Improve Your 1 Rep Max : Gym Junkies Challenge Workout

Improve Your 1 Rep Max : Gym Junkies Challenge Workout

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benefits of strength training

When you think of a physical fitness challenge, you cannot help but consider the typical boot camps and obstacle courses everyone relentlessly seems to be talking about, but those challenges are exactly what you don’t need to Improve your 1 rep max.

What you definitely need is a true physical challenge workout that can enhance your fitness and provoke an inevitable abundance of muscle gains in the process.

You’ve been hitting the gym hard and you’re seeing big improvement.

But how strong are you really?

What do you bench?

How does it relate to your bodyweight?

Does this mean you’re strong?

It’s that last question that really trips most people up. What’s the definition of strong?

Do we all even know?

The answer is, yes, as we know what the definition is.

Most gym junkies and hardcore lifters would define strong as at least three different things. First, being able to bench your bodyweight. Second, being able to squat and sumo deadlift 2-2.5x your bodyweight and finally being able to conventional deadlift 2.15x (or more) your bodyweight. So for a 200-pound man, your one-rep maximums would be 200 pounds, 400 to 500 pounds and 430+ pounds for bench, squat/sumo deadlift, and conventional deadlift, respectively. That’s a lot of weight and would put your Big Three total in the neighborhood of 1000 pounds plus.

The next question is: How do you get there?

Chances are, if you’re a hardcore lifter (let’s be serious, in order to make constant, significant progress you need to be somewhat hardcore), you either know your one-rep maximums or you know how many repetitions you can perform of a given weight, which gives you the ability to estimate your one-rep max. When it comes to developing the strength that makes you an animal that hits 1000 pounds as a Big Three total before anyone else in your gym, that information is crucial.

Deadlift Workouts

Basics of Strength & 1 Rep Max

Do you want to increase your strength?

There are actually three great ways to accomplish this. The first and most often used method is to lift heavy (85% or more of your one-rep maximum or 1RM). The second is to accelerate lighter loads (55-75% of your 1RM), and the third is to use moves that utilize a high amount of muscular tension.

We’ll address lifting heavy first. Heavy, as mentioned, is defined as 85% or more 1RM. This method is based on a principle known as motor unit recruitment. To put it simply, this means that the more weight you lift (relative to your 1RM), the more muscle fibers you’ll be using.

Your body is an efficient machine and will look for any way to preserve its energy stores, so unless you’re using heavy weight (again 85% or more of your 1RM), your body will tell certain muscle fibers to shut off until they’re needed. Eventually, when that 85% 1RM feels light, then you know your 1RM has gone up.

Conventional (but also scientifically tested and proven) wisdom in exercise tells us that 85% 1RM is the amount of weight you can lift around five times, but no more. For example, if your maximum bench press is 150 pounds, then you should be able to bench 125 pounds five times, but no more.

Acceleration of lighter loads is the second most popular and widely used method to increase muscle strength and size. Going back to our example of the bench press, if your 1RM is 150 pounds, then a light load, in this case, would mean 55 to 75% of 150, or 85 to 115 pounds. If you took that weight and pressed it off your chest as fast as you could, you’d be recruiting all of those fast-twitch muscle fibers people so often talk about, which have the most potential for growth and strength.

The best way to use this method, as the workout that follows will have it, is in conjunction with a strength move, either as post-activation potentiation (fast move after the big strength move, like a medicine ball chest pass after a bench press or a jump after a squat), or as a way to activate (wake up) the muscle fibers necessary to lift heavy (for example, doing the chest pass before bench or jumping before squats). To keep power production up (keep the speed of the bar high and constant), we’ll use a method called cluster sets (and we’ll get to that later).

Creating high muscular tension is the easy part. Any move or position that, while performing or holding said move or position, causes you to feel the burn in a very intense way is creating a high amount of muscular tension. Take cable chest flyes, for example, the pecs are constantly being used to control the weight you’re lifting. That would be an example of high muscular tension. To stimulate change in the muscle (to grow it and make it stronger), total time under tension for one set needs to be around 20 seconds.

Deadlift vs Squat

The Strength Workout

Directions: Perform each move for the listed number of sets and reps at the prescribed percentages of your 1-rep maximum. For example, if the exercise “bench press” is written as 4 sets; 60%(5), 65%(5), 70%(3), 70%(3), then you would perform your first set at 60% 1RM, which would be 5 repetitions, then your second set at 65% 1RM, which would also be 5 repetitions. Percentages are % of 1RM and the number in parentheses is the number of repetitions you would perform with the prescribed weight.

