Why You Should Stop Maxing Out Every Week
By Abby Heffern
As a coach, one of my biggest pet peeves is the “max out every week” mentality. It’s the athlete who either doesn’t have a coach and innocently doesn’t know any better, or worse, the athlete who has a coach and chooses to disregard the program whenever he/she feels like it to try to PR her snatch/clean and jerk because it’s fun and feeds the ego. It’s true that beginners will often PR every week or very often as they learn the technique and it catches up to their already existing strength base. But this usually happens organically or even accidentally, and not in some purposeful effort to “max out.”
What I’m talking about is the athlete who can’t hit 80% with solid technique, but thinks it’s appropriate to try to add a kilo every week to their maxes just so they can say they hit a new PR. What’s so wrong with this? Well, let me tell you:
I would be pretty surprised if you told me you were maxing out every week with no misses. Odds are you’re missing a lot, especially as you continue to exhaust yourself with never-ending max attempts. Missing multiple heavy lifts regularly is costly to both your body and nervous system, resulting in a feedback cycle of constant exhaustion and more missed lifts- so you’re never actually performing at 100%. Which brings me to:
If you are a somewhat experienced lifter who has been lifting regularly for a while and you’re hitting a new max every week, IT IS NOT A TRUE MAX. It is highly unlikely that your body is operating at 100% with only a few days of recovery between attempts.
It wastes time and energy that you could be spending on the things that will actually make you better. The people I usually see trying to max out every week are the people with a lot of absolute strength (squat, pull, press) who feel like they should have higher snatch and clean numbers than they do. If you have a lot more strength in the basic lifts than you have in your Olympic lifts, you most likely have some holes in your technique. Stop wasting time with max attempts, figure out what the real problem is, and start the months of work you probably need to do to clean up your technique so you can hit a PR of more than one kilo.
All this being said, I would never ever claim there is a “right” or “wrong” way to train, as every individual has different needs and responds to training in different ways. Many lifters have found success with the Bulgarian System which involves training at near maximal weights on a regular basis. It becomes a problem when these methods are used incorrectly- by athletes who don’t yet have correct or consistent technique, who don’t know when their bodies have had enough, and are looking for the fast pass to heavier weights.
At the end of the day, nothing beats a well planned and thought out training cycle that spans over weeks or months at a time and has you peaking at the right moment. In my experience, long plateaus and injury are almost guaranteed with athletes who attempt maxes every week, especially because they’re usually doing so with sub-par technique. Lifting optimal weights consistently instead of maximal weights consistently allows my athletes to get stronger while not neglecting their technique, and keeps them healthy, fresh, and consistently progressing over the long-term.
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