Don't Estimate 1-Rep Maxes
23 November 20
If there's one lesson I've learned from the past two months, it's the title of this post. Granted, I did make my 2nd challenge goal of squatting 325 lbs. But the baseline that was established at the beginning and the current metrics based off the previous weeks progress would've had me squatting much more weight that I was capable of doing today.
To put things into perspective, I've been out of the gym 12 days (last day in was Nov 11). Last week, I worked more hours at work to catch up on tasks, and decided I'd use the week as an "off week". Today's session was used to assess where my 1-rep max on the squat stood. Going in, I was skeptical of hitting my goal number (325 lbs). I spent the weekend working out in the yard and didn't really feel rested leading up to this afternoon. Starting out, I performed the first single at 135 lbs and performed 185, 225, and 255 following the first set. One issue that I had was unracking the bar on an uneven surface--stepping right out of the rack put the feet on a slight slope, so I needed to take a much further walkout from the rack to get on level surface. 275 is when the bar started to feel heavier. I got to 305 lbs, and it took a little bit more effort than I would've liked. So, I rested a few minutes before attempting 315. 315 felt considerably harder than the previous attempts, but it wasn't yet to the point where I was "fighting gravity" to get the weight up. I decided to attempt 325. Just right out of the hole, it was definitely a struggle. However, after I got out of the slight, sticking point, the rest was relatively smooth. So, in terms of reaching the goal of squatting 325 lbs, the goal was met.
However, there are some points that make this feel like a less-than accomplished goal:
1. Estimating a 1-Rep Maximum Instead of Setting an Actual One: This is, hands-down, the biggest flaw I believe I set doing this second challenge program. I used the 1 x 5 at 275 lbs I did at the end of the first challenge as a reference for estimating my 1-rep maximum. Up to that point, I've never estimated a 1-rep max when setting up a program. I would always go in, test my 1-rep max, and then set up my programming based off the number set in the gym. For this challenge, though, I decided to use an estimated 1-rep max. One issue that I feel made this approach questionable, looking back, was the execution of the 1 x 5 itself. It was a much slower cadence set of 5 in terms of 5-repetition sets I've done in the past. So, for sets of 5 reps that I've done at 75% of my 1-rep max, this set was probably more like 85% of my 1-rep max when I factor in the time it took to complete the set and the effort required. I was able to progress over the course of the program, but the last workout had my 60% 1 RM set at 235 lbs. Which, if you do the math, would put my 1 rep-max around 390 lbs. And after assessing my squat today, I can say for certain that my 1 RM is nowhere near that number yet. Time and experience gave rise to my skepticism w/ my "estimated" number, and today's assessment validated my skepticism. Not only was the number off, but I could even tell over the past few weeks that the force production I would expect at 60% of a 1 RM wasn't up to par for the weight I was lifting. Needless to say, I won't be estimating my 1-rep maxes again.
2. Structure of Exercises & Lack of Volume: I set up my program to have me squat 4x a week. However, it should be noted that this consisted of 4 completely different squat styles, so I was only doing my regular squat 1x a week. The lack of frequency, with regards to doing my regular squat, I believe played a significant part in my less than ideal progression. I've validated this several times over my training tenure--if I focus on other accessory exercises (meant to supplement the main exercise) equal to or in excess of the main exercise, the main exercise usually suffers in some capacity. In addition to the lack of frequency, I also believe the low volume of the program had an adverse affect on the increases of strength I actually saw at the end. None of the exercises during any of the workouts were above 20 total reps for a given workout. This is the first program I've done where the total volume on a main movement was less than 20 total reps...for a workout week. And, in short, it wasn't very effective with regards to increasing strength substantially.
3. Time Away from the Gym: This challenge, or program period, had me away from the gym much more than I would've liked. There were several weeks where I was out for at least 5 days. And the weeks coming back in after being out were usually spent knocking the rust off. Some of the time away was planned (early October), but other periods were unplanned. Overall, I usually avoid spending large segments of time away from the gym, and this period was, unfortunately, quite the exception.
While I'm quite critical of the progress made on this program, there are a few items that I found to be beneficial w/ the program:
1. Health: My knee felt great during the course of the program. I didn't have any recovery issues post-workout like I've had in the past, and I'm cautiously optimistic that I may be overcoming the tendonitis I've been wrestling with for over two years. So, this is definitely the biggest upside to the past two months--I managed to keep my knee healthy and progress w/o having any issues w/ that knee.
2. Acceleration: I definitely have more acceleration in the 200 +- 20 lbs range than I've had before, and this is being 10 lbs lighter in weight than I was pre-pandemic. 255 lbs went up like a rocket, at least for a single, so I definitely believe there's a good baseline of acceleration that I'll have moving forward.
Overall, would the King K Rool Challenge be considered an accomplishment w/ regards to my squat? Per my initial set goal, I guess. But, it's also a period where I've learned more about my program construction shortcomings than I have in previous years. And with these lessons, I'll be much more prudent in how I go about constructing my future training plans.