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Maxing Out


Maxing Out


We want to thank Katy Zwick who e-mailed us with some post topics. She had 4 excellent questions. They are all excellent questions and each one will be featured on a post. We want to applaud Katy for taking the time to gain more understanding of Strength and Conditioning. The first topic covers maximum strength efforts. This is a great topic since strength is our goal. We could go into alot of discussions on variations on repetition schemes and styles of lifts. To keep it short, we will focus specifically on her question as follows: "How do you proceed with finding your 3 or 5 repetition max?"

  • A max effort can be applied to any number of repetitions but let's focus on the 3-5 since this is a common scheme to develop absolute strength.
  • A max effort can be defined as exerting maximum force against a load through a range of motion. In a max effort we want to recruit as many muscle fibers as we can and apply maximum contraction to extension. This is simply a lengthening and shortening of the muscle. The maximum effort of any individual is highly subjective to the mental perception of that athlete. Simply stated….your maximum effort depends highly on how hard you think you can push your physical ability. Our bodies are capable of MUCH more than we think when our mind tells us we can do it.
  • By establishing a number of repetitions with max effort, we can make calculated guesses on how much weight we could potentially use for any number of repetitions.
  • When we apply a repetition scheme in this sense, we are looking for a maximal effort to achieve the desired number of repetitions. For example, on a 5 x 3 scheme we are looking for the last set of 3 to be performed with full effort. Upon the very last repetition, you should be able to safely say you couldn't have done one more if asked.
  • The sets leading up to the last set should be a "ramp up" in weight to make your max attempt. These sets should not be a true max effort. However, they should be close. The idea is to neurologically adapt to the heavier weight with steady increases. As we approach the max effort, the jumps in weight will typically be smaller. Here is a typical example. Let's say an athlete has an estimated 3 rep max of #300. After a warm up with lighter weights this may be a typical 5 sets ramp up. #250, #275, #290, #295, #300. Remember the "feel" of how the first 4 sets feel will help you determine the weight you want to try and end with.
  • Remember the OVERALL goal is to get stronger. We look to increase the 1,2,3,5…etc. etc. repetition max steadily. Each time you do it you should try to end with a higher number. This will also change your numbers leading up to the max effort.
  • We are atheles and this is a sport. Like any sport, you will have good days and bad days. If you don't hit your max one week, don't despair. Get it next time!

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