A simple way to measure your max momentary strength.

  • MikeW

    Posts: 6061

    Nov 24, 2012 5:12 AM GMT
    First, I'm relatively new to weight training. Have been doing it for a bit over two years now and have seen some remarkable results *considering the fact I am in my mid sixties*.

    Before I began working out, and since starting, I've been doing a lot of research and reading online. One of the things I came across that I found very interesting (and useful) was a relatively easy way of measuring my *momentary* strength for a given muscle group. That is, a sudden (not sustainable) burst of energy, quite different from the kind of strength necessary for multiple sets and reps, but a useful, fairly objective number none-the-less.

    To do this you need a power rack, a leg press you can load plates on and a cable lat, row/pulldown machine. Unless you have a very strong grip, you'll also need lifting straps or hooks.

    Here's how it works (make sure whatever muscle group you're about to test is VERY warmed up and 'lubricated' before you try this -- and for god's sake don't do ANYTHING unless you're sure you know what you are doing!):

    Quarter Dead-Lift Momentary Maximum to Failure (glutes, lower back and core):

    1) In a power rack,

    3121-LO.jpg

    set the cross rails at or near the lowest level. Place an Olympic bar across the rails.Test out the height of the bar by dropping your butt, grabbing the bar with both hands a bit wider than shoulder width apart, flattening the back, looking upward and rising upward, driving your heals into the ground using your glutes. If you have the bar at the correct height, you'll only be lifting the bar a few inches. This is important. This is not a full range of motion. You're going to be testing your momentary strength in your safest range of motion ONLY.

    2) Begin adding weight to the bar and testing the weight. Keep perfect form each time you lift. Keep adding weight to the bar until you CAN NOT lift it off the rails no matter how hard you try. Chances are your grip will be the weakest link in the chain here, so best to use lifting straps or hooks. Once you find a weight you can not lift, back it off a few lbs and try again until you find a weight you can lift and hold for no more than 3 to 5 seconds. If you *can* hold it longer, add weight to it and try again. When you can only hold it 3 to 5 seconds, this is your maximum, momentary strength for this muscle group.

    3) Make note of the placement of the bar, the weight you lifted and whether or not you used straps/hooks. SAVE THIS INFORMATION. You'll want to do this same experiment again in, say, 3 months (for example, at the end of a 12 week program). You'll be able to access whether or not your strength has changed and, if so, the percentage of this change.

    While you have the rack set up like this, you may also want to test your shoulder shrug. You can try to shrug while holding your max DL but if you're like me, you won't be able to shrug that weight. You'll have to lower the weight to get a Max Shurg.

    The same process can be used to test your Max Bench Press, Max Seated Shoulder Press, Max Lying Triceps Extension and Max Biceps Curl. In each instance you have to find the right rail location in the rack.

    For example, with the Bench Press, I take 3 different readings:

    First I put a bench in the rack (duh). Then I set up the rails so that when the Olympic bar is in place, I can only lift it about two to three inches off the rails. This is the 'Top' (and strongest) position for me. Again, I begin putting weight on the BB until I can NOT hoist it off the rails. Once I've found THAT point, I take off weight until I *can* lift and hold the BB for 3 to 5 seconds. If I can hold it longer than that, I add a little weight until I can't.

    Again I make notes of all this.

    Now, I do the same thing again but lower the rails so I'm lifting about a half-rep. That is, beginning with my elbows bent at about 90° angles. I go through the whole procedure and get that number. It will always be lower than the previous number.

    Then I lower the rails again so the bar is just above my chest. This time I'll get my Max full range Bench number. It will be lower than the previous two.

    Do you get the idea how this works? You can do the same thing with the seated overhead BB press (short range, midrange, full range); and you can do the same thing with a lying triceps extension and seated (or standing if you prefer) BB biceps curl. You'll easily find your strongest, short range, mid range and full range max.

    You can do the same thing with the lat cable pulldown.

    powerhouse_elite_latlow_pulley_for_cable

    Set the weight pin at the bottom of the weight stack and use your body weight to lift the weight stack. If your body weight can't do it, keep raising the pin in the stack until your body weight can pull the weight stack upward. Once you are seated, keeping your arms fully extended, use your lats only to pull the weight stack up an inch or two and hold. Again, if you can hold it longer than 3 to 5 seconds, increase the weight until you can't.