Pro Tip: Don’t be a meathead and say “I’ve got one more,” because all you’d do at that point is cause lasting tissue damage that may never repair, severely hindering your ability to make progress.

It is great if you have one more, but that extra rep could cost you. You’ll still get enough mechanical stress to make the muscles change.

More directions: These workouts are written in four-week cycles. Each fifth week should be a test week where you test your maximums (in this order) of your deadlift (conventional or sumo, your choice), bench press and back squat. Just be sure to test them all on different days.

Months 1-3: Building The Foundation

Directions: Perform each workout twice per week.

Workout 1

Exercise Sets Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Deadlift

Superset with Banded Clamshell x 8

5 60%(5), 65%(5), 70%(3), 70%(3), 70%(3) 65%(5), 70%(3), 75%(3), 75%(3), 75%(3) 70%(3), 75%(3), 80%(2), 80%(2), 80%(2) 75%(3), 80%(2), 85%(2), 85%(2), 85%(2)
Bent-Over Row*

Superset w/ Cable Face Pull x 8

4 50%(8), 55%(6), 60%(5), 60%(5) 55%(6), 60%(5), 65%(5), 65%(5) 60%(5), 65%(5), 70%(3), 70%(3) 65%(5), 70%(3), 75%(3), 75%(3),
Biceps (your choice) 3×10 ** ** ** **

*Use your bench press maximum to estimate weights for this

 

Workout 2

Exercise Sets Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Back Squat Superset w/ Single-Leg Glutes Bridge x 8 each 5 60%(5), 65%(5), 70%(3), 70%(3), 70%(3) 65%(5), 70%(3), 75%(3), 75%(3), 75%(3) 70%(3), 75%(3), 80%(2), 80%(2), 80%(2) 75%(3), 80%(2), 85%(2), 85%(2), 85%(2)
Bench Press Superset w/ Band Pull-Apart x 10 5 60%(5), 65%(5), 70%(3), 70%(3), 70%(3) 65%(5), 70%(3), 75%(3), 75%(3), 75%(3) 70%(3), 75%(3), 80%(2), 80%(2), 80%(2) 75%(3), 80%(2), 85%(2), 85%(2), 85%(2)
Triceps (your choice) 3×10 ** ** ** **

**Choose a weight you can complete 10 repetitions with

So you think you’ve got the hang of it?

It’s pretty simple when it comes down to it.

Pro Tip: Week 5, or test week, is the time when you should say, “I’ve got more!” However, this does not mean go for extra reps.

Instead, what it means is that you should throw some more weight on the bar, rest for two to three minutes and go for a rep. If you fail, give yourself another two chances with two or three minutes rest to get that maximum. You can expect to go up 3 to 7% on your maximums every four weeks.

Months 4-6

Directions: Perform each workout once per week, with at least one day of rest in between.

Workout 1

Exercise Sets Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Deadlift

Superset with Band Pull-Apart x 8

5 60%(5), 65%(5), 70%(3), 70%(3), 70%(3) 65%(5), 70%(3), 75%(3), 75%(3), 75%(3) 70%(3), 75%(3), 80%(2), 80%(2), 80%(2) 75%(3), 80%(2), 85%(2), 85%(2), 85%(2)
Romanian Deadlift*

Superset w/ Banded Hip Thrust x 8

4 40%(8), 45%(6), 50%(5), 50%(5) 45%(6), 50%(5), 55%(5), 55%(5) 50%(5), 55%(5), 60%(3), 60%(3) 55%(5), 60%(3), 65%(3), 65%(3),
Bent-Over Row 3×8 ** ** ** **

*Use your deadlift maximum to estimate weights for this

**Choose a weight you can complete 8 repetitions with

 

Workout 2

Exercise Sets Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Bench Press

Superset with Hanging Scapular Retraction x 5

5 60%(5), 65%(5), 70%(3), 70%(3), 70%(3) 65%(5), 70%(3), 75%(3), 75%(3), 75%(3) 70%(3), 75%(3), 80%(2), 80%(2), 80%(2) 75%(3), 80%(2), 85%(2), 85%(2), 85%(2)
Close-Grip Incline Press*

Superset w/ Overhead Pull-Apart x 8

4 50%(8), 55%(6), 60%(5), 60%(5) 55%(6), 60%(5), 65%(5), 65%(5) 60%(5), 65%(5), 70%(3), 70%(3) 65%(5), 70%(3), 75%(3), 75%(3),
Triceps (your choice) 3×10 ** ** ** **

*Incline Press 1RM is approximately 70% of bench press 1RM

**Choose a weight you can complete 10 repetitions with

 

