I used to think that to get myself strong, or to get another person strong, that I needed to make them lift heavy all day every day. I used to think that the heavy weights were the king, and that the 1RM was the most important thing. I trained people and myself like this for years.
Lifting heavy is important for everyone to do however it is not the only way. Lets take a second to define “strength” or what being strong actually is. Strength by definition is the quality or state of being strong and the capacity of a person/object to withstand a great force or pressure. Strong by definition is having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks.
Was there any mention of 1RM in those definitions? Nope, and it’s important to take note of that.
If you want to get stronger lifting heavy is not the only way. There are several research studies out that have proven this. When training for muscle growth and strength increases you can use light load and heavy loads. You can use high reps and low reps. You can and should vary your load and rep ranges for the simple fact that true expression of strength should cover the entire spectrum.
True strength and being strong by definition completely backs this thought. It is important to consider your goals when figuring out how you want to approach your workouts/training. Do you want to compete in a sport that requires you to have the best 1RM in a particular lift or lifts? Do you compete in any other sport that require you to be strong in a 1RM lift? If the answer is yes to those questions then you should indeed be training with primarily heavy weights for most of your training.
If you just want to be strong and gain lean muscle mass, then a good rule of thumb is to vary your training. You can and should always spend some of your training lifting heavy. You should also spend some time lifting and working out with loads that are on the light side (less than 60% of 1RM). This will ensure that not only are you preventing injury and burnout, but you are also still getting stronger across the board.
True strength gains and getting stronger is not just about 1RM’s, it’s time to retrain that way of thinking. You can get strong training smart, lifting lighter, and also training heavy. Vary your training, focus on movement quality, and you will get stronger!