Maxing out, where you do a single rep of the absolute maximum amount of weight you can handle, is a great way to show off how much you can lift and even help you grow more strength. However, pushing your body to the absolute limit all the time doesn’t build strength, and it can be dangerous. There are other ways to get excellent results without the dangerous repercussions of maxing out.
Is Maxing Out Bad?
Under certain circumstances, maxing out from time to time can be a good thing. This applies to competitive weightlifters or powerlifters whose entire goal is to lift the max amount consistently. However, other considerations go into those sports than maxing out. For our purposes, we’re going to assume you’re not a competitive weightlifter and focus on why maxing out isn’t good for most people (those looking to build muscle and strength).
Fewer Lifts Possible
Since you can only max out on a few lifts, you get less time under tension, actively working out the muscles. And trying to push yourself to lift max more times is extremely dangerous and can lead to an injury that will set you back further.
Doesn’t Promote Hypertrophy
Hypertrophy is the name of the increase and growth of muscle cells. Hypertrophy happens when muscles are under strain and tension for a longer period of time. The short amount of time lifting the maximum amount you can handle won’t encourage your muscles to grow, making maxing out pointless for those looking to build strength and muscle.
Wear and Tear
Maxing out puts a lot of strain on your muscles and will ultimately result in far more wear and tear than taking a lower weight for more reps. This wear and tear can lead to increased fatigue and injury. Several methods are safer, resulting in less wear and tear, but still, they bring you closer to your goals.
1. Max Out Reps, Not weight
If you still want to push your limits but simply want to do it safely, choose a weight that you can push out 3 to 4 times safely. Not your absolute max, but definitely pushing your envelope. Rep at this weight, focusing on safe form and gradually increasing the number of reps. Doing this keeps your body under tension longer and safely, ultimately building strength and muscle faster.
2. Sub-Maximal Lifting
The last thing we’ll tell you to do is stop lifting heavy. The goal here is to lift heavy, but not at the limit of your abilities. Sub-maximal lifting, where you still lift heavy but not at the ultimate limit, will let you build muscle without losing the max time under tension. You’ll also benefit from the load, time under tension, and muscle-mind connection while being safer. The prevailing wisdom is that 3-5 reps at 350 are a lot more impressive than one rep at 375.
3. Max Out Infrequently
Although maxing out isn’t an effective way to build muscle, you may still want to do it to gauge your progress (although it’s certainly not the only way to do that). If you choose to max out from time to time, try to limit it to 3 or 4 times a year at the end of your training cycle. This is the perfect marriage of lots of build-up and lots of time to recover from a serious attempt.