Max Testing

Posted: April 22, 2011 in Bill Starr 5x5 Intermediate Programme

It’s been a while since I’ve had to make a blog post – there has been a lot going on.

Third year exams are no joke. We timed it so that we’d take two weeks off after six weeks of hard work, allowing for complete recovery. Then, when the exams were finished, we’d be able to test our new 1RMs that week.

However, this threw up a few issues.

First – two weeks off shouldn’t ever happen…ever. In the two weeks you’re “off”, you’re meant to de-load (working between 60-70% of your capacity). However, we decided to take one entire week off and train at a de-load level the next week as we had a hell of a lot of work to do for our degrees. Call it an example of “real life” getting in the way of strength training!

Second – Post exams is an atrocious time to be testing anything for the following reasons:

– you want to unwind
– you want to SLEEP
– you’ve been sitting on your ass for extended amounts of time (immobility will seize you up*)
– your diet has slipped
– you’re in party mode

All of this added up. We weren’t physically or mentally anywhere near prime when it came time to test the 1RMs.

We only managed to find time this week to test the Bench and the Bent-Over row…though the gains were obvious, we feel we could have performed a LOT better had we not been sleep deprived, under-fed, dehydrated and inflexible.

Gains were as follows:


Bench – 85kg to 90kg
Bent-Over Row – 90kg to 102.5kg


Bench – 90kg to 95kg
Bent-Over Row –  80kg to 90kg


Compared to what we know our bodies are capable of, it was a let-down. We’re never short of mental ability – there was no time spent testing where we weren’t giving an absolute best effort, but the circumstances clearly took their toll on our bodies. We both made attempts 5kgs above our best result and each time, the bar would rise but the lock-out never came.

All together, we’ve decided to sack testing the 1RMs for the rest and to get back to training as hard as possible on Monday, where we embark on a new programme using the “Ramping Method” which I’ll detail on Sunday evening.


What we’ve learned from the testing week:

– You’ve got to be prime to get prime results
– Celebration season is not a prime time to test anything…
– Life is about priorities. For the last two weeks, the priority has been passing exams. What’s important is getting back on the horse when the time is there again. Though we did train in the second week as planned, we didn’t spend time cooking the health/energy food we usually eat, nor did we sleep half as much as we needed to. As a result, we had two weeks of poor fuel and body care leading us into a test week…and I’m not even detailing the coffee abuse.

It’s worth noting that the stress of exams itself is a total energy sapper – the key is to never stop exercising completely and to get up off your chair every now and then to move…stretch, run, squat, whatever, just never stop moving for too long. You’ll sleep better, above all things!


Are “test weeks” really necessary?

We wanted to test in order to convey the gains we’d made by comparing them to our original numbers…however a very important point is that when you’re busy “showing” strength, you’re not busy “building” strength. The two weeks necessary for complete recovery and the test week itself is time spent not challenging your body and, therefore, not making gains. I’m not knocking de-load weeks, they’re absolutely necessary, but test weeks themselves aren’t actually necessary to see that you’re getting stronger. It should be reflected in the training itself (for example in our 5×5 regime, I squatted my old 1RM 3 times in the last session).

Due to this, it’s unlikely that we’ll be “testing” again any time soon…time to get back to what we love doing – training!


* – When you’re sleeping, the tissue in between your muscles (fascia) seizes up and constricts movement. Ever notice how you get up and feel less mobile than when you went to bed? It’s not just cold/inactive muscles, it’s physical tissue binding your musculature. Some leading physicians believe this is a huge factor in “age related immobility”. How do you combat this? Stretching. What were we not doing for two weeks? Stretching. We were sitting on our arses (at least for the first week) with our faces buried in books.

Get up, get moving, get mobile. (Sounds like a cracking advert)


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