To mods: Please move this to the "post your articles" sections. for some reason it won't let me post there at all. thank you.
Maxing, is it really necessary?
This is a question I am asked constantly by my friends. “I am bodybuilding, not powerlifting, so do I really need to max out?” These friends of course aren’t really doing either, they are just going into the gym every other day, going on the machine section, looking for girls, and then heading over to do free weights. Which free weights, might you ask? Curls, standing preacher curls and concentration curls. Clearly, they don’t have any clue what they are doing. (You can always tell this when folks head straight to the dumbells or EZ curl bars. Back to the question, the answer is quite simply, yes.
While you may not care how much you lift, or want to know, you need to know. In order to plan your workouts you must have a main number from which to derive percentages. Most plans are laid out in a fashion as such:
# of reps x % of max
If you are attempting to gain the most from your workout you need to use a newly updated max. Even when attempting to gain sheer muscle mass, you won’t make nearly as impressive gains with weight that is too light. Here is why.
When you are gaining muscle, what your body is doing is regenerating muscle fibers town in the process of contracting, or simply stressing muscles. When muscle fibers tear more will grow back, and in greater volume. When you put 100 pounds of pressure on a muscle that can only hold a maximum of 120 pounds more fibers will tear than is the same weight is placed on a muscles that is capable of lifting 400 pounds. Allow me to elaborate. If you have ten muscle fibers (just an example) in a very small or weak muscle and you place 5 pounds on them, some may tears. However, if you have 50 muscle fibers and you place 5 pounds on them there will be 1/5 as much weight exerted on each. While some may tear, the percentage will be lower than that of the muscle with ten muscle fibers. Now comes the gaining phase. Each muscle is forced to compensate for its new workload and it will “train” itself to become stronger, and, in turn, larger. The muscle fibers will be forced to grow back, and in greater volume, as I previously stated.
So, if you were to workout with ½ of what you would be working out with, many fewer fibers will tear, and gains will be less than impressive. Even bodybuilders must max out occasionally to derive their workouts from. Obviously, I do not mean you must max out every other week. Generally the rule of thumb is once per 3 months. This gives your body time to get into its rhythm without undertraining your muscles.
For those of you who do not have a current workout, do not max out to begin with. Workout for a couple weeks and allow your muscles to adapt to the new ways in which they are being used. This will also allow time for your nervous system to learn balance your body and limbs while lifting. Then, once you have become accustomed to lifting, (generally no more than a few weeks) max out. If you are not training for a specific sport and are training for strength here is a fairly good workout for your main lifts. I cannot tell you what “accessory” lifts to do (i.e. dumbell bench, curls, Romanian deadlifts etc.) but for you main lifts:
1st set: 8x70%
2nd set: 7x75%
3rd set: 5x80%
4th set: 4x85%
Generally toward the time you are going to max you want to end your sets higher in weight to ready your nervous system for the load placed on them and re-train your muscles for high weight and low reps.
Some others may like repetition; this as well is all right for some bodies, but remember all bodies work differently.
1st-4th sets: 8x75%
I would also recommend 4 day splits for beginners. This also involves 4 main lifts. I suggest: Flat Bench press, Squats, Inclined bench press, Power cleans. (If you want higher trap development substitute hang cleans for power cleans.)
Day 1: Bench. (Biceps, triceps, pectorals, shoulders)
Day 2: Squats. (Quads, hamstrings, lower back, abdominals)
Day 3: Incline. (Shoulders, triceps, pectorals)
Day 4: Power Cleans. (Traps, calves, biceps, hamstrings, upper back)
Day 5: Optional (Mild cardio)
Thread: Maxing: Is it Really Necessary?