Does climbing stairs feel like climbing a mountain?
Do carrying groceries feel like carrying boulders?
Is getting up from the couch feel like getting out of mud?
You may be close to one rep max living.
Grandma had a pile of towels in her laundry basket, which is heavier than her usual load of laundry. After doing this load of laundry, she is exhausted and does not feel like she has any energy to do the other chores she was planning to do, such as wash the dishes and vacuum the floors. She has been pushed to the edge.
Grandma’s laundry basket weighed 10lbs, but at her maximum effort she can only lift 11 lbs from the floor (also known as a deadlift). This means that lifting the laundry basket requires 90% of her effort! So of course she would be too tired to do the rest of her chores! Grandma is very close to one rep max living.
One rep max living is when the demands of your life exceed your maximum ability.
One repetition maximum or “one rep max”, is the greatest amount of weight a person can lift at one timeWhy is this important? If you are working near your maximum ability all the time, your daily activities will make you exhausted. However, if you increase your capacity, daily activities take less of your effort and tasks become easier.
We all start with a set amount of energy or “reserve” everyday to complete activities. Some of us have a low reserve, where we do not have enough energy to complete all of the activities we need to complete and just going grocery shopping uses up our reserve. Some of us have a higher reserve where we can go grocery shopping, lift our groceries from the trunk ofour car to the kitchen counter, and put away our groceries, while still having enough energy to take our dogs for a one hour walk. The scenario described above is called your functional reserve. Functional reserve is the difference between your ability and the demands of life. Exercise can help boost this gap.
How to address one rep max living and what to expect:
- Lift ‘heavy’ things or perform heavy movements (like a squat) a few times a week. Pick something which matters to you and begin with that. For example, if you want to lift your 40 lb grandchild, start by lifting a 10 lb basket! Be creative with what you use for resistance, buy exercise equipment, or join a gym!
- ‘Heavy’ is going to vary depending on your current abilities. You can gauge your effort using a 0-10 scale of intensity, where 0 = rest and 10 = maximum effort. Aim for 6-8/10. This means you feel tired once you’re done lifting, but you still have gas left in the tank for the rest of your daily activities!
- Consistency is important, but it doesn’t need to be every day to improve your strength. Two to three times a week is enough!
- You may experience some soreness, which is okay and expected, especially when you are first getting started. This can last 1-2 days.
How can PT help?
Physical therapists use functional screening to catch patients BEFORE their capacity drops below the demands of their daily life.
A physical therapist can identify your one rep max using several tools:
- Listening to your story, hearing about what tasks are challenging for you
- Measuring how fast you can walk
- Timing how quickly you can sit and stand five times
- Assessing how you move
In conclusion, if you are concerned about lifting heavy things or do not know where to start, physical therapists can help you gradually increase your capacity and teach you functional movements that are specific for what you need to be able to do. Physical therapists can help you work through an injury, hesitance/fear around lifting, while considering medical conditions or pain. Physical therapists can help you to increase your capacity over a longer period of time.
Ready to start boosting your capacity? Find one of our physical therapists near you!
About the Author: Hyacille Kay Rivera Mayordomo
Hyacille Kay Rivera Mayordomo (she goes by Kay) graduated from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in 2017 with her Doctorate of Physical Therapy. She grew up in San Jose, CA and attended undergraduate at the University of the Pacific in 2011 with a B.A. in Sports Medicine and minors in Biology and Psychology. She worked as a physical therapy aide for a couple of years before attending physical therapy school. Kay is currently in Agile Physical Therapy’s Orthopaedic Residency (2018-2019) and is excited to continue to improve her skills and knowledge to help her patients.
Kay’s goal is to collaborate with patients to help them get back to what they love to do and do so independently. Kay believes that if you want something enough, that you should keep working towards that goal and strive to do better. She also wants to instill in her patients the confidence to feel in control of their body, move, and challenge themselves in whatever activities they love to do.
In her spare time, Kay enjoys hiking, running, rock climbing, yoga, working out, napping in hammocks, and just trying new things. She is a great lover of the outdoors (especially forests, mountains, and beaches), traveling to new places, and experiencing different cultures/new food.