When it comes to weight training, nothing is more exhilarating than maxing out.
And although the basis of maxing out is simple, there is more to it than just loading up with a bunch of weight and going at it. There is some strategy that should go into a max-out session.
The purpose of testing your 1-rep max (1RM) is to determine the maximum amount of weight that you can lift for one repetition of a given exercise.
Below is the typical protocol I like to follow for working up to a 1RM…
Ideally, you should begin with a 5-10 minute light-paced general warm-up.
Then you should start to drill the lift you are testing, beginning at a light intensity, and gradually ramping up to a higher intensity.
Start with 1-3 sets of 5 (using a weight you could actually do 20+ times).
The purpose of these sets is only to groove the movement and to get some blood flowing through the system. You don’t want to be expending much energy on any of these sets.
Then move on to 1-3 sets of 3 (using a weight you could actually do 10-15 times).
You should start to feel the weight, just a little bit, on these sets. At no point should you have to grind out reps. Each 3 reps of every set should feel crisp and relatively easy.
Finally, start taking singles the rest of the way up.
Your first couple of single attempts should still feel pretty smooth. If I must choose a number, you should actually be able to do 5(ish) reps with your first single. If you’re barely making your first attempt(s), you have over-estimated an appropriate first attempt, or you have wasted too much energy on your work-up sets (or even a combination of both).
Once you start taking singles, it is pretty straightforward from there. If you successfully lift the weight, add weight, repeat, and continue to do this until you cannot add any more weight. Whatever the heaviest weight you have lifted one time is, is your 1-rep max.
This is only general layout for how to go about maxing out. I have more detailed suggestions that I would share if anyone is interested. Let me know in the comments!