T Nation

A Question on Maxing


Hey everyone, sorry if this is a noob question, but I really need some help from someone who has done powerlifting and is familiar with this kind of stuff. I have never done PL, in fact I am much more interesed in getting larger. I am 190 right now and since I am not very big, and Im a little weak for my weight, I am going to switch to Boring But Big for the remainder of the year to get bigger and stronger. (I want to be >200 lbs and hit B = 315, D = 455, S = 405 by the end of the year. I have no clue what a good OHP would be.)

I figure you have to have muscle before you can bitch about imbalances and the like.

Heres my question, and I know I easily could have googled it, but I am looking for a specific set of #s to make my attempts next time I go to the gym. Ill be honest, I have no damn clue how to max.

Current bests:
Bench 80 lb dumbells for 10 (exaggerated ROM at the bottom)
Squat 225 for 10 (called it when the reps started getting sloppy)
standing OHP 60 lb dumbells for 7 (touched shoulders with the weights)
deadlift - 275x3 (Mixed grip, no wraps, no chalk. I have a really weak grip for some reason.)

Also, I dont have a belt, and I cannot afford one. My gym doesnt have loaners either.

Where should I start/what should I expect?


^^^I am assuming this is not the way to do it.^^^

Thank you for your patience and input.



You can go for a rep max and then plug that into a 1rm calculator. I think if you google "Jim Wendler rep max calculator", it will take you to one on Crossfit Centurion. Then you just take 90 percent of your guesstimated max and work with the 5/3/1 percentages off of that.


Punch your numbers into an on-line one-rep-max calculator and go for it.

The best exact rep scheme you should go by to get to your max is something you'll figure out with experience. For me, I find working up to a set of 3-5 reps at 70% followed by 1-2 at 80% followed by singles until I hit my max works fine.

Keep the volume low. When you're maxing, less is more.

Good luck!


Thank you for the reply.

Assuming that 80 lb dumbells are 85% of what I can do with a barbell it comes out to:

Bench 250
Squat 300
Deadlift 305

Does that sound about right?



Dumbbell to barbell conversion is a bit more complicated. You'll have to actually get under the bar to know for sure, but typically you'll be stronger under the bar than you are with dumbbells.


Just do single reps for warmup when approaching your calculated max with small jumps in weight. Example lets say you estimated your bench at 250.

Do warmups under 185
185 x 2 - should start to feel a bit heavy now
205 x 1 - should have a guess of how hard 250 might be
225 x 1 - if you struggle with this too much go with 235 next instead of 245
245-255 x 1 - based on how you felt on previous set


Since you didn't say what you think you can max at how are "we" supposed to give you a specific anything like you asked for lol....

So here's what you need to do to get in the ballpark to find your numbers to start from. 1RM calculators generally suck and they may leave you thinking you can do something that you possibly cannot. The more reps with lighter weights distorts the "truth" so to speak. Besides why not just cut the crap and just actually see what you can do right. I mean I can think I could bang Kate Upton all day long but the reality is I can't lol...

Ok so what I would recommend is that you lift in a power rack so that if you bomb you don't have to worry about getting pinned under weights. This alone will help you. "Spotters" generally suck too, especially at "Globo gyms". How many You tube videos have you seen where someone was being spotted and still gets fucked up... I've seen lots of them. I trust no one lol.

Since you said you want to do 5-3-1 it's going to be Barbell bench, Squat, Dead lift and Presses. I ASSUME you know how to properly do these exercises, if not learn. Your form alone will make or break you.

Ok so warm up then start adding weight to the bar for the exercise. I seem to do the best with this set up...
30% X 8
40% X 8
50% X 5
60% X 5
70% X 3
80% X 3
90% X 3
95% X 1
I tend to "peak" at around set 9-10 so I've set my stuff up this way. You could do the same and adjust accordingly. I know a ball park number that I'm shooting for. If you have a number you think you can do then plug in the numbers. If not just follow the rep sceme and add weight as you go to find your actual max weight. Hope this helps..


You might find this info useful:



Thanks for all the replies. I never actually went for the one rep max, but I went for 5 rep maxes and then calculated what my "theoretical max" would be. I then chose a weight that I think will allow me to add 5 lbs a week to my bench, and 10 lbs to my squat and deadlift, without plateauing for 10 months.

My first two workouts went as such.
I am doing the Boring But Big 3 month challenge, but I will be doing as many reps as possible on my last sets. My brain simply will not let me not do AMRAP on my last set. It feels like quitting or not finishing or something like that. I want to go hard as hell for 10 months and then Ill re-evaluate everything. Also, I figure the deload weeks will allow me to be able to do this.

