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Upping Strength Without Upping Max?


Is it possible to say that you upped your strength even if your maxes haven't gone up (on the 3 big lifts, for example)?

Let's say you went from being able to do 1 rep at a 205lb deadlift to being able to do 5 reps. However, when you tested your max before and after, it stayed at 255lbs.

Did you really get stronger, or did you just gain more endurance at a lower weight. Are these the same thing?


I'm going to GUESS it's because something is bottle necking it. Like your grip strength is keeping you from increasing your max. Just a guess.


How can your max be 255 when you can only get 1 rep with 205?


It's not, but I have seen examples where someone can only get one rep at say 135lbs, and their max is 145lbs. Then they up the amount of reps they can do at 135lbs, but still can't lift higher than 145lbs. It's just an example.


Ive literally NEVER seen this. If it did happen as you suggest, I would chalk it up to their level of readiness that day. There are so many factors that afffect it its crazy.

You absolutely got stronger if you went from doing one rep to doing five. A LOT stronger.



I know what you mean. I dealt with this for a while back when I couldnt DL 455..I could 8 rep 405..6 rep 25..455 was a no go.

I think its mental..Its like a barrier you that you cant belive you are actually able to break through so you limit yourself.

Even right now, my lil brother is doing 386x10 on flat bench but cant budge 315 because of the "aww factor".




lol, my bad...I was half asleep when I typed that...I meant 275.


That's a hell of a typo.


There is absolutely a correlation between submaximal rep strength and limit strength. There are many formulas floating around that estimate this correlation, and, while only estimates, are useful and fairly accurate. Wendler offered this formula in his e-book:

Weight x Reps x .0333 + Weight = Estimated Max.

Again, its only an estimate, but in my experience the formula is accurate enough to give you a meaningful comparison between performances of differing weights and reps.

For example, last week one of the 0-35er's maxed out on OHP and hit a 260 lbs. lift (PR). It looked like he had a little left in him from the video. He rested, and then did a 30 rep finisher with 135 lbs.

135 x 30 x .0333 + 135 = 269.98 Lbs.

That is pretty freaking close given the number of reps. Again, the formula is not perfect, but it shows that there is a predictable correlation between rep strength and limit strength.

Using this or a similar formula, you can compare performances of different weights and different reps by converting the performance into an estimated max.


I know, right? I missed on all the numbers. I'm blind in the morning.


I think in this case all that is necessary is a consultation with Dr. Ammonia. Then we will see a REAL 1RM out of someone who has increased their max amount of reps at a certain weight.


It gets wildly inaccurate the higher you go over 13 reps.



Point taken. And I also think that the closer you get to your true max the more form and your mental state come into play. But I think we both agree that there is a correlation between rep strength and limit strength and that someone who can pull 255 is going to be able to pull more than one rep at 205.


i kinda have a similar dilemma--where i can rep out a lot with a decent amount of weight but stall out on maxes in comparison.--but i think for me its more of a overall longer term fatigue issue or a just a training preference.

maybe someone who's hard wired themselves for reps just needs extra tinkering to wire for nice strong singles. i dunno. i say either is awesome, but if you have a specific goal then you might just need to teach your system differently . But I have absolutely no education or training in sports whatever, just my own wierdo experiences to use reference's however :stuck_out_tongue:


I get what Oleena is saying, even though it was confusing as written. I suffer this phenomenon on bench, where I can add reps at lower weights over time but always seem to max out at the same place. Does that translate into greater "strength?" I think it's merely an issue of semantics. I always measure my "strength" as my 1 RM in relation to my bodyweight.


mental block, ill preparedness, SOMETHING went wrong. you went from being able to move 205lbs to 1025lbs. yeah, you got a metric fuckton stronger.

They are and are not the same thing, depends upon who you ask, and what kind of conversation/answer you're looking for. going from one to 5 reps at 205 means that you're stronger, and your grip endurance has improved, obviously, BUT its not like you picked up 205, carried it to the parking lot, drove it to the lake, and went for a swim with it.

our minds block so much in every day life, and specifically when we're lifting, that some people would be amazed.

those stories of mothers being able to lift cars off of potentially injured children. did Curves teach them to deadlift a buick? or hop around on a step holding pink dumbells? Those moms, and all kinds of other people in a fight or flight situation, no longer have the mental restriction on their physical capabilities.

there's a book by malcom gladwell called, "blink" that touches on things like that.

short version- you can dl more than 255, get your fucking head out of the game.


slow twitch vs fast twitch,...specific body weaknesses which show more under heavy stress

If there is a weakness, it may be showing more during heavy reps...example: Someone is weak in their midback, can squat 315 for 10, but cant do 385 for 2, because their back cant hold and stay tight with heavier weight. Think Sprinters versus joggers.

Some people are just more slow twitch fibers than fast twitch. I have a good friend like this who powerlifted with us at LSU. His max numbers went up steadily but never with great success, but his reps at 80% and lower were looking easier.

He now is training for and competing in triathlons. He is just more slow twitch, and responds better to the higher rep training. Also, he had a weakness in his middle back which made heavy attempts harder.

You have to train properly. If you want to up your big three number, train for it with 80% and up lifts for singles and doubles. The base number for Sheiko's routines is 5 sets of 3 at 80%.

Hope this helps.


I completely feel you on this actually, I feel like it happens to me A LOT.
I also feel like the opposite occurs with me as well



Interesting responses. All what I kind of figured- muscle fiber might have something to do with it, mental block, actual training weakeness... thanks for the responses.

It sounds like in conclusion you do get stronger, but it's a different type of strength.