Why don’t we do 1 Rep Max Deadlifts or Back Squats?
This is a pretty common question that I get, especially as we’re nearing the end of our deadlift emphasis. We’ve been doing a LOT of deadlifts recently and I keep getting that excited look from people whenever they start to see what’s coming…
“Ooooooo!! I see what you’re doing… start with high volume deadlifts at lighter weight, then we slowly transition to lower volume but heavier weight… you cunning little coach you… are we going to do a 1RM soon?!?!”
And then, I have to let the wind out of their sails.
“No, but we WILL be doing a 3 rep max and a 5 rep max!”
“aww OK 🙁 ”
Here’s the thing. As much as I want you to be able to push the absolute max of your effort and potential, we have to look at what we are actually training for and what inherent risks are involved when going for a maximum effort lift. No matter how awesome you’re feeling, there’s always some risk.
Your HEALTH is our priority here, not chasing numbers. Speaking from personal experience here…. when we start to chase numbers, that’s whenever we have injuries and little tweaks that could have definitely been avoided if we would have just taken a different approach. So when we crush your hopes and dreams of a 1RM day on the deadlift or a squat, it’s not because we enjoy being mean, it’s because we genuinely always want you to be your healthiest!
Going for a 1 rep max in a deadlift or a squat has the highest risk for injury out of any of the lifts that we perform.
The deadlift is tricky. Some people say that it’s completely safe to perform a 1RM deadlift because if the technique on the lift starts to go, you can simply drop the bar and move on. But that’s not always the case… even with poor technique (rounded upper and lower back, craning the neck, loose midline), you can still lift substantial loads. We call that lifting past your technique. Lifting past the technique is dangerous, but it’s not always easy to spot or feel. We can avoid this by simply avoiding the test of a 1RM in the first place.
Same thing on back squats. You can load up a ton of weight, descend with control, but then bounce hard out of the bottom, lose tension in the midline, start shifting at the hips, and then walk away feeling like your low back was crushed (because it was!).
In our experience, we find that on 1 rep maxes, it’s very easy to lift past your technique. On 3 and 5 rep maxes, it’s much easier to keep that technique in check because you’re having to perform multiple and repetitive reps rather than just lifting the weight at all cost.
Plus, if we want to measure what true strength is, we don’t just want to measure what we can do for 1 rep. We want to measure what we can do for multiple reps. Repeatable strength is the name of the game in order to maximize our bodies outside of the gym! Buh-buh-buh-BONUS: More volume of weight lifted –> more muscular stimulation –> better muscular gains.
Sounds pretty good to me!
So, that’s why we don’t do 1 rep max deadlifts or back squats. It’s not to pop your balloons of joy, it’s to make sure we’re keeping you safe, and so we are training for repeatable strength.
If you have any questions about programming, I’m always open for a chat!