I had an athlete ask the other day what the difference between a 1RM (One Rep Max) and a heavy single is, since I am often going for heavy singles in my training, but don’t go for a true 1RM nearly as often.
So, let’s start with the 1RM, what we spend all our time training for. A one rep maximum (1RM) is the maximum amount of weight one can lift in a single repetition for a given exercise. Depending on the programming, testing a 1RM should be done every 8-12 weeks; any less, and there won’t be much (if any) gain, but any more, and the confidence level of the athlete will have taken a significant hit. Testing a 1RM is the only way to test where the athlete is, the added benefit being the confidence boost that comes along with a PR.
A heavy single, in my opinion, is an optimal training tool to assist in the development of technique, speed, and confidence. These are lifts done at 90-95% of an athlete’s 1RM. Spencer Arnold, the 2012 69kg American Open Champion, often remarks that “there is nothing that stimulates the mind and body like a lift at 95% or higher” (Glory). Training heavy singles is paramount in an athlete’s programming because of its ability to develop technical proficiency, but also in creating a mental and physical toughness.
That being said, I usually go for a heavy single in my Clean and Jerk or Snatch every week (if not both). Do I PR every week? Absolutely not: I’ve matched before, but some days I’m 10-15# off my PR, and that’s okay. Each training session I train with heavy single(s), I have trained my body to handle heavy weight with good technique. If my technique begins to falter, I stop adding weight.
Should everyone test for a 1RM? This is an often-contested subject, with many different answers, none of which are necessarily wrong. Again, this is my own personal opinion here, but I do not think anyone should be testing for a 1RM in their first six months of training. The body simply is not able to handle the stress on the central nervous system that early on, nor are an athlete’s motor pathways functioning at a level high enough to sustain the rigorous training necessary.
Technique must always come before weight, so if you’re new to training at this level, don’t go beyond where your technique suffers.
Weigh in with your thoughts: How often do you try for a 1RM and do you use heavy singles? Let us know in the comments below.
Feature photo: West Point Flickr Stream.