Feb 17, 2017Max Testing
A lot of training programs require athletes to know their one rep max. But how can a novice lifter figure out his or her maximum lift without risk of injury? Below are some answers to this question.
Lower Body Max Testing
For testing the lower body, a typical exercise to use is the one rep back squat. But for those new to the weightroom, a back squat can be very counterintuitive. Instead, I suggest trying the rear foot elevated split squat (R.F.E.S.S.). This test, when performed properly, will assess single leg (unilateral) max squat strength.
The R.F.E.S.S. and the theory of the bilateral deficit has been popularized by elite strength coach Mike Boyle. Bilateral deficit means that what we can do bilaterally, we will be able to perform unilaterally.
What I have found most beneficial with using the R.F.E.S.S. is that during this test I have never had anyone get hurt during or after the test. It is safe for athletes of all ages and sizes.
To get to a true one rep max, we need to have the loaded weight slowly progress upwards. If your athletes have never “maxed out,” they should start by getting their body accustomed to the movement first. Here’s how:
- Perform 10 bodyweight reps of the R.F.E.S.S. exercise.
- Perform 5 reps of what you believe to be 50 percent of your predicted 1 rep max.
- After a 2-minute break, perform 3 reps at 75 percent.
- Then attempt your 1 rep max.
- After 3-5 attempts at 100 percent of the exercise, you will have your one rep max!
Upper Body Max Testing
For our upper body max strength testing, I suggest a traditional bench press max (or pushup for overhead sports), pull-up max test, and inverted row. With all of these tests, the max number of push-ups, pull-ups, or inverted rows completed consecutively without failure will be the final repetition number.
If your athletes are more advanced and in a non-overhead sport, a bench press and weighted pull-up may be the better option. With the bench press, take the same approach as the lower body testing. Perform 10 bodyweight reps of the empty bar bench press exercise. Then perform 5 reps of what you believe to be 50 percent of your predicted 1 rep max. After a 2-minute break, perform 3 reps at 75 percent. From there, attempt a 1 rep max. After 3-5 attempts at 100 percent of the exercise, you will have your one rep max.
Have your athletes give all these exercises a try and re-test them every 4-8 weeks. Also, keep in mind that technique in all of these exercises is key. The lifts must be completed precisely to get a real marker of strength.
Matt Grimm is Head Strength and Conditioning coach at Trevecca Nazarene University and owner of Matt Grimm Performance, LLC, in Nashville, Tenn., where he trains athletes of all ages. He can be reached through his website: www.MattGrimmPerformance.com.