Why You Should Wait Until February to Test 1-Rep Maxes


It’s December 28th. Most teams have already completed their max strength testing. The ones that have not tested yet are most likely scheduled to test during the first week of January.  

This is the way things are done, and they have always been done that way.

Wait, how does that quote go?

“The most dangerous phrase in the language is – ‘We’ve always done it this way.'”

Max testing an athlete shortly after season is a risky practice and one that needs a solid rethink.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are exceptions to this. But unless you have a very comprehensive in-season strength program, like most Division 1 schools, your athletes are not ready to be put under such a high load.  

Plus every athlete of every level needs to go through a General Physical Preparation Phase (GPP) at the onset of their off-season program. This phase allows the athletes to reset their bodies and build a foundation of strength, which will set them up for success during the off-season program. In my opinion, the GPP phase is more vital for a high school athletes than athletes at any other level. Yet in most cases, the GPP phase is completely overlooked.

What I believe is that max testing should be scheduled for the start of February after the athletes have been through their GPP phase. This gives them the opportunity to recover from the season, rebuild their foundation of strength, and attain the joint stability needed to put up a solid lift.  

…and bonus: you’ll actually get a true training max!

Having an accurate training max is extremely important since you should be programming for each athlete individually based off percentages of their specific one rep max.  

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As a side note, if you are not assigning loading parameters for your athletes, you are not running a program based off progressive overload. You are selling your athletes short. Assigning lifting numbers allows you to ensure that athletes are lifting at a safe weight and progressing properly, and it helps you keep them accountable.

Sample Testing Schedule 

So, if you test in February, what does the rest of the off-season testing look like?

  • Testing 1: Early February
  • Testing 2: Mid May (one week before finals)
  • Testing 3: Late July (one week before camp)

Max testing is one of the most heavily-debated topics in the field of strength and conditioning. It is the most dangerous thing we do in the weight room. With 14-18 year old kids, it can do some true damage if an athlete is not ready for it. As you assess your off-season protocol, I encourage you to rethink your testing strategy and make sure you can justify the need to test directly after the season.  

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About The Author

Rob Van Valkenburgh joins the TrainHeroic blog with 10 years experience in the strength game. Having coached elite athletes in both the private sector and the Division 1 collegiate setting, Rob believes that strength has to be the foundation of all athletic movement and that athletes of all levels deserve a comprehensive strength program. Rob writes regularly on his own website FootballStrengthCoach.com where here shares short form articles, training tips & programs, and other items related to strength and performance for football.