Working with Low Reps

Hey guys

I’m starting to try lifting weights at very high weights and low reps, as is part of MAX-OT which I’m giving a trial run for a few weeks to see if I like it.

Anyway, I’m not sure if its just me or if this is something everyone starting out goes through, but I feel like I’m doing something wrong when I lift weights in the 4-6 rep range.

I can usually find a weight that I can do 10 times with pretty good form. But often times when I raise the weight somewhat, one of two bad things happens. The first is that I just can’t do the exercise with good form. I can do 5 or so crappy military presses with 100 pounds. But if I lower the weight somewhat, say to 85, I can do 6 reps very clean…and then I can continue doing 2 or 3 more reps well.

Or, another bad thing that happens…is when I’m benching really big weights (for me, this is like 165 to 180 – I used to do 135 x 10 or 12 working sets), my shoulders just feel messed up, a mix between pain, and the anticipated pain of the shoulders dislocating.

Does anyone have good tips for making this transition from going being a “recreational weight lifter” to a “serious strength trainer”?

Do I really just need to spend a few weeks working in the 10 rep range at max weights, a few weeks in the 8 rep range at max weights, and then finally start working with 6s?

Thanks for the tips and guidance in advice

Have you tried increasing the weight gradually? To cite your example of 85lbs military press, increase it to 90lbs then go for 6 good reps. No problem hitting the 7th rep on 90lb? Then up it to 95lb and try again.

Let’s say you get 4 ok reps with 95lbs, then stick with it (as per MaxOT’s 4-6 rep range) til you can get more than 6 good reps. Once you can complete 6 reps with good form on all sets, increase the weight slightly again and start over 4-6 reps.

micro-plates baby, micro-plates.

I can related since I had similar issues.

Your body is communicating to you via pain and discomfort that it is not used to the hard work. Go easy for now, and then build up the weight over time after you address the pain and discomfort. Working out through the pain may cause injury and set you back even further. Having said that, after you recover and feel no pain, a little arrangement in motion and equipment can sometimes do the trick. But, of course, do see a ortho MD and PT afterwards if the pain returns and persists.

  1. Before you workout, grab a 5 lbs dumbbell and be sure to warm up your shoulders. There is tons of info online for this. Look it up.

  2. For your military presses, you can try moving from using the barbell to dumbbells. This will help you get stronger by using lighter weights for now and to deal more with balance. It will also move your shoulders away from a fixed path of motion that a barbell requires, which may be contributing to the aggravation of your shoulder on the bench. Also, being able to move your wrists with dumbbells can provide more options too.

  3. Joint problems can often be related. Go easy on the bench too, for now. Try moving from barbells to lighter dumbbells for the same path of motion reasons I mentioned above. For chest work, instead of flaring out my elbows to the side, I adduct (closer to my body).

This is the only body you got for the rest of your life. Listen to it and take care of man because no one else will do that for you.


Another thing you will want to think about is bringing up week points preventing you from working with higher weights.

For example you mentioned that your shoulder feels loose when you up your bench weight: listen to that! Start doing some work for your shoulder/scapula/etc stability.