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If you haven't seen this blog yet, get yourself a drink or a snack, click the link below and have a read.

by Adam Smith on Aug 13, 2021


I will go into this in more detail in a minute.

As mentioned in last week's read, I spoke about progressive overload and this in the only way to get stronger. This applies to Maximal Strength. This is the easiest one to see how it gets applied.

If you haven't seen this blog yet, get yourself a drink or a snack, click the link below and have a read.

What is Maximum strength?

Maximum strength is the maximum force a muscle can exert in a single maximal voluntary contraction.

It's that simple.

This can be used in hundreds of different ways and although I don't recommend this you can apply this to nearly everything.

The most common areas you will see this tested in are Squat, Bench and Deadlift and Overhead press.

There are so many different methods and programs you can use to train this. I will go into detail after we figure out how to test it first!

Now how do you test your 1 rep max weight?

Good question.

So let's test your Deadlift.

So after completing your warm ups (before touching the bar) I will write a piece on warm ups and mobility for weightlifting soon!

Let's say you don't have a clue at all what your 1 rep max is or in fact what your 5 rep max is.

That's fine. Don’t stress.

What we would do next is start adding weight to the bar and do 5 reps. If that felt good say 5/10 on the RPE Scale. ( Again it's in this blog so have a read.

Then we would add more weight and do 3 reps. Again if this feels good, then again we add more weight to the bar and just go for 1 repetition.

We will repeat adding weight to the bar and completing 1 repetition with around 2-3 minutes rest inbetween sets.

We do this until failure, Therefore the weight before the failed rep is your 1 rep max.

If you were going to apply this to a 3 or even 5 rep max. You would do the same process but for 3 or 5 reps.

How does wave loading improve our maximal strength?

Wave loading is a simple loading scheme in which one “wave” has 3 progressively heavier sets with a corresponding decrease in reps. For example, you might perform 3 reps with 170kg, rest 2 minutes; then 2 reps with 176kg, rest 2 minutes; and then 1 rep with 184kg before resting 2-3 minutes

You can then do this for 3 waves, adding slightly more load than the last wave.

If you fail the weight, no matter where you are in the waves, you STOP!


Each wave is composed of 3 sets that are progressively heavier, but use fewer reps.

After you complete a wave, you start a slightly heavier one.

If you fail to complete a set, regardless of whether it’s set 1, set 2, or set 3, you stop for the day.



Set 1: 3 reps at 85%

Set 2: 2 reps at 88%

Set 3: 1 rep at 92%


Set 1: 3 reps at 87%

Set 2: 2 reps at 90%

Set 3: 1 rep at 94%


Set 1: 3 reps at 90%

Set 2: 2 reps at 92%

Set 3: 1 rep at 96%

What's the downfall of this method?

The theory behind wave loading revolves around post-tetanic potentiation.

This is a maximal contraction that potentiates/activates the nervous system, which increases your capacity to recruit muscle fibers and produce force for roughly 3-5 minutes.

By doing a maximal or near-maximal contraction, you can do more reps or perform at a higher level than the set before, provided the fatigue isn’t excessive. And wave loading takes advantage of this, just not optimally.

Now the reason this is not optimal is because you have to lift heavy. Now lifting heavy is fine but it does take its toll on the body.

Wave Ladders

The Wave-Ladder is a hybrid of the two methods. It also uses 3-set waves but instead of adding weight with each set within a wave, you add reps. When you successfully complete a wave, you start a new one with a bit more weight.

For example:


Set 1: 85% x 1 rep

Set 2: 85% x 2 reps

Set 3: 85% x 3 reps


Set 1: 88% x 1 rep

Set 2: 88% x 2 reps

Set 3: 88% x 3 reps


Set 1: 90% x 1 rep

Set 2: 90% x 2 reps

Set 3: 90% x 3 reps

The rules are the same as with regular waves: when you can successfully complete a whole wave, you start a new one with more load and when you can’t complete a set, even if the wave isn’t finished, you stop.

How do I warm up for wave loading?

Now this applies to both methods above.

It would look something like this:

Set 1: Barbell only x 6-8 reps (Warm up set)

Set 2: 60% x 3 reps (Warm up set)

Set 3: 70% x 3 reps (Warm up set)

Set 4: 80% x 3 reps (Warm up set)

Set 5: 85% x 1 rep (Working set)

Set 6: 85% x 2 reps (Working set)

Set 7: 85% x 3 reps (Working set)

Set 8: 88% x 1 rep (Working set)

Set 9: 88% x 2 reps (Working set)

Set 10: 88% x 3 reps (Working set)

Set 11: 90% x 1 rep (Working set)

Set 12: 90% x 2 reps (Working set)

Set 13: 90% x 3 reps (Working set)

Note: The warm-up sets are intended to get you ready for the working sets. It’s not only about getting “warmed-up”, it’s also about fine tuning your lifting technique; making sure your coordination is perfect when you start the working sets.

Keep in mind that every warm-up set, even those with just the empty barbell, should be done with 100% focus on technique, tension, and proper body position during the lift!

Weekly Progressions

The best progression model to follow is linear progression. However, be mindful not to increase the load too fast. You must totally master the weight you’re using now before adding more weight.

So you can increase load or volume. It's your choice at the end of the day.

With wave loading you could increase the % by 1-2 each week until you fail or achieve a new max.

Another way is to increase the reps so you go 5-3-1 or 6-4-2 (the percentages would differ massively though compared to 3-2-1 waves)

For wave ladders it's kinda the same, you can increase the percentages each week by 1-2%, You could add more reps so do 2,3,4.

Or even add more waves, so instead of going 85%,88%,90% you could go 85%,88%.90%,92% so on…

I would only recommend increasing the starting weight after every 3rd week.

The reason for this is to get volume in before increasing load! Then the load will come in time.

To sum up wave loading I think it's a great way to improve your maxes when used correctly with the right amount of loading and technique on the lifts.

Be careful on how much to progress each week. But also don't be scared to fail the weights, as this is a good indication to know whether your body is getting beaten up or if it's due to poor technique.


I hope you enjoyed the read and stay posted for the next one. If you have any questions just shoot me an email on

If you want to see some of my training logs and videos follow me on Instagram @thicc__astley or @npbarbellclub

See you all soon!

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