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Determining your max for beginners (and a question about strong lifts)


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Hey guys, I'm pretty new, and I've got what's probably a typical question for new folk:

What is the safest (and quickest) way to determine a 1rm, 5rm, or 10rm on given exercises?

Now I realize the simplest method is pick up progressively heavier things until I can't with proper form, but is this the best way to do it or should I treat it more like a progression? How often do I test this while moving up to my actual max? Should I test this for different lifts on different days (not going to test OHP and BP on same day, but mixing legs with presses to test, etc.)?

 

I am not new to training, or even to training with weights, I've just been using a set of adjustable dumbbells at home, and I am no longer being challenged appropriately (3x10 shoulder presses and lunges @ 52# each is the only thing I'm still challenged by), and I know I need to hit the gym proper. I've determined that I want to use the StrongLifts program for a while, but aside from the OHP, I don't know my maxes, and even then I don't know my 5 rep max for shoulder press. Help here is greatly appreciated.

 

This kinda moves me to my second big question: looking at StrongLifts, I would only deadlift 3 sets every 2 weeks. Is this going to be enough, or should I increase it to 3 sets a workout and 9 every 2 weeks?

 

Thanks a ton for your help friends

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hi Jon,

 

1RM testing - frankly it is just lifting stuff until u can't. Rest 3-5mins between attempts. I find 3 reps the sweet spot to test if you are worried about getting stuck/no spotter etc. 

 

deadlifts once every 2 weeks - in the beginning this seems really easy. but once you get to serious weights, trust me you will appreciate it. 

 

i stayed on strong lifts for 5 months, then i found myself having to de-load all the time on failures (despite micro loading)and retrying for the last month. The volume/time it takes to do the workout starts to get crazy as well. BUT it is great to make quick solid gains right at the start. 

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my journey to kickass-dom

E1RM: SQ: 130.9kg (Jul18); BP: 103.2kg (Aug18); DL: 150kg (Jun18); 
FSQ: 103.2kg (May18); OHP: 66.9kg (Dec17); PP: 72.5kg (Jul18)
2.4km/Cooper's Test: (10:22, Jun18)
Vitals: 40 yo, 1.7m, 74kg (Jul18)

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50 minutes ago, godjira1 said:

hi Jon,

 

1RM testing - frankly it is just lifting stuff until u can't. Rest 3-5mins between attempts. I find 3 reps the sweet spot to test if you are worried about getting stuck/no spotter etc.  

 

Awesome, this is really what I was looking for. Is this something I could do in a week (find my max for the big lifts, one each day)?

 

50 minutes ago, godjira1 said:

deadlifts once every 2 weeks - in the beginning this seems really easy. but once you get to serious weights, trust me you will appreciate it. 

 

This is really good to know, thank you. When it does still feel light, do you think I ought to up the volume?

 

Quote

i stayed on strong lifts for 5 months, then i found myself having to de-load all the time on failures (despite micro loading)and retrying for the last month. The volume/time it takes to do the workout starts to get crazy as well. BUT it is great to make quick solid gains right at the start. 

 

Wow, honestly that's longer than I was expecting to stick with program. Granted, I hadn't spent a whole lot of time planning yet, and have no idea what to really expect with this style of training xD

 

Thanks for the quick reply, and I really appreciate the input

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7 hours ago, Jon, Destroyer of Mice said:

 

Awesome, this is really what I was looking for. Is this something I could do in a week (find my max for the big lifts, one each day)?

 

 

This is really good to know, thank you. When it does still feel light, do you think I ought to up the volume?

 

 

Wow, honestly that's longer than I was expecting to stick with program. Granted, I hadn't spent a whole lot of time planning yet, and have no idea what to really expect with this style of training xD

 

Thanks for the quick reply, and I really appreciate the input

 

In order:

 

You can test all 5 in one day. Getting a starting value isn't actually as important as actually starting is. The program calls for you to start with the bar, and if you aren't already comfortable with Barbell movements, I would recommend starting there. If you're worried about it being too easy, just make double jumps to begin with until it does get hard.

 

Dont stress too much about adding volume when it feels easy, that won't last, and added volume will likely only cause you to stall earlier than you should.