Workout 3

Exercise Sets Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Back Squat

Superset with Banded Glutes Bridge x 8

5 60%(5), 65%(5), 70%(3), 70%(3), 70%(3) 65%(5), 70%(3), 75%(3), 75%(3), 75%(3) 70%(3), 75%(3), 80%(2), 80%(2), 80%(2) 75%(3), 80%(2), 85%(2), 85%(2), 85%(2)
Front Squat*

Superset w/ Cable Face Pull x 8

4 50%(8), 55%(6), 60%(5), 60%(5) 55%(6), 60%(5), 65%(5), 65%(5) 60%(5), 65%(5), 70%(3), 70%(3) 65%(5), 70%(3), 75%(3), 75%(3),
Reverse Lunge 3x6ea ** ** ** **

*Front Squat 1RM is approximately 70% of back squat 1RM

**Choose a weight you can complete 6 repetitions with (each leg)

 

Months 7-11

Workout 1

Exercise Sets Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Clean Pull* 4 50%(5), 55%(5), 60%(3), 60%(3) 55%(5), 60%(3), 65%(3), 65%(3) 60%(3), 65%(3), 70%(2), 70%(2) 65%(3), 70%(2), 75%(2), 75%(2),
Front Squat

Superset w/ Vertical Jump x 3

4 50%(8), 55%(6), 60%(5), 60%(5) 55%(6), 60%(5), 65%(5), 65%(5) 60%(5), 65%(5), 70%(3), 70%(3) 65%(5), 70%(3), 75%(3), 75%(3),
Dumbbell Lateral Step-up Superset w/ Box Jump x 3 4x6ea ** ** ** **
Reverse Lunge 3x6ea ** ** ** **

*Use your deadlift maximum to estimate weights for this

**Choose a weight you can complete 6 repetitions with

 

Workout 2

Exercise Sets Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Push Press* 4 35%(5), 35%(5), 40%(3), 40%(3) 40%(5), 40%(3), 47%(3), 47%(3) 45%(3), 47%(3), 50%(2), 50%(2) 50%(3), 55%(2), 55%(2), 55%(2),
Cluster Bench Press**

Superset w/ Plyo Push-up x 5

4 50%(6×3), 50%(6×3), 55%(6×2), 55%(6×2) 52%(6×3), 52%(6×3), 57%(6×2), 57%(6×2) 55%(6×3), 55%(6×3), 57%(6×2), 57%(6×2) 55%(6×3), 55%(6×3), 60%(6×2), 65%(6×2),
Dumbbell Incline Press 4×3 *** *** *** ***
Bent-Over Row 3×6 *** *** *** ***

*Use your bench press maximum to estimate weights for this

**Perform mini sets of prescribed repetitions (for example, 6×3 would be 6 mini-sets of 3 reps) with 12 to 15 seconds of rest in between. That’s one cluster. Perform four clusters total as prescribed.

Fair warning: You will be extremely sore the day after.

***Choose a weight that allows you to complete the prescribed reps

 

Workout 3

Exercise Sets Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Clean Pull* 4 50%(5), 55%(5), 60%(3), 60%(3) 55%(5), 60%(3), 65%(3), 65%(3) 60%(3), 65%(3), 70%(2), 70%(2) 65%(3), 70%(2), 75%(2), 75%(2),
Sumo Deadlift

Superset w/ Vertical Jump x 3

4 65%(5), 70%(5), 75%(3), 75%(3) 70%(5), 75%(3), 80%(3), 80%(3) 75%(3), 80%(3), 85%(2), 85%(2) 80%(5), 85%(2), 90%(1), 90%(1),
Single-Leg Barbell Good Morning Superset w/ DB High Pull x 3 4x6ea ** ** ** **
Physio-Ball Hamstring Curl 3x6ea ** ** ** **

*Use your deadlift maximum to estimate weights for this

**Choose a weight you can complete 6 repetitions with

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Conclusion

So we just put you through the ringer for a whole year.

Are you feeling stronger?

Are you feeling any more athletic?

The proof is in the pudding. Look at your first maxes, and now test them again. You should totally shatter your old records, provided you were doing everything else right, such eating enough, eating the right stuff, sleeping enough, etc.

These workouts were designed with one purpose in mind: Making you stronger than you’ve ever been before & to Improve Your 1 Rep Max. If your goal is to get big, this certainly won’t hurt your gains either. All of the workouts included in this cause a huge spike in blood testosterone (an anabolic hormone; its release adds size) levels, which in turn raises your levels of IGF-I (Insulin-like growth factor 1; another hormone that helps you build muscle), and so on down the chain of biological processes that make you an animal.

By Michael Schletter, CSCS*D, NSCA-CPT*D

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