OHP - 10 @ 105 lbs (as soon as the weight stalled even a little bit, I immediately stopped)
bench press - 5x10 @ 135 (More than 50% of my training max but it felt good. I hate making change on the bar. Simple math kicks my ass.)
Lat pulldown - 5x10 @ 130 (I checked the machine for accuracy. I cant do 5 sets of 10 pullups so I chose to do my bench press weight on lat pulldown. Believe it or not, it was difficult and my biceps got a pump on them.)
curls - 3x10 @ 50

Deadlift - 15 @ 205 (Maybe could have done more, but it felt like enough reps at this point haha.)
Squat - 5x10 @ 185 (Calculated off of my bench from monday, not my training max. As little rest as possible with these. Puked inbetween sets 2 and 3, and dry heaved in between sets 4 and 5. Shouldn't have had that buffalo chicken hoagie right before I went to the gym.)
No abs. I was crampin up like a mofo after my 5th set of squats. Ill do them today on my off day.

I may have set my weights a little too light, but I dont think its going to matter in the long run. It just means Ill go longer without plateauing and it will allow me more volume as well as to work on my form.

I want to be bigger mostly, stronger second, and look like a soccer player never. I mostly lurk in the BB thread, but it seems like the PL crowd on here is a lot bigger overall because they're less diluted by beginners and people fighting about whether or not you gotta lose your abs to gain weight. I wanna be a lot bigger and stronger before I even think about abs, symmetry, body fat, proportions or any other bullshit like that.

My logic is simple.
Problem = People who are bigger than me are stronger. Solution = get stronger.
Problem = People who are bigger than me are heavier. Solution = eat more.



Mr. Henriques,

Thank you for the reply. Your articles are in large part the ones that have inspired me to change the way I looked at things a little. These were the ones specifically.




Also, this is the program I have chosen to avoid any confusion from anyone as to what I am attempting to do.


I am doing the sample workout. I am doing the curls on monday and skull crushers and face pulls on thursday (It makes the most sense to me like that).



trying for max single is fun!

i've only recently leaned that most people actually don't do this. that is really weird for me... trying for a new single PR is like the funnest thing ever. failing isn't scary if you have your equipment set up right and you are used to it, i guess.

uh... practice failing. practice dive bombing the bar down on the safeties etc. turn up your headphones if you are scared of making a racket.

if you don't know you can fail safely then you won't be able to really challenge yourself...


Exactly! When i am not running a program, which is almost always, i max whenever I feel like it. I probably maxed or attempted it 6 times in the last month and a half just in squatting. Failing is motivation and it gets your body used to the weight that you are going to lift next session. Don't be afraid to max.


I am more focused on the grind than maxing out a lot. That being said, I am used to failing reps on squat (which is the scariest to fail in my opinion). Ive been doing it every squat workout for the last couple months. Just gotta make sure I have the squat rack set up right haha. One time I set the saftey bars too low and got scrunched up a little haha. Not fun. Now, they're the first thing I set before I even bother to set up the bar.

I may max at the end of the first 3 months. I simply feel like my numbers are probably so small that its not worth it at the moment.



i simply don't understand people who focus on the grind of the joy of a rep PR.

i've just started 5/3/1 so i suppose i should get into the spirit of it...

most fun so far was testing my 1RM so i could figure out the 90% to plug into the program.


This is a fantastic way to make gains in CNS burnout.



there are some people over on the oly forum who front squat to max daily then do a back off couple sets of doubles or something like that.

that is of course the same day that they are snatching and cleaning and jerking to max.

their nervous systems seem to be doing fine.

(though maybe slightly overtrained in the sense that a day or two off before comp and they peak for comp)


there is a difference between maxing with a smooth clean form and maxing out with twitches screaming and 30 minute of grinding. a max that gets the body into survival mode is useless.

just look at world records, see how they break with explosive and smooth form. thats how you should max.

Benedikt didnt grind the shit out of that pull. thats how a max should look.


ugh ...


Tell that to Olympic champions and weightlifters everywhere...


for any smooth and pretty looking 'max'... i suspect there is an uglier max with a heavier weight that that person could have got. and en even uglier max that that person could have got it is was literally a matter of life and death for someone that person cares about.

you gotta pick your battles a bit, tis true. especially if you are maxing every day...

i'm used to maxing a lot. now i'm learning to train with higher reps... the latter is odd to me but i'm getting a sense of how 1R maxing is a foreign beast to most people who aren't used to it.

i like it because it is all over soon. so soon that one can really push very hard indeed. no matter how much it hurts... it will all be over soon. like... in less than three seconds. probably less than one. i like that. just one. so give it everything you can muster. which is so very much more than you think...