T Nation

Does Maxing Make You Stronger?

My friend says it doesn’t. I think it does.

Max x 1 = strength gains?

lot of different people have a lot of different ideas about this

Best example of differing opinions I think are Jaime Lewis and Paul Carter. Both crazy strong, both knowledgeable, good friends and agree on a lot of things. But Paul HATES doing heavy singles anywhere outside of a meet, and believes in reps wholeheartedly. And Jaime’s bread and butter is sub-3 reps, and he absolutely loves singles. Just goes to show you different stuff works for different people.

I think if you take one look at high level olympic lifters, you can see that doing heavy singles or “maxes for the day” can absolutely get you stronger. Many high level oly lifters squat to a heavy single all the time, and some of them have absurdly strong squats. Like aranda, doubling 638 at a bodyweight of 165. that’s fucking absurd.

However, that sort of approach definitely won’t work for everyone. And Oly lifters do a very different sort of squat than most powerlifters. You have to take into account what lift you’re training, what has worked for you in the past, how well you recover, whether you’re lifting raw or in gear, etc etc etc. Bottom line is, only way to know is to try. Do a program where you do a shitload of heavy singles, and see if you get stronger. then do a program where you do a ton of reps in the 75-85% range and see if you get stronger.

Personally, I find that doing high rep squat stuff gets me stronger faster, but rehearsing with the heaviest of heavy weights helps me a lot with technique. I normally will do moderate weight for a “Max” set on monday, will do a bunch of heavy triples, doubles, or singles on thurs, and then will work up to a max on saturday. For bench, higher reps definitely works better for me, but again I keep in a lot of heavy triples, doubles, and singles and pause work, because that practice with heavy weights keeps my technique nicer under pressure.

Long story short, tell your friend maybe it doesn’t make HIM stronger. But it definitely makes Klokov stronger.

Only relative to your current potential and in the short run. Volume (rep) training increases your potential and makes you stronger in the long run.

I’m surprised that there isn’t a well known study about the effects of training in the 85-100 % range. I would like to know how much more for example the 95 % singles stimulate the nervous system compared to 85 %.

Weightlifters train with high everything. High volume, high intensity, high frequency. They are athletes in every way possible and powerlifters or strongmen don’t compare to them because of that.

[quote]N.K. wrote:
lot of different people have a lot of different ideas about this

Best example of differing opinions I think are Jaime Lewis and Paul Carter. Both crazy strong, both knowledgeable, good friends and agree on a lot of things. But Paul HATES doing heavy singles anywhere outside of a meet, and believes in reps wholeheartedly. And Jaime’s bread and butter is sub-3 reps, and he absolutely loves singles. Just goes to show you different stuff works for different people.

I think if you take one look at high level olympic lifters, you can see that doing heavy singles or “maxes for the day” can absolutely get you stronger. Many high level oly lifters squat to a heavy single all the time, and some of them have absurdly strong squats. Like aranda, doubling 638 at a bodyweight of 165. that’s fucking absurd.

However, that sort of approach definitely won’t work for everyone. And Oly lifters do a very different sort of squat than most powerlifters. You have to take into account what lift you’re training, what has worked for you in the past, how well you recover, whether you’re lifting raw or in gear, etc etc etc. Bottom line is, only way to know is to try. Do a program where you do a shitload of heavy singles, and see if you get stronger. then do a program where you do a ton of reps in the 75-85% range and see if you get stronger.

Personally, I find that doing high rep squat stuff gets me stronger faster, but rehearsing with the heaviest of heavy weights helps me a lot with technique. I normally will do moderate weight for a “Max” set on monday, will do a bunch of heavy triples, doubles, or singles on thurs, and then will work up to a max on saturday. For bench, higher reps definitely works better for me, but again I keep in a lot of heavy triples, doubles, and singles and pause work, because that practice with heavy weights keeps my technique nicer under pressure.

