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Improve Your One-Rep Max

Have you ever felt like you need to be much stronger for what you’re about to do? Whether it’s a bicep curl or a simple deadlift, sometimes you just get the feeling that you could be much stronger, and you’re right – you can be! You can boost your one-rep max with every single lift out there, and there’s an added bonus – if you sometimes train purely for strength, it will help you get bigger as well because it stimulates your muscles in a whole new way!

The body has an amazing ability to adapt to stress and change, according to Dustin Kirchofner who is an active-duty US special forces soldier but also certified strength and conditioning coach based in Colorado. As the owner of Modern Warfare Fitness, he created his one month program called the SAID principle, which stands for “specific adaptation to imposed demands”. This program says that your body will adapt itself to any type of stress placed upon it.

This means that if you, say, lift really heavy weights for a smaller number of reps, you will have more strength, but it also means that if you lift light weights for a large number of reps, you will be building your muscular endurance instead. If you want to boost your one-rep max you will need to put a higher level of stress on your muscles, progressively getting heavier for four weeks. According to Kirchofner, this means that your body will prepare itself for the next lifting session by overcompensating for its current weakness, making you stronger than ever.

The Four Weeks

This four week exercise plan will have you doing exercises for five sets, each consisting of five reps. Every exercise should be done every five to seven days to not overload the body. For the first week, you should do five sets of five reps at 60% of your current one-rep max. For the second week, same but at 65%, while the third and fourth will be at 70% and back to 60% respectively. Note that these set numbers do not include three or four warm-up sets that will progressively get heavier. Also, the fourth week has you bringing down your efforts back to 60% because your body will need to recover, but also to prevent any injuries.

However, you can be certain of one thing: the same weight from the first week will feel much lighter when you lift it in the fourth one! According to Kirchofner, five-rep sets are amazing for building strength because this range helps accent the strength of the muscles and it also emphasizes neurological improvements as well. Every week, you lift more and more which means your body builds up more and more of a response mechanism, which means you’re getting stronger because of this overcompensation. It also means that the next time you lift, you will have the maximum strength available at that moment.

The Test

When the month is getting close to its end, you might want to test your one-rep max. However, if you decide to do this, make sure that you warm up correctly – you want to pyramid up to your current one-rep max and you also want to have a spotter on standby. Your warm-up can consist of sets going from 15 reps to 10, then to five, three and finally a one-rep maximum attempt. This last rep should be at least three to five percent higher than your previous one-rep max.

However, note that trying for a one-rep max is not advisable because taking your maximum weight into your hands so often could jeopardize you and lead you to injury. However, you can figure out your one-rep max by calculating how much you can lift in 10 reps. Take that weight, multiply it by 1.33 and you will have a pretty accurate estimate of your one-rep max. For example, you might want to do military presses – this means that first you should warm up, then do a set of 10 reps which bring you to muscle failure at a weight of 200 pounds. When you take 200 and multiply it by 1.33, you get your estimated one-rep max – 266 pounds.

However, this doesn’t encompass further strength cycle plans. If you do a second month, make sure to calculate your new numbers weekly, based on your new one-rep max. This means that your working weight for each week will be up, so by the last week you should be so strong that your one-rep max will be at least 60% more. Being 60% stronger means that you will be able to lift more weight, for more reps than ever before.

If you’re doing this to get stronger, good for you, I hope you succeed, and if you’re doing this for an ego boost you will receive the same benefits none the less. You might even be doing it to be able to move stuff around your apartment with relative ease – we all know someone that redecorates every few weeks! Whichever your reasons are, you will reap the benefits of getting stronger daily, and the four week cycle will always be in the back of your mind, waiting to be tried out again. Don’t worry, you can do it any time you want – whether you want to get even stronger than before or you want to set challenges for yourself, your one-rep max will grow nevertheless.


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