I love one rep max day, and you probably do too! It’s exciting, an opportunity to put some numbers on the board that show your progress and reveal your hard work in the form of concrete data. But there is a problem with testing your 1RM. At high weights, form begins to break down and the body begins to compensate in order to achieve the day’s goal: lift heavy.
If done too often, this process of repeatedly allowing the body to do what it has to in order move heavy weight will change the way you move, and start to erase the movement patterns you’ve carefully been coached towards. As technical concerns are erased, the chance of small injury increases, and injured athletes can’t progress at all.
An easy way to think of this is that if you’re testing, you’re not building. 1RMs don’t make you strong, they reveal what you’ve already built. If you want to get strong, you have to follow the programs, listen to the percentages your coach suggests, stay true to them as much as possible, and don’t freelance.
One additional drawback to lifting heavy all the time is that it shortens your weightlifting cycles, allowing you to get less work done. In a typical eight week lifting cycle, most lifters will only touch a potential personal record weight once or twice because each max you hit is gas you no longer have in the tank. Even if you mobilize, hydrate, and eat well as recovery (and you should), your brain can only do so many extremely difficult lifts in a cycle, and will need a reset (this is where deload weeks come in) in order to continue sending the right messages to the right muscles, in the right order.
A typical program progresses athletes from a relatively low percentage of their current max weight for high rep sets, 8 or 10 reps, thru higher percentages in sets of 5 or 3, and finally to sets of one at and above their current limit. This allows the athlete to develop new muscle at high rep ranges, strengthen it at middle ranges, and potentiate muscles and express strength at 1RM. To push heavy every day is to try to build a house starting with the roof first.
Is this boring? It can be. Strength is unfortunately not something you acquire in one day, like a Rocky training montage. Strength is a brick-by-brick build, created step-by-step each and every session over the course of weeks, months, and years. One session isn’t going to make or break you but consistency will.
Your best bet is to show up each day with intention to get better, even if it’s just at one skill. Approach each session as a chance to grow and push yourself. Remember that a new eight rep max will eventually translate to a one rep max if you work, even if it doesn’t seem as fun in the moment. Keep in mind that each rep needs its own focus. If you do this, you *will* get strong and the work will pay off on one rep max day, all without you ever having to worry about anything more than training with intention every day.