Are 1RMs necessary?

May 09, 2023

Do you need to do 1 Rep Maxes?!

Will 1 rep maxes (1RMs - aka the max effort method) help you get stronger?


Is the risk greater than the reward?

For most, I’d say yes. Here’s why:

A heavy single with great technique and minimal breakdown is great, but this isn’t what usually happens with experienced athletes. It's the years of experience tends to cloud the "what I should do" vs "what I can do" and many tend to push themselves harder than they should; a major roadblock of these folks is actually getting them more comfortable with ‘easy’ training peppered into their training plan. 

What happens is these folks go PAST the point of breakdown, just because they know they can.

Basically, they’ll sacrifice their bodies in order to get a few more pounds on the bar.

So, the question is whether or not a max single is completely necessary. 

My answer is a strong ‘no’. 

So how do I get my clients to unlock never before seen levels of strength without pain? 

I use submaximal effort work.

Submaximal effort work is exactly what it sounds like. 

It allows athletes to keep a few reps in the tank. 

In fact, one study found that leaving a few reps in reserve (RIR) lead to great strength gains over 12 weeks PMD: 31009432

And many methods fall into this category: cluster sets, waves, multiple rep heavy sets, etc. 

The result?

People to still get stronger, they have the ability to push themselves, AND they keep the toll on their body lower. 

I’d also argue that once someone is ‘strong enough’, they don't really need to keep pushing & pushing to get better. 

I’ll use myself as the example...

I’ve hit my lifetime PRs in the squat, bench, deadlift, and Olympic lifts. 

Now my goal is to look & feel my best while still being functionally fit.

I don't really care about leaderboard numbers these days, so why take on the risk? 

I can still bench 315 any day of the month and I will definitely intimidate my daughters' boyfriends someday. Win-win.

Moral of the story:

your training should always fit your goals 


as you get older your training should evolve as you do. 


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