How Often Should You Max?

Max effort lifts are incredibly taxing on the body and don’t yield a tremendous amount of strength gain. They are predominantly driven by the ego and a great goal that people are able to shoot for. However, a max effort lift fries the central nervous system, and depending on the level you are at this could take weeks to recover from. Yes, maxing is fun, but there are times and places for it.

First, the Difference Between 1RM and PR

A PR or personal record doesn’t necessarily need to be a 1 rep max attempt. It is possible to PR without going all out and frying the body. This is done by heavy singles in the gym and listening to your body day in and day out. If you feel good and all of the weight is moving easy, it’s possible you PR without pushing yourself to a 10/10 on intensity. A 1RM means that you have nothing left in the tank, you literally can not lift another 5 lbs, and you go to failure. This type of lift will drain the body and should be followed by a quick deload week and lots of recovery.

Next, it Depends on the Level

If you are at a high competition level, there is little reason to go for a 1RM outside of a competition, and you should know your body or have a coach to tell you when. If you are new to lifting, going to a 1RM can be dangerous in the Olympic lifts because of their high technical difficulty. The inability to brace or struggle under weight is the biggest challenge for beginners, who are better off going for 5 rep maxes or even up to 10 rep. Although a 1RM sounds fun, there is no reason to starting out. For the intermediate lifter, they can likely get away with maxing every 3-6 months and still be able to recover because the loads are not over the top.

Finally, it Depends on the Lift

A beginner has no reason to max out on Olympic lifts. It is highly likely they miss due to technical failure, not because they are unable to lift the weight. Once they progress to the intermediate phase where skill and form are less of a variable, they can begin proper programming to continue to develop strength and work on weaknesses.

For powerlifting movements (squat, bench, deadlift) the form takes much less effort to obtain. Working up to heavy singles is a great thing for an intermediate or beginner lifter due to their lack of ability when it comes to bracing under the bar. However, a 1RM should still be only done with proper form and every few months. The deadlift and squat take a significant toll on the body and will require quite a bit of time to recover from where the snatch might load the CNS differently, leaving a shorter recovery time.

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