Should Kids Perform a One Rep Max?

Should Kids Perform a One Rep Max?

For those of you who don’t know, a one rep max (1RM) is the heaviest amount you can lift for one repetition in a particular movement. Why do we do 1RM’s? Well, it could be prescribed in a competition. It can be a way of measuring how much stronger we’ve become. It can be done for the sheer fun of it, to make us feel pretty awesome! However, even as adults, there is a distinct journey to go through before we earn the right to do a max lift and to understand the reason behind performing that lift. So what approach should we take where kids are concerned?

If I asked the teenagers who attend our Academy classes whether they should be performing 1RMs, most of them would shout “YEAH!!” Why? To try to show off and beat their mates perhaps? As much as it is human nature to want to prove ourselves, that’s not a good enough reason for me, as their coach, to allow them to do it.

When doing strength work, we are training our bodies and our minds to perform in a particular way. We are forming pathways that eventually allow us to move consistently and safely. For this consistent movement to occur, we must firstly perform repetition after repetition at a low weight.  This weight should not be taxing enough to physically exhaust us as that will lead to a breakdown of the movement. We stick to that load for a few weeks, changing the sets/repetitions up a bit, then we add load. Only a small amount. Then we repeat. Again. And again.

Even when we get to a point where the movement is pretty close to perfect each time, we still don’t test a 1RM at that point. Why? Well if you want to see if your strength has improved you can begin with performing a 3RM. If you can do a deadlift at 50kg for 3 reps in January and at 60kg for 3 reps in June, then you’ve clearly become stronger. You don’t need to do a 1RM to prove this.

The other issue with 1RMs is that we tend to give it our all (understandably), sometimes at the expense of good technique. If you’re an athlete and your job/pay check/reputation/sponsorship etc depends on winning, then the loss of technique may be an acceptable compromise. When you are a growing child, it most definitely is not.

This brings me onto my last point; children grow! They change. Their bones, joints, muscles and ligaments all continue to grow and stretch. This means that joints can behave differently from one period to another. Hence only in very rare occasions would it make sense to load these joints as much as we do in performing a 1RM.

So to recap; I would advise against children performing 1RMs, however cool it may appear to be, especially without proper supervision. Here at LiftOff Academy, kids are trained in a safe and well structured environment where they are progressed slowly and on an individual basis to account for the fact each child grows and progresses at hugely varying rates.

Coach Anne-Lise

@LiftOff Academy