Know your numbers – 1 repetition max (1RM)

Now I’m no athlete but I do like training like one. If you also like unleashing your potential and seeing what your body is capable of then I recommend you ‘know your numbers’. Particular your 1 repetition max (1RM) numbers.

What is your 1 repetition max (1RM)?

Your 1RM is the maximum weight you can lift for a given exercise for just one repetition. For example, you may have the following 1RMs for the following lifts:

  • Deadlift = 200kg
  • Bench press = 120kg
  • Back squat = 160kg

I chose those lifts as an example as they are the three lifts that make up the sport of powerlifting, and powerlifting is all about your 1RMs.

Do I need to know my 1RM’s?

You don’t need to know them but they can be very helpful. Imagine watching a game of football and nobody keeps the score. The game isn’t nearly as exciting without a scoreboard. Plus it isn’t easy to tell which team is better without a scoreboard. So finding out your 1RM’s is not only exciting but a great way to track progress in your strength. Also, once you know your 1RM’s it does make your resistance training programming a lot easier as you can plan in your sets and reps using percentages of your 1RM’s as a guide. The table below gives the rep, set and rest guidance for a given goal whether your goal is endurance, hypertrophy or strength. It also uses your 1RM’s to prescribe the load you will be lifting.

1 Rep Max Chart

Remember those 1RM lifts from earlier?

  • Deadlift = 200kg
  • Bench press = 120kg
  • Back squat = 160kg

Let’s use those 1RMs and the guidance above to calculate the load for a hypertrophy session.

Exercise 1RM Calculation Recommended reps, sets, load
Deadlift 200kg 200 x 0.67(67%) = 134

200 x 0.85(85%) = 170

6-12 reps x 3-6 sets of 134-170kg
Bench Press 120kg 120 x 0.67(67%) = 80

120 x 0.85(85%) = 102

6-12 reps x 3-6 sets of 80-102kg
Back squat 160kg 160 x 0.67(67%) = 107

160 x 0.85(85%) = 136

6-12 reps x 3-6 sets of 107-136kg

Now if all that maths isn’t for you in the next article I will share with you a chart that you can use that will have all the numbers for you without needing to do any calculations.

What about beginners?

If you are just starting out then carrying out a true one repetition max test may not be necessary and may pose a risk if you have not mastered the movement pattern for that lift yet. Once your technique is sound you may prefer to attempt a 5RM or even a 10RM, which you guessed it is the highest load you can lift for a given exercise 5 times or 10 times. Once you have those numbers we then estimate your 1RM using the chart I am going to share with you in the next article.

Stay strong 💪😉


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