Long story short, tell your friend maybe it doesn’t make HIM stronger. But it definitely makes Klokov stronger. [/quote]

Jamie Lewis also doesn’t max out on his singles (for the most part). The majority of his work is 90-95%. Ten to fifteen sets of triples or singles seem to be his thing. The same goes for everything the Bulgarians stand for. All their work is circamaximal, not pure maximal. A pure 1rm doesn’t really do shit for anybody. Jamie Lewis also keeps repetition work in his programming with his lighter workouts, and Paul Carter includes heavy singles in his strong-15 programming. I read CnP and LRB, too.

Maxing makes you stronger by developing the qualities that make you able to lift more weight. Inter/intramuscular coordination and all of the neuromuscular tie ins specifically get more efficient under maximal loads. That being said, these gains in strength are very unstable. You can’t plan out the progression of a program completely relient on just maxing out. I think it was in Science of Sport Training where Kurtz wrote something like “gains made with higher volumes take longer but last longer and can actually be planned out.” Something like that.

Even Westside, the volume on DE day is constantly varied in order to ensure constant progress.

Personally I think you should work up to a max lift at the end of every mesocycle. The max lift trains your nervous system to handle heavy weight. I think a 1RM does make you stronger in that you have now handled a heavier weight than you could handle before you did that cycle. Certainly, doing Max work on a regular basis is useless in a periodization template.

Does the 1RM make you stronger? I think it does. But only to a certain extent.

I like singles, but they don’t necessarily have to be at 98-99%. For training rather then testing, I like 5 or 6 singles at 88-92%, for example, and also mixed into a progression consisting of higher rep work.

[quote]StormTheBeach wrote:
Maxing makes you stronger by developing the qualities that make you able to lift more weight. Inter/intramuscular coordination and all of the neuromuscular tie ins specifically get more efficient under maximal loads. That being said, these gains in strength are very unstable. You can’t plan out the progression of a program completely relient on just maxing out. I think it was in Science of Sport Training where Kurtz wrote something like “gains made with higher volumes take longer but last longer and can actually be planned out.” Something like that.

Even Westside, the volume on DE day is constantly varied in order to ensure constant progress. [/quote]

That’s what “circa max” or even actual max lifts seem to help me with most notably. It sort of tells my brain “yes, your body can in fact move this much weight”. Gives me confidence with the heavier weights too, and probably helps build your bone structure and all the stuff besides muscles to be able to support loads of that size.

[quote]StormTheBeach wrote:
Maxing makes you stronger by developing the qualities that make you able to lift more weight. Inter/intramuscular coordination and all of the neuromuscular tie ins specifically get more efficient under maximal loads. That being said, these gains in strength are very unstable. You can’t plan out the progression of a program completely relient on just maxing out. I think it was in Science of Sport Training where Kurtz wrote something like “gains made with higher volumes take longer but last longer and can actually be planned out.” Something like that.

Even Westside, the volume on DE day is constantly varied in order to ensure constant progress. [/quote]

Quoted for truth! I didn’t really figure this out for years. Like many new WSB template guys, I put too much effort into maxing and not enough into the volume of the overall program (that sounds strange to say, but hopefully people here know what I mean–ME work is definitely meant to be “max effort”). I have noticed this over the years to be true–gains built with volume are more stable and more planned for.

And it was Kurz too, you’re right.

[quote]csulli wrote:

[quote]StormTheBeach wrote:
Maxing makes you stronger by developing the qualities that make you able to lift more weight. Inter/intramuscular coordination and all of the neuromuscular tie ins specifically get more efficient under maximal loads. That being said, these gains in strength are very unstable. You can’t plan out the progression of a program completely relient on just maxing out. I think it was in Science of Sport Training where Kurtz wrote something like “gains made with higher volumes take longer but last longer and can actually be planned out.” Something like that.

