Max Day!!

Picking up a barbell with as much weight as you can lift is a very powerful experience.  I loved the camaraderie and support exhibited as everyone spotted each other, cheered each other, and helped each other figure out how much weight was lifted (seriously, how many people does it take to add a loaded barbell?!).

So how much did I just lift??



When we do the big lifts (back squat, deadlift, bench press and a few others), it’s good to know the maximum amount we can load on the bar (1 rep max, or 1RM) and lift safely.  With this knowledge, we can plan our workouts and lift an appropriate amount of weight to support our goals.

What follows is a quick template for designing your training program based on your goals.  It is written as training goal, setsxreps, load (weight on the bar) and rest periods between sets:

Muscular Endurance, 1-3 x 12-15, less than 70-75% of 1RM, less than 30 seconds 

Muscular Hypertrophy (muscle growth),  1-3 x 8-10, 67-85% of 1RM, 30-90 seconds 

Muscular Strength, 3+ x 1-6, more than 80-85% of 1RM, 2-5 minutes

So if your goal was to build muscular strength, and you just hit 100lbs on your deadlift, you should deadlift 2-3 times per week; do 3-5 sets of 5-6 reps at 80lbs (80% of 1RM) or more.  It’s going to be heavy, but it’s supposed to be – that’s strength.  Follow the same logic if your goal is muscular endurance or hypertrophy (more muscular); and if you’re doing the bench press or the back squat.

Note:  the above table is to be used with the “big” lifts – squats, deadlifts, bench press and overhead press, bent over row.  Exercises that use smaller muscle groups and less muscle mass (lateral raises, high pulls, biceps curls, etc,) should be programmed in the muscular endurance range, regardless of goal.  


While tiring, “maxing out” gives you a great feeling of accomplishment, especially if you’re new to lifting heavier weights. Just look at these happy ladies:

Alexia hitting 175 lbs on her back squat!
Layetta’s victory smile after fighting for that bench press!

If you are training consistently, then reassessing your max every 2-3 months is a good idea, especially when just starting out.  As your body adapts to the consistent training with heavier weights, you will become stronger.  You’ll then need to add more weight to keep the brain and muscles challenged.  Reassess, rework your percentages, and train some more!


Just like swimming, maxing certain lifts should never be done alone.  Good spotting during the bench press is essential for safety.  Learn how to safely dump a back squat, or have a good spotter or two ready to help.  And with deadlifting, though you won’t drop the bar on yourself, you could hurt your back if you lose form. A spotter can be standing by to let you know when your form breaks down.

Spotters are ready to help with the lift off.  Melissa put up some big numbers today, increasing her back squat 1RM by about 40 lbs! 


In addition to safety, training with others is fun and motivating. These Get Strong ladies cheered, motivated, and encouraged each other the entire time.  It was deathly quiet for some max attempts, with the room erupting in cheers when the lift was completed.  Lots of happy dances were caught on video.   So while you can certainly train alone, training with others keeps you motivated and accountable.  Find your group!

Training with someone else means never having to load your own plates!  

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