TweetUp Your Max With Singles
By Mike Westerdal
There has always been a debate on whether or not performing a single rep during your workout is a good idea. Many people think that if you want to know how much you can lift for one rep you can simply look it up in a chart and avoid any chance of injury. Others feel that there simply is no reason to max out. I've heard people say that you should worry about perfect form and measure your success based on the way you look, not how much weight you are pushing. Granted, if you are a bodybuilder you may not need to do singles but for the rest of us inserting singles in a program can be helpful for various reasons. In fact I swear by them.
Let's face it everyone that lifts weights can't help but talk about it. Just the fact that you're bigger than most people you socialize with or meet will often spark a conversation on the topic. Whether your buddy lifts or knows nothing about it you are likely to be asked the question, "How much can you bench press?" Are you going to reply, I can do 315 lbs for 6 repetitions? It just doesn't paint the same picture as saying I put up 365 lbs. Maybe you could care less what people think and the bragging rights don't matter to you. However if you are a powerlifter or an Olympic lifter you will be tested with a one-rep max. Most high school and college football programs test their players with a one-rep max as well. If you don't practice the one rep lift how will you be prepared?
If somebody asks you what you bench press, you could always give them a projected max based on what the chart says right? Not necessarily. One of the most important reasons for doing singles is to break past barriers. Using our previous example, if you do 315 lbs for 6 reps you should be able to get a one-rep max of 365 lbs. This is not always the case. People set up limits in their minds that are tough to overcome. I swear I have seen people do 295 lbs for three reps but they just can't get 300 lbs. This has nothing to do with strength. This has to do with mental barriers and confidence issues. I personally would not tell someone my one rep max based on reps. If I know that I have never benched that weight than I just can't take credit for it based on a chart. Performing a single lift in the bench is a great way to build confidence. Nothing feels better than actually beating your personal best. If you keep doing singles you will break past sticking points and barriers that you have set for yourself. If you have a goal of benching 300 or 400 lbs the numbers can be very difficult to prepare for when you don't practice singles. Working your way up with singles will give you the confidence you need to reach your goals.
Many bodybuilders concentrate on their form and don't care about how much their max is. Lifting singles can actually help your form. When you are performing a one-rep max you have to have perfect form or you will not complete the lift successfully. When you are using lighter weight and doing many reps there is a lot of room for cheating and bad form. You can still complete the lift with sub par form by using other muscles to help. But, when you are maxing out you have only one chance to press the weight and to do so you need absolutely perfect form. You have to be mentally prepared and your groove has to be precise. There is no room for being sloppy. Before you start working out with singles it's a good idea to practice strict form with higher reps first. Developing perfect technique is the key to a heavy single. If you are lifting 275 with careless technique for five reps you won't be able to do a single of any significance. Build a base and let your body adjust to the heavier workloads. For 2 weeks lift with reps of five. After you have finished this stage you can progress and do sets of 3 reps. Now your form should be down and you have should have adjusted to lifting heavier weights. You can now insert singles to your routine that will help you in your quest for a big bench.
Exploit your weak areas with a single. Like I mentioned before there is more room for error when doing sets with higher reps. You may not be able to determine what aspect of the bench needs work. When you max out you will tend to see where you fell short. This is great for evaluating what area needs improvement. Maybe you couldn't lock out and you know that you need to work harder on your triceps. Lifting is all trial and error and the single is an effective way to measure your progress and assess what needs to be changed to break the stalemate.
Singles will help you develop a different kind of strength compared to lifting higher reps. When you lift heavy weights you bring your attachments into the lift. Tendons and ligaments are often the key to unlocking your potential. If you are constantly lifting with higher reps you don't activate your attachments. Functional strength lies in not in the muscles but in your tendons and ligaments. You've heard the expression that you are only as strong as your weakest link. Lifting heavier weight will strengthen your weakest link, which may not be getting the attention it so desperately deserves.
To follow are some tips for a successful single. Proper warm up is essential to prevent a tear. At the same time there is a balance between warming up and tiring yourself out. I recommend the following before doing a single.
Warm up set of 10 reps with a very light weight.
Set of 5-6 reps.
Set of 2-3 with a heavier weight.
Set for 1 rep with a weight closer to your max.
Perform your single.
Some experts think that when performing a single you need a shorter rest period between sets because the progression of sets in warm up is shorter than in your normal workout. Powerlifters will assume that because they are dealing with heavier weights they need a longer rest period between sets. I recommend waiting until you have completely returned to your normal breathing pace. Once this has happened get yourself mentally prepared and than it's time for another set. Don't wait so long that you get tight. Let somebody else do a set, get a drink of water and visualize your next lift. Performing a back off set at the end of your single lift will help you preserve the workload. It will also give you the pump that you are looking for.
Follow this advice and you can incorporate singles into your program. Doing them once a month is a good starting point but as you become more experienced it is okay to do them more often. Everyone is different so try for yourself and let singles help you build confidence, strengthen your attachments, exploit your weak point, develop perfect form, and break past your personal barriers.
Disclaimer: Steroid use is illegal in a vast number of countries around the world. This is not without reason. Steroids should only be used when prescribed by your doctor and under close supervision. Steroid use is not to be taken lightly and we do not in any way endorse or approve of illegal drug use. The information is provided on the same basis as all the other information on this site, as informational/entertainment value.
Please take the time to read these threads!
Fitness Geared Shoutbox rules
FG member signature rules
Fitness Geared Forum Rules
TweetI was on a bench program once that put about 35 lbs. on my bench in like 3 1/2 weeks. It had me benching five consecutive days a week, and when I was younger (15 years old) i could handle it. Tried it again in college, age 21, and pulled something. Dammit...anyways, here it is:
Week 1: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
5 sets of 5, 3 minutes rest in between
5 sets of 15, 30-45 seconds rest in between
Week 2: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
5 sets of 5, 2 minutes rest in between
5 sets of 15, 30-45 seconds rest in between
Week 3: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
5 sets of 5, 1 1/2 minutes rest
5 sets of 15, 30-45 seconds rest
Week 4: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
5 sets of 3, 3 minutes rest
5 sets of 15, 30-45 seconds rest
Every week, the weight lifted for the 5 sets of 5 was the same, same for every set. I was doing it with 225 at the time. For the T/TH 5 sets of 15 (12-15, actually), the weight was always the same as well, and you were supposed to lift that weight explosively. When you moved up to your 5 sets of 3 reps (week 4), the weight moved up as well. At the beginning I was struggling to get 5 reps on my last set with 225 even with all that rest, and by the end of week 3, I was doing 5 sets of 5 with 225 with only 1 minute rest in between my sets. My 1RM went from 250 to 285 in a little less than 4 weeks. You actually don't end up doing your 1RM until week 6, but I just couldn't wait...teenagers...
P.S.-High school and college (even pro) football players aren't measured by their 1-RMs anymore, haven't been in a while. The standard is how many times you can bench 225 lbs. Usually 20 is considered good for any position except line, where those big boys routinely put it up 40-45 times. In high school, when recruiting for college, they'll occasionally make an exception and see how many times you can bench 185 lbs. Notice that this is QUITE different from your 1RM. When training for my 1RM when I was trying to hit 405 lbs. a few summers ago, I could barely put up 225 lbs. for 15 reps--all of my strength was in the lower rep range, and my muscle fibers were geared for anaerobic recruitment. Nowadays, older and wiser and less interested in lifting heavy-man-weight, I routinely get 225 lbs. for 28-30 reps on my warm-ups in about 25 seconds.