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Understanding Your One Rep Max for Improved Workouts

As a serious bodybuilder, you may already be familiar with the importance of knowing your one rep max, sometimes referred to as 1RM. If you’re new to serious weightlifting, you may not be sure what this phrase refers to or why it’s important. If this is the case, you need to understand what the one rep max is, why it’s important and how to calculate one rep max for the various moves you include in your workout.

What is The One Rep Max?

The term is used to define the maximum amount of weight you can lift during one repetition. For example, if you can lift 200 pounds for 10 reps on the bent-over row, then you can probably lift 267 pounds for one rep. Knowing this number will certainly give you a guideline for tracking your improvement as you continue to work out. It can also be used as a guide for determining how much weight you should be lifting for any number of reps. If you want to increase the number of reps you do during your routine, you can use your estimated one rep max, to adjust the weight based on your chosen percentage. The number is also valuable tool for helping you gauge your starting point on other exercises. Sometimes a program will direct you to use 55 percent 1RM on a lift you’ve just started. Rather than trying to test for your one rep max on each new movement, you can benefit from the work of scientists who have developed a way to estimate one rep max.

Weight Lifted Reps Performed
50% 1 RM
55% 1 RM
60% 1 RM
65% 1 RM
70% 1 RM
75% 1 RM
80% 1 RM
85% 1 RM
90% 1 RM
95% 1 RM

How to Determine the One Rep Max

Happily, we have a convenient online calculator to do the math for you. If you prefer to estimate one rep max for yourself, there are some specific steps to take. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the best weight for making this determination is a free weight barbell bench press. Be sure to give yourself 24 hours of rest before the test. The testing can be stressful to your body, so be sure to have a spotter who understands the test and who can ensure that you’re using perfect form. Before doing the test, work through three to four warm-ups. Whether you use an online guide to calculate one rep max or work with an experienced coach to identify the number, once you’ve completed the calculations, you’ll be ready to put that number to good use.

How to Use the One Rep Max

Each time you begin a new strength training program or return to a program you haven’t used for a while, you can take percentages of your estimate one rep max to direct your training. The percentages you use for training will depend on your specific goals. If you know that you want to improve the speed of your muscles for sporting activities, you may want to complete specific moves at 50 percent of your 1RM, completing a speedy 3-6 set of 3-4 repetitions. On the other hand, if you want to train your muscles to get bigger, you’ll increase the weight to 80 percent and do a slower set of 7-12 reps with short rest periods to completely work the muscle.
Are you ready to boost your workout? Take time now to calculate one rep max for yourself, adjusting your workouts accordingly.


Reps %1RM
1 100
2 95
3 93
4 90
5 87
6 85
7 83
8 80
9 77
10 75
11 73
12 70