Know your One Rep Max for Strength Training

What is the One Rep Max?

The one rep max is the heaviest weight you can lift for one rep on a given exercise. It is the ultimate test of strength and whether you are training for strength, muscle mass or fat loss you will want to know your one rep max.

Know your one rep max to build muscle

Why know your 1RM?

There are many reasons as to why it is useful to know your one rep max.

  • Most workout plans list the weight to be used in a given exercise as a percentage of your one rep max. For example, a workout looking to build muscle mass like German Volume Training may suggest you use a weight that is 70% of your 1RM. Without an accurate reading of your 1RM for that exercise the workout will not be as effective as it could be.
  • Knowing your 1RM enables to measure your progress better. How can you get stronger if you do not know how strong you are? You need somewhere to start. As you begin to lift heavier loads you can track your progress by regularly re-testing your 1RM and keep a written record of your strength gains.

How to Test your 1RM?

You can record your 1RM in any exercise, but it is usually associated with exercises such as the bench press, squat, deadlift, clean and press and military press.

Follow these steps to accurately record your one rep max:

  1. Warm Up – It is important that you warm up first. You are about to test your maximum strength. For an effective test your muscles need to be prepared and ready for action. It is recommended to work your way up to your single rep test by performing a set of 5 reps, and then a set of 2 reps gradually increasing the weight to activate the nervous system and muscle fibres. Be sure to rest adequately after each set. 3-4 minutes rest is recommended.
  2. Perform the first lift – Perform 1 rep of the weight you believe to be close to your maximum strength.
  3. Rest – Rest for as long as is necessary to fully recover from your efforts. 4-5 minutes is recommended.
  4. Add more weight – Add more weight and perform another rep.
  5. Continue until beaten – Continue to repeat steps 2-4 until you can no longer perform the rep with good form.

Improve your One Rep Max

To improve you one rep max you need to work as close to your maximum as possible. To improve strength you should be performing reps under 5 each set. There are many different workouts and methodologies for improving strength. The most popular are the 5 x 5 or 5, 3, 1 workouts. Wave loading is another loading technique that has shown to be effective with producing overload and making strength gains.