Even Westside, the volume on DE day is constantly varied in order to ensure constant progress. [/quote]

That’s what “circa max” or even actual max lifts seem to help me with most notably. It sort of tells my brain “yes, your body can in fact move this much weight”. Gives me confidence with the heavier weights too, and probably helps build your bone structure and all the stuff besides muscles to be able to support loads of that size.[/quote]

No, that’s absolutely true. I got tons out of ME training. Still do. I think for the purposes of TRAINING strength rather than DEMONSTRATING strength, more volume in the 90-95% range and less true max testing is a bit better–the motor patterns are still the same, the muscle firing patterns still the same, but you shouldn’t miss too many reps in a mesocycle with your weights if you’re healthy. I have found missing a lot of max reps builds in a “speed barrier” of sorts (or strength barrier rather) where you get a mental block about the weight you’re attempting, that or your body learns to “shut down” a failed attempt instead of grinding through to success.

But when I say a lot, I am not talking about avoiding max attempts so much as bashing yourself against a wall when better judgement dictates you probably should not attempt the weight lol

[quote]Aragorn wrote:
No, that’s absolutely true. I got tons out of ME training. Still do. I think for the purposes of TRAINING strength rather than DEMONSTRATING strength, more volume in the 90-95% range and less true max testing is a bit better–the motor patterns are still the same, the muscle firing patterns still the same, but you shouldn’t miss too many reps in a mesocycle with your weights if you’re healthy. I have found missing a lot of max reps builds in a “speed barrier” of sorts (or strength barrier rather) where you get a mental block about the weight you’re attempting, that or your body learns to “shut down” a failed attempt instead of grinding through to success.

But when I say a lot, I am not talking about avoiding max attempts so much as bashing yourself against a wall when better judgement dictates you probably should not attempt the weight lol[/quote]

One of the things that has helped me the most is taking the attitude that its never OK to miss a weight in training. It forces me to make smaller, more sensible jumps. It forces me to take the lighter weights very seriously, focusing on my form. Over the long run, it has shown me what I am capable of and forced me to listen to my body. It’s a very simple concept, but yet one that was very difficult for me to learn & apply. It’s very easy to get caught up in the numbers game and chase PRs. Subsequently usually one will lose track of what is important – which is straining with weights on that are heavy on that day.

[quote]frankjl wrote:

[quote]Aragorn wrote:
No, that’s absolutely true. I got tons out of ME training. Still do. I think for the purposes of TRAINING strength rather than DEMONSTRATING strength, more volume in the 90-95% range and less true max testing is a bit better–the motor patterns are still the same, the muscle firing patterns still the same, but you shouldn’t miss too many reps in a mesocycle with your weights if you’re healthy. I have found missing a lot of max reps builds in a “speed barrier” of sorts (or strength barrier rather) where you get a mental block about the weight you’re attempting, that or your body learns to “shut down” a failed attempt instead of grinding through to success.

But when I say a lot, I am not talking about avoiding max attempts so much as bashing yourself against a wall when better judgement dictates you probably should not attempt the weight lol[/quote]

One of the things that has helped me the most is taking the attitude that its never OK to miss a weight in training. It forces me to make smaller, more sensible jumps. It forces me to take the lighter weights very seriously, focusing on my form. Over the long run, it has shown me what I am capable of and forced me to listen to my body. It’s a very simple concept, but yet one that was very difficult for me to learn & apply. It’s very easy to get caught up in the numbers game and chase PRs. Subsequently usually one will lose track of what is important – which is straining with weights on that are heavy on that day.[/quote]

Totally and completely AGREED. It takes a certain amount of self control, but I believe very heartily in the motor learning concept that you become good at what you practice–and therefore, as far as is practicable, I don’t miss attempts. Similar to Olympic lifters, if I DO miss a weight for some reason, I will drop down to 85-90% of that max attempt and finish on a successful attempt.

Interestingly, failing a lift is perhaps the single most CNS draining thing you can do and what will most contribute to the “burnout” feeling of CNS washout and one thing that tends to cause ruts in training, or plateaus.

It’s funny that many powerlifter, myself included, have forgotten that the original description of “Max Effort” training wasn’t to always hit PRs every single week–Louie and Dave describe it as taking between 2-4 lifts above 90%. You go for strain under heavy weight first and foremost, and hit a PR if you feel its in reach.

