Do You Need Singles in Training?

At Brentwood Barbell, we work with a lot of folks that are new to barbell training. Most of them (like 99%), know they need to get stronger but aren’t sure where to start. Often, they’re concerned with things like:

  • their cholesterol / blood pressure
  • their weight / BMI / bodyfat (insert any composition metric here)
  • their back pain
  • aging well
  • keeping their kid healthy while they play (soccer, football, basketball, insert any sport here)

We work with a very small percentage of folks that care about the barbell sports (powerlifting, strongman, Olympic lifting). This suits us just fine, as many competitive lifters are a pain-in-the-ass. “Regular” folks, however, are often very rewarding to work with. That being said, an often question we get is: should I be concerned with my 1 rep max?

What are we “Testing”?

I’ve written at length about our Intro > Train > Review process at the gym. In short, we sit down with athletes every 90 days to review their progress and make plans (set goals) for the next 90 days. If your gym doesn’t do this, consider a new gym.

As such, we write programs that serve a wide range of client/athlete goals. Some of them include:

  • strength & conditioning (we usually just call this fitness)
  • powerlifting
  • strengthlifting
  • strongman
  • power athlete
  • rehab (back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain)
  • beginner / novice

Most of those programs don’t include 1 rep max testing. As such, we usually program to optimize the “test performance” in week 12 of the program. For example, progressing a heavy set of 5 reps on the squat, bench, and deadlift is a fantastic general strength & conditioning goal. While perhaps getting your deadlift 315 AMRAP up is better for the strongman competitor.

Beginner training is almost completely void of 1 rep max discussion as beginners haven’t really been training long enough to know what they’re interested in (it’s usually more composition related BTW).

Who Should Do Heavy Singles in Training?

Mostly, the barbell sport competitors or folks specifically aiming to increase their 1 rep max performance in the squat, bench press, press, or deadlift.

If your primary goal in the weight room is to “get stronger” and “look better” at the pool… singles are probably a waste of your time. You should likely focus on sets of 4-8 reps, eating more protein, and logging more aerobic minutes per week. This will better support your goal(s).

What’s the problem with doing unnecessary singles in training? Only that it takes a lot of time. Most healthy males will pull in the 400s with a year of training. Working up to a single in that area then backing down for a bunch of volume work takes a long time. Time that might be better spent working on your sets of 5… or even 8.

Group Training Limitations

It’s hard to find a gym / group training program where this is even taken into consideration. Most group models share a common feature: every athlete is prescribed the same program and/or workouts. So, if your gym thinks it’s a great idea to do a month of trap bar deadlifts that conclude with a heavy 1 rep max test…that’s what you get for your money. In case you aren’t sure, this isn’t the best approach to strength or conditioning.

Our model allows lifters and athletes to focus on their goal(s). We think that’s pretty important, considering the importance of consistency when it comes to results and long term adherence.

Talk soon,


PS – if you’re tired of the standard group approach, BOOK a MEETING with one of our coaches to get started today.