Your 1 rep max is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for 1 rep of a given exercise. It is good to know this so you can measure your progress. It is also useful to know it for training programmes, so you can train in different ‘training zones’ depending on the kind of development you want to achieve: strength, power, endurance or size.
How to find your 1 rep max
Training programmes use 1 rep max to improve your performance, depending on what you want to achieve. For example, a training programme for developing strength might ask you to complete 2 sets of 5 lifts at 80% of your 1 rep max.
If you don’t know what your max lift for 1 rep is, it will be hard to know how much you need to lift to benefit from the training programme.
It is important to prepare the body for a 1 rep max test as an all-out maximum effort lift is not something to attempt early on in your training routine or for newcomers to the world of strength.
Whichever lift your choose to use, you can use your 1 rep max lift to measure your progress accurately as you develop proficiency with that lift.
Make sure you warm up properly before attempting a max lift. You can find your maximum lift for 1 rep by either using a tried and tested mathematical formula to predict it, or you can go for the real thing, your true 1 rep max.
Finding your predicted 1 rep max
If you can only do 6 reps with a certain weight before failure, then this knowledge can be used alongside the table below to find your predicted 1 rep max. This calculation is found in a renowned strength training bible, “A Practical Approach to Strength Training” by Matt Brzycki.
Using the table below, simply divide the weight you are lifting in your chosen lift by the percentage to the right of your max reps (using decimals, so 75 percent equals .75) and that will give you an approximation of your maximum lift for 1 rep.
For example, if you can perform 6 reps with 250 lbs. when you are performing the deadlift, this means that 250 lbs. is 83% (0.83) of your 1 rep max.
So you would take 250 divided by .83 and that would equal 301 lbs: your predicted max lift for the deadlift.
Finding your true 1 rep max
To find a true 1 rep max, rather than only a predication, you will need to get warmed up and choose a weight near the amount you think might be your maximum lift.
If you can lift that weight with some power still left in your muscles for a second rep, then this is too light to be your 1 rep max. Give yourself a break of at least 3 minutes and try again with a heavier weight.
When you find a weight that you physically could not possibly lift alone for a second rep while still using good form, this is your 1 rep max.
The safest way to find your 1 rep max
The safest way to find your max lift for 1 rep would be to find your predicted max, then in another session or after a long break, try the true max test using the predicted weight.
This will ensure the prediction is correct, with minimal strenuous lifting attempts using the true test.
Try your 1 rep max now and again through your training programme to track your progress. Around every 8-10 weeks is fine – there is normally no need to try the max test more often than this as it is stressful for the muscles and unnecessary.
Once you have found your 1 rep max, you can use this to track your progress and measure your improvements.
With this knowledge you can modify your training routine to achieve your goals and ensure you aren’t lifting too heavy or too light, whether you are training for strength, endurance, power or size.
Have you found out your maximum lifting power? What is your 1 rep max for the deadlift, squat and bench press? Share your strength and weightlifting goals in the comments.