Setting benchmarks and measuring improvement

Today, I decided to deviate from my usual training programmes in order to see just how heavy I can lift. It’s not the ideal time to do it, since I’ve been lifting heavy all week and have only just started a new set of training programmes, but… well… I got the idea in my head! Oh, and my husband could come to the gym with me today, so I knew I’d have a dedicated spotter. I usually train by myself, no spotter, no company, no motivation. I had to grasp this opportunity!

In my opinion, all training must be progressive. Unless you progress, you can’t expect much when it comes to visible improvements in size, balance and symmetry or performance improvements in speed, pace or power. Today, I wanted to test some of my lifts, to give me some benchmarks as I work hard through the rest of my off-season.

(Sorry, no piccies: I did take my phone with me, with the intention of taking photos of the fully-loaded bar and of me looking triumphant. But I kept forgetting, and by the time I remembered, we’d unloaded the bar and moved on.)

Is it sad that I got a bit excited about wearing the gym’s weightlifting belt? I’ve never worn one before and it made me feel a bit badass. My off-season “bulk” means I can now fit into it, although I think I’ll need to ask Santa for one of my very own, as I was already on the last set notch on the belt, and I intend on getting this waist down quite a bit thankyouverymuch! 😉 I’m thinking matching weightlifting belt and gloves…. maybe in a nice colour… anyway! Onto the lifts:

Here’s how it went down. Please don’t laugh if you think these are rubbish, remember this was my first try at anything like this, and I wasn’t rested.

DEADLIFTS – 65kgs (for 12), 90kgs (for 4), 100kgs (for 1) – yay! This felt great. I’m sure I can go heavier! I was grateful for the belt mind you. I ❤ deadlifts so much.
BENCHPRESS – 45kgs (for 7), 60kgs (failed), 55kgs (for 1), 57.5kgs (for 1) This is a PB by a long way, since I don’t usually have a spotter… but I’m already itching to go heavier.
SQUAT – 57.5kgs (for 10), 100kgs (for 4, but with a dreadful range of motion, 100kgs (for 1 – I tried a wider stance to see if I could go lower, but couldn’t), 85kgs (for 1 – still nothing like as low as I think I should be going) Part of me thinks I’d get more satisfaction from squatting lower, and with better form, even at a much lighter weight than I would from setting a 1RM on squats.
SEATED DB SHOULDER PRESS – with 2x18kgs (for 5), with 2x22kgs (for 2), with 2x24kgs (for 2). Husband says he thinks I can go heavier and thinks I should be trying to do sets of 4 or 5 reps with those 24kgs(?!)
BENTOVER ROW – 45kgs (for 10), 75kgs (totally failed – husband was convinced I’d be able to do this), 65kgs (for 1, although I tried the “1” 3 times as I wasn’t happy with the range of motion/depth on any of them)

What else should I have tried?

And how often do you think I should revisit these lifts to retest my 1RM?

Setting benchmarks and measuring improvement is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

7 Responses to Setting benchmarks and measuring improvement

  1. flick161 says:

    Those are really good 1RM’s!!!! Seriously!

    I would’ve advised you don’t do a 1RM almost ‘straight off the bat’ – sometimes the weight is such an incredible shock (as I suspect with the Squats) that it doesn’t always work. You could’ve worked up from the 57.5kgs for 10 and gone 65kgs for 5, then maybe 75, 80, 85 etc etc for 1 until you hit your real ‘1’.

    I find that I nearly always lift better the more sets I’ve done beforehand just keep the reps really low so you don’t exhaust yourself by the time the true ‘1’ comes… 😉

    Better form is always better than ‘trying a different position to lift heavier’ – otherwise if you test your 1RM’s again – would you remember that you had your feet wider for example?

    Think you picked the right exercises though (except if you’ve deadlifted, you probably didn’t need to do Bent Over Row).

    Congrats and be very proud of yourself!!!!! I hope you don’t ache too much! Treat yourself to a massage!


  2. […] From Nic at The Fit Writer: 33 “press ups” from across the pond!  WOW.  And that was after a chest & shoulder 1RM session! […]


  3. A lot of people and programs advise testing 1rm once every 6-8 weeks. I like to do it about once every 4 weeks but now that I have my very own coach I imagine I’ll just be told when to do it, which is probably for the best. 😉 I know it’s risky to go balls to the wall and super heavy too often, and once a month is probably honestly approaching “too often” territory.


  4. fitterreally says:

    Woo hoo! Awesome 1 RMs! Very jealous of your deadlifts – i’m only a couple months into doing deadlifts and love em, very keen to get some heavy figures there 🙂 Hope you’re getting some well deserved recovery now!


  5. Juliet says:

    You’re great. Just so you know. I think you probably could have torn up over 100 kg on your deadlift if you felt so good 😉


    PS. Nice new layout! How did I miss this and when did it happen?


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