 

I'd suggest you don't plan how long you'll do the program for, just keep on it until it no longer allows for adequate recovery. I managed to eek out 12 months of progress from StrongLifts, and every program since has had slower and more difficult progress. Take what you can get from newbie programs, you'll never have another opportunity to progress this rapidly again.

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Junior sums it up - u will never progress at this rate again. 

 

Re your questions. my 2c worth:

 

1) doing the 1RM (or calculating off 3RM), i reckon you could do it like a powerlifting comp style and really do it all in a day. Or over a week, I don't think it matters hugely... the road to being kickass is a long one and the actual starting point is almost irrelevant in the long run (UNLESS IT'S TOO HEAVY AND YOU GET INJURED, sorry for the caps).

 

2) re deadlift volume while light. I did extra volume, but it got harder quite quickly.

 

So i think go ahead with additional sets until it feels tough (ie. you need to rest more than 2mins).  i know my starting weights for 5x5... even though I was reasonably fit I had next to zero experience in free weights then so I started with 20kg (i.e. just the bar) for bench + OHP, 40kg for squat/deadlift/row. This allowed me to keep "greasing the groove" and practise the lifts over and over again. And you will need very little rest (1.5~2.0min) between sets for quite some time. Where I first got stuck and had to de-load and retry on the 5 reps: 45kg on OHP, 70kg on BP, 90kg on SQT, 110kg on DL. Now that I actually go thru the records, I would have been better off moving on an intermediate prog like 531 (which I am still on, albeit in a modified form) rather than banging my head against the wall on those lifts once I reached the stalling point, but YMMV.  The time for micro-progressions was early rather than later, so I messed up a little there. Not the end of the world but the early linear gains are the easiest to achieve.  

 

I stopped doing rows and did 3 sets of chin-ups or pull-ups early on. 

 

3) I think u can stay on the prog basically until u stop progressing and keep stalling/rebooting. 

 
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my journey to kickass-dom

E1RM: SQ: 130.9kg (Jul18); BP: 103.2kg (Aug18); DL: 150kg (Jun18); 
FSQ: 103.2kg (May18); OHP: 66.9kg (Dec17); PP: 72.5kg (Jul18)
2.4km/Cooper's Test: (10:22, Jun18)
Vitals: 40 yo, 1.7m, 74kg (Jul18)

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re: 1RM testing. If you've never worked with a barbell before, a word of advice:

 

DON'T

 

If you've never done barbell lifts before it's not wise to work up to a 1RM unless you are under supervision of a trainer. I would wait about 1-2 months until you feel comfortable with the lifts and weight before you attempt a 1RM. I wouldn't attempt anything higher than a 3RM. 

 

I never ran stronglifts or any 5x5 style program, but I am a big fan of adding additional sets of deadlifts on the deadlift days (3x5 or 5x5). I think the deadlift volume of 1x5 is just not enough to really master the movement and see results. But ultimately tailor it to you and how you feel.

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6 hours ago, miss_marissa said:

re: 1RM testing. If you've never worked with a barbell before, a word of advice:

 

DON'T

QFMFT. Setting yourself back a month or more from an injury will slow your progress much more than starting 10 lbs lighter than you should've on a beginner program.

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 Ballroom dancer, data nerd, calisthenics dabbler

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The reason the program is only 1x5 for deadlifts is because of all the squat volume in the program. If you would prefer more deadlift volume, at minimum you would want to drop the working set squats on the day you are doing those deadlifts. I ran stronglifts originally and my deadlift was easily able to outpace my squat advances.

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On 6/5/2017 at 11:01 AM, miss_marissa said:

re: 1RM testing. If you've never worked with a barbell before, a word of advice:

 

DON'T

 

 

quoted for extra truth!

 

The other reason you don't test a 1RM as a novice is because your 1RM LITERALLY changes from week to week when you are a novice. What you can lift one week will go up the next week when you are new to lifting, so there no benefit to finding your 1RM or 5Rep max, because it will change in 3-7 days anyway.

 

Start a 5x5 program light and workup from there, like Junior said, start with the bar and you won't regret it. 

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