Maxing Out: Bench Press

by Louise | October 12th, 2010 | Strength Training

Depending on the build one is seeking, one might strength train just a couple days a week, or possibly every day of the week. (Hopefully, those who strength train every day alternate the muscles they work in order to allow the used muscles to recover and rebuild.) It’s great to have a strength training routine; many people have a strict pattern (e.g. lifting on Mondays and Thursdays, with a specific routine on each day) to which they adhere. However, if you’re someone who is going to the weight room to try to build up strength, there is one important process with which you need to break up your strength training schedule: maxing out.

First of all, this fact must be stressed: maxing out does not mean “adding fifty pounds to the amount that you normally bench press and seeing if you can lift it.” Do not do that; it is dangerous, and can lead to some serious injuries. (That is, unless you can’t budge the bar in the first place!) You should always have a spotter when maxing out, for obvious reasons.

As a general rule, whatever weight you use to do repetitions is 70% of what you might expect to max out on. For example, if you normally do three sets of eight to ten reps at 70 lbs., you might expect to max out on 100 lbs. However, you shouldn’t start out on this weight. Start off by doing half of a set at your normal weight. Rest for a few minutes. Then, add about 10% of what you normally lift (e.g. for 70 lbs, one might round to 10 lbs.) to this weight and do one repetition, two if it’s easy. Rest another few minutes, add another 5%-10% of the original weight, depending on how the first one felt, and do a repetition. If this still feels “easy,” repeat the process. If you already feel close to the max, only add 5 lbs., rest, and lift, until you fail on a lift; this is your max.

You should try maxing out every three months and track your max lifts. This way, you can bench with a goal in mind, tracking your improvement.

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All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.