[quote]StormTheBeach wrote:
Maxing makes you stronger by developing the qualities that make you able to lift more weight. Inter/intramuscular coordination and all of the neuromuscular tie ins specifically get more efficient under maximal loads. That being said, these gains in strength are very unstable. You can’t plan out the progression of a program completely relient on just maxing out. I think it was in Science of Sport Training where Kurtz wrote something like “gains made with higher volumes take longer but last longer and can actually be planned out.” Something like that.

Even Westside, the volume on DE day is constantly varied in order to ensure constant progress. [/quote]

Interesting.

Somewhat related to that: I remember reading somewhere that Chinese weightlifting coaches don’t care for (count) new PRs hit with a break-down of form in training because they say that they are not likely to be repeatable (unstable).

This is a great question and an even better discussion. I have nothing constructive to add.

[quote]Steel Nation wrote:
This is a great question and an even better discussion. I have nothing constructive to add.[/quote]

I second this!

They can definitely build strength. Remember, 3 keys to build strength according to Louie:

Lift maximal weights (ME day)

Lift submaximal weights as fast as possible (DE day)

Lift submaximal weights as many times as possible (RE day - best for size)

Finally, to avoid CNS burn out you can’t max out continually in the same exercise every week.

The short answer is yes, it does work but you can’t do it all the time because it stops working after a while. I don’t think anybody could say “no, it doesn’t work” and not have to qualify their answer.

The longer answer is that maximal effort doesn’t have to mean hitting a true 1RM as many posters have noted, I find that singles in the 87-97% range but doing multiple sets or clusters or however you want to set it, can all work very well because this keeps the all important intensity but builds in the needed volume for adaptations as well.

I agree, lots of good points in the discussion

As someone who does singles a lot in his workout, I am truly enjoying this thread.

Feeling really “burnout” after missing an attempt (or multiple re-attempts) is something that I discovered recently. I noticed this was mentioned above and was wondering if anyone has an explanation for this out of curiosity.

I reached a plateau in squats doing singles and recently I’ve introduced a second day of squatting in the week where I do paused squat for reps followed with high reps ATG squats. This has definitely gotten my past my plateau because I’m seeing progressive gains again.

[quote]Tim Henriques wrote:
They can definitely build strength. Remember, 3 keys to build strength according to Louie:

Lift maximal weights (ME day)

Lift submaximal weights as fast as possible (DE day)

Lift submaximal weights as many times as possible (RE day - best for size)

Finally, to avoid CNS burn out you can’t max out continually in the same exercise every week.

The short answer is yes, it does work but you can’t do it all the time because it stops working after a while. I don’t think anybody could say “no, it doesn’t work” and not have to qualify their answer.

The longer answer is that maximal effort doesn’t have to mean hitting a true 1RM as many posters have noted, I find that singles in the 87-97% range but doing multiple sets or clusters or however you want to set it, can all work very well because this keeps the all important intensity but builds in the needed volume for adaptations as well.

I agree, lots of good points in the discussion[/quote]

You can not “burn out” your central nervous system with weight training. That is an old myth that really needs to die. If your cns was really burnt out, you’d be lying in a hospital bed.

[quote]Caltene wrote:

[quote]Tim Henriques wrote:
They can definitely build strength. Remember, 3 keys to build strength according to Louie:

Lift maximal weights (ME day)

Lift submaximal weights as fast as possible (DE day)

Lift submaximal weights as many times as possible (RE day - best for size)

Finally, to avoid CNS burn out you can’t max out continually in the same exercise every week.

The short answer is yes, it does work but you can’t do it all the time because it stops working after a while. I don’t think anybody could say “no, it doesn’t work” and not have to qualify their answer.

The longer answer is that maximal effort doesn’t have to mean hitting a true 1RM as many posters have noted, I find that singles in the 87-97% range but doing multiple sets or clusters or however you want to set it, can all work very well because this keeps the all important intensity but builds in the needed volume for adaptations as well.

I agree, lots of good points in the discussion[/quote]

You can not “burn out” your central nervous system with weight training. That is an old myth that really needs to die. If your cns was really burnt out, you’d be lying in a hospital bed.[/quote]

I have been pretty fucking close on several occasions.