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
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
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