The one rep max has been a benchmark measure of raw strength testing for a long time.
In powerlifting athletes typically have at least one day per week where we attempt a NEW max in one of our temporary lifts and one day every 10 weeks where they attempt to set new maxes on all three powerlifts lifts (bench, squat and deadlift).
Like any other event, athletes must prepare for “Max Days”. Ultimately, your performance will be determined by the work you do in your daily training sessions, but there are a few things you can do beforehand to maximize your lifts.
How to Prepare for a One Rep Max Strength Test
Day Before – Rest and Stretch
Focus on active recovery. The strength test is soon, and you will need to ensure that your body is fully rested leading up to it. The best way to make the most of this day is to perform some light exercise to stimulate recovery. A full body joint mobility session is the ideal way to prepare on a no intensity day. Focus on spending quality time on each joint to eliminate any “kinks” in your movement and remove lactic acid. You want to restore full range of motion and help your body relax and remain able to move freely. Going for a light walk or rolling on a foam roller are other ways to spend this day.
Stay laser-focused on your nutrition intake, hydration levels, and quality of sleep. Get as much sleep as you can, 8 hours or more is ideal. You will also want to ensure you get a balance of healthy food, with a good share of protein and fats. Prior to a strength test, you do not want to exclude any of these macronutrients, even if you are on a diet. If you can, eliminate all refined sugars from your pre-strength test diet as well. Do not eat sugar or processed foods. That means no:
- soda (diet or regular)
- energy drinks (you should stop drinking that garbage anyways)
- white bread and pastas made with refined white flour
- packaged snack foods, like chips and cheese snacks
- packaged cookies and cakes
- sugary breakfast cereals
- processed meats
The foods you should be eating prior to your strength test include: lean meats, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and legumes. You will want to stay fully hydrated as well. Drink only water a lot of it!
“D-Day” – One Rep Max Strength Test (High Intensity)
Prior to beginning the strength test, perform a full body joint mobility routine to decompress your joints and prime the body for movement under extreme stress. Once finished, begin your warmup sets – first with a bodyweight only set to groove the movement. You want to awaken the tissues, and feed them bloodflow, not stress them out.
This is a recommended rep flow after body weight movements:
1) Add empty barbell for a set.
2) Add enough weight to allow 5-10 comfortable repetitions.
3) Estimate a warmup load that will allow 3-5 repetitions, without coming close to maximum failure.
4) The next set will be 2-3 repetitions with a weight that you can lift 3-4 times.
5) Make a 5-10% load increase for upper body exercises, or a 10-20% load increase for lower body exercises and try for your one rep max. If you succeed, increase the weight again slowly and retry after 2-4 minutes of rest. If you fail, decrease the load by 5-10% and retry after 2-4 minutes. Once you get to step 5, you get five tries for the 1RM test, in which you can adjust the load up or down.