Tracking Your Maxes in Weightlifting

by Matt Bosack

I am a big fan of my athletes tracking their maxes — and a whole variety of them, too. I don’t want them to just track snatches and clean and jerks. I want them to track 2-rep max hang snatch, snatch max from high blocks, power snatch from hang below knee… the list goes on. This is something I’ve always liked my athletes doing in their training log, but smartphones have made it really easy.

There are plenty of reasons why I want my athletes to track their maxes. It’s useful for both of us to sharpen their training plan. If you’re an athlete, though, I figured I’d write out some reasons why updating your maxes in all these various categories are helpful in many ways:

  1. It gives you more opportunities to PR, which is a morale booster: PRs are  a way to see that all that hard work you’ve been putting in is achieving results. And let’s face it, you feel just a little better on days that you PR. If you only keep track of your 1RM back squat, front squat, clean and jerk, and snatch, well, you may find that PRs are hard to come by. But hitting PRs in other rep schemes will also help show you the progress you’re making. Maybe you haven’t hit that one rep max front squat PR in a while, but you’ve PRed your five and three rep maxes, and they are really close to that one-rep max these days. That’s progress.
  2. Knowing your PRs in various movements and rep schemes gives you targets for which to shoot: If you know your previous 2RM Hang Snatch is 95kg when you’re asked to hit a new Hang Snatch 1RM, you can use that number to determine your target 1RM. You should be able to hit roughly 92-96% of your 1RM for doubles, so you can assume 100kg is well within the realm of possible. And knowing this leads me to point #3…
  3. It’s a confidence booster: Say you’ve been trying to get over the hump of a 65kg clean for a while. Then one day, you hit a hang clean triple at 63kg. You write that down. Next time you go after that clean, you’ll be able to look at that hang clean triple number and you’ll know — your body is capable of moving 65kg if you were able to hit 63kg three times. Obviously, there may be some technical issues to overcome between performing the clean from the floor versus from the hang, but at least you’ll know your body is capable of getting under that weight and that you’ll be able to stand up from it. Confidence is huge in weightlifting, so any boost you can get — take it.
  4. It can tell you a lot about yourself: Your habits, tendencies, issues, strengths, and weaknesses are all reflected in your numbers, IF you know what many of them are. Have a great clean but are wobbly in the jerk? Take a look at your strict press PR versus your back squat PR. You may have really strong legs and proportionally-little raw upper body strength. You manage to always hit new 3-rep maxes but can’t seem to hit those one-rep maxes? Maybe you should examine how you approach days when you attempt one-rep maxes. Maybe you’re looser on those 3-rep max days and put too much pressure on yourself on those one-rep max days. Now, obviously, the numbers won’t tell the full story, and your coach should be able to understand what’s going on regardless of whether you track all these maxes or not, but it’s helpful (not just for you), to say the least. Which leads me to the final point:
  5. Your coach might appreciate it: All coaches have their way of doing things, but I, for one, happen to be a numbers guy (maybe it’s the former baseball player in me). I want to know what my athletes’ bench press 3RM is relative to their Jerk 3RM. Is the proportion of their 1RM back squat to 1RM front squat the same as for 3-rep maxes of each? I take a lot into consideration when I program, and when you have 20+ athletes, it’s nice to not have to memorize what all their numbers are and to have reminders of where their strengths and weaknesses may lie. Additionally, it’s nice to be able to have the numbers organized in one place where I can calculate averages of how our team improved over the year.

It’s not very difficult to track maxes these days. If you have time to post a video of you snatching on Instagram, you have time to hop on to an app and write down your new Power Clean triple PR.

Our team uses Google Drive. I’ve created a spreadsheet and shared it with my athletes. They all have access and edit it directly either via Google Drive on their computers or the Google Sheets app on their smartphones/tablets. It really is too easy. If you can figure out how to snapchat and venmo, you can figure out how to do this.

In case you’re wondering what the maxes template we use looks like, here it is. If you want to take it and use it yourself, go ahead. Just hit “File -> Make a Copy…” and it’ll make a copy of it for your own personal use.

Matt Bosack is the Head Coach of Downtown LA Weightlifting and Trojan CrossFit.

 

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