    Basically same thing with the cable row.

    With the leg press

    Leg-10b.GIF

    you can test your full leg press Max and your Calve Max. However, unlike a usual leg press, whatever you do, DO NOT RELEASE THE STOPS on the leg press. Load up the sled until you can't get it off the stops then take some weight off. Again, you're looking for the MOST amount of weight you can move only a few inches and even then, only for 3 to 5 seconds. Don't be surprised if it is HUNDREDS of lbs more than you thought.

    Same exact thing for Calves. You're just pressing forward against the plate with the balls of your feet. You should barely be able to get it off the stops and hold it.

    If you try this, you'll be amazed how strong you already are. More importantly, you'll be able to measure your power increases over time.

    The other thing this shows me, and I use in my workouts to some extent, is how much my strength varies through a full range of motion. Why should I be limiting my pec workout to only what I can handle in a full range of motion -- when my mid and top range of motion can handle 50% to 75% MORE WEIGHT? So what I do some of the time (not all) is sets and reps in limited ranges. Most weight where I can handle the most, then moving the rails down and doing less weight but bigger volume, and THEN doing the full range at the weight I can handle.

    I have no doubt I've worked out my pecs when I do that, I can tell you that!

  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Nov 24, 2012 7:24 PM GMT
    Interesting data. I've got the power rack, and the pull-down, but those other things, not so much.

    An alternative that I've wondered about is over at bodybuilding.com. Or was - haven't been over there for a while. If you fill in the the weight and number of reps to failure for different exercises on your profile page, it calculates a number for your one-rep max. It's much faster (and easier) than actually going through the process of trial and error lifting.

    But I wonder what the formula for that calculation is and how valid it is.

    Of course, if you already know your previous ORM, or MM, you could zero in on a new one by trial fairly quickly.
  • MikeW

    Posts: 6061

    Nov 25, 2012 7:10 AM GMT
    mindgarden saidInteresting data. I've got the power rack, and the pull-down, but those other things, not so much.

    An alternative that I've wondered about is over at bodybuilding.com. Or was - haven't been over there for a while. If you fill in the the weight and number of reps to failure for different exercises on your profile page, it calculates a number for your one-rep max. It's much faster (and easier) than actually going through the process of trial and error lifting.

    But I wonder what the formula for that calculation is and how valid it is.

    Of course, if you already know your previous ORM, or MM, you could zero in on a new one by trial fairly quickly.


    Hi Mindgarden. As I said, I'm a long way from being an expert on this stuff but my understanding is there are different KINDS of strength. The measurement I'm suggesting is specifically for momentary (not sustained) strength.

    The 1RM calculator you mentioned at BBdotCom is HERE. I understand this 1RM number is sometimes used for pre-determining a weight to be used for certain set / rep combinations in different workout schemes. That's all well and good.

    The problem is 1RM sort of "assumes" that one's strength is the same throughout the entire range of motion. I know for a fact this is not the case. I'm MUCH stronger in the final few inches of a Bench Press (for example) than I am at the bottom of the rep or even midway through it.

    Wednesday, I BPed 295# at the top of the rep. I'm a weakling. No way in hell could I full ROM BP that much. But, then I lowered the rails to midway and BPed 150# 3 sets of 6 reps. Then I lowered the rail again for full range of motion and BPed 100# another 3 sets of 6 reps.

    Doing it this way may be totally WRONG for all I know. But it makes sense to me to a) begin by using the MOST weight I can (maximum overload) in the safest range of motion and THEN b) reduce the weight for multiple sets/reps in first a limited ROM and finally a full ROM. This is forcing my muscles to work harder in the ROM where they are strongest (rather than being limited by the weakest range--if that makes sense). Considering I had to lift the bar several times to find the max momentary load, by the end of it, I'd BPed over 3 tons of iron.

    But the point is that 295# number is fairly objective. In a month or two that should be 300# or more and if it isn't then something isn't working. Right?