Training Cycle Notes: Prepping to Max Test

One thing that I believe is greatly overlooked in most programs is asking the question “are we actually ready to max test?”

This is a real thing. Putting a maximal load on the bar is the most dangerous thing we can do in the weight room. As coaches, we better make certain that our athletes are 100% ready to max test. 

The cycle we are currently running has our athletes max testing during the fourth week and we are using Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 approach to prep. We are running 5-3-1 for our Trap Bar Dead Lift, Bench Press and Back Squat. 

Now, this is one of my absolute favourite ways to get athletes ready for two reasons:

  1. The athletes get comfortable under a sizable load. Athletes need to have performed some low rep heavy sets if we are going to test them. 
  2. You get country strong and ready to put up big numbers. 

The protocol for 5-3-1 calls for 3 work sets of either 5, 3, or 1 depending on which week you are completing. The magic, in my opinion, is the last set which is a rep-out set. 

The full protocol we will be on for this cycle is as follows:

  • Week 1:
    • Warm up sets
    • 3 X 5 @ 75%, 80%, and 85% (rep-out)
  • Week 2:
    • Warm up sets
    • 3 X 3 @ 80%, 85%, and 90% (rep-out)
  • Week 3: 
    • Warm up sets
    • 3 X 1 @ 85%, 90%, and 95% (rep-out)
  • Week 4: 
    • Max Testing 
  • Week 5: 
    • De-Load Week 

By doing this approach we know about where an athlete should test at based on their performance on set 3 of week 3 (95% X 1 + the rep-out). We know that if they only get 1 or 2 then we may start their testing at 102.5% and work from there. Additionally, if they smoke 95% for 3 or more we may shoot for a more aggressive goal. This really helps with the athletes to have realistic expectations about what they should be hitting. 

An important thing to mention about the rep-out set is that we are not looking for an absolute maximal amount of reps. We cut the reps when you see the athlete begin to have technical failure. This means the coach has to be the decision-maker if the athlete needs to end their set. I would rather the athlete leave one rep in the tank as opposed to grinding out an ugly rep. Quality reps lead to long-term results. 

Personally, I am fired up to see how testing goes. We have been building towards this for a few cycles (4 to be exact), the guys are prepared, and big numbers are on the way!

Let’s get it! 

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