Your one-rep max (1RM) is the most weight you can lift one time for a particular exercise. This is one way to track increases in strength and is also helpful to give you an idea of how much you should lift in other rep ranges.

It’s important to note that you don’t actually have to test your one-rep max to know what it is and unless you are an advanced lifter or a power lifter, it’s probably smarter not to. 

You can injure yourself very quickly testing at your max strength for a single rep. It’s not for beginners, particularly if the lift is a complex compound movement like the barbell squat or deadlift. You need to be confident that you have excellent form.

For the majority of people, a better alternative is to find this number out by testing your max strength at higher rep ranges and using a one-rep max calculator to predict what your one-rep max would be on that exercise. You can find plenty of free one-rep max calculators online or in the App Store.

one-rep max

The most common exercises to test for are:

Now that we’ve covered that, here are a few general rules to follow when testing:

  1. Always test for your one-rep max FIRST during a training session, never do it at the end of a session after you are already fatigued from previous exercises. 
  2. Have a spotter present in case for any reason you get into trouble and need help lifting the weight.
  3. Always do a mobility warm-up before starting. Do not go in cold.
  4. Begin testing by first completing 1 or 2 sets of 6-10 reps using 40-50% of your predicted one-rep max.
  5. On the next set, increase the weight to roughly 60% and aim for 5 reps.
  6. On the next set, increase the weight to roughly 70% and aim for 3 reps. For most people, this is as far as you need to go. Use a one-rep max calculator from here.
  7. Allow for 3-5 minutes of rest between each one-rep max test set. The heavier you go, the more rest you’ll need so take your time between sets.
  8. Re-test every 5-6 weeks and record your progress in a training journal.
  9. Each time you re-test, do your best to keep the conditions the same (equipment, temperature, nutrient intake, sleep, time of day, etc.)

Committed To Your Health,

Online Fitness Coach Brian DonovanBrian Donovan is a certified fitness and nutrition coach, and the founder of Online Fitness Coach, LLC – an online fitness program where clients get direct coaching and personally tailored training and nutrition plans. Coach Brian was voted Chicago’s “Best Personal Trainer” by Chicago Reader magazine, Best Of Chicago 2014 edition. He has been featured in magazines such as Muscle & Fitness, Chicago Reader, Voyage Chicago, and The PTDC as well various other health and fitness blogs.

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