. But you can't do 225x35 with a 270 1rm, and you won't fail 10 reps with a 450 1rm. It is just a vague direction.

    Lastly, strength is just one of many elements of football and whoever watches the combine has to be careful not to put too much emphasis on any test. Success as a lineman in football would also require leverage, positioning, weight distribution for physical elements, not just strength- though if your other physical elements are good then strength can help. It might also indicate talent and/or work ethic that could be good if applied correctly.

    So there are three layers to watch, and if you can address them, then maybe 225 for reps tells something.
    1. How well does bench press for reps describe your overall strength
    2. How well does number of reps measure your bench press ability
    3. How important is weightroom strength alone, in football