How To Ramp Up & Test Your 1 Rep Max
This article first appeared in STRONG Fitness Magazine.
If you are lifting weights and you want to get stronger you have to know your numbers.
When it comes to lifting weights it’s important to know your 1 RM (1 rep max) in most of your basic Power Lifts like Squats, Bench Press & Deadlifts.
Why is it important to know?
Well there are two big reasons why:
1. A good program is about your numbers and following a plan to get you stronger
2. You want to know if you are improving and getting stronger.
Nothing tells the true test of strength like your one rep max.
Now most people who work out have no idea what their 1RM is. Most often people train in the 8-12 rep or higher with weights, but if you want to get strong you need to train in the 1-5 rep range, anything beyond that is not.
There are many ways to find out your 1RM. There are tons of sites, spreadsheets and ways to do it. Punch in the numbers and it will give you an approximate 1 RM.
Another great way is to get your hands on a bar and find out.
A few general rules first before we test your max
1. Safety first. Always train smart. The goal is to test your 1rm, not get hurt
2. No Ego. I have trained thousands of female lifters and thankfully they, for the most part, have less ego than their male counterparts.
3. Respect The Weight. It will always win.
Warm up with something to get your overall body temperature up. Nothing too intense, save your energy for lifting. A stationary bike, skipping rope, but get warm.
Next up you can add in some mobility & activation drills, but the goal is to lift.
When testing your 1RM, train with the exercise you are going to test, let’s use my favorite, the deadlift.
The goal is to reach your 1RM in about 5-7 sets, but you want to make sure your warm up sets do not tire you out. You need your energy for your 1 rep max.
Now lets say you have no idea what your 1 RM is, you can take a guess and we build from there until we found out.
A quick note, you do not want to test your 1RM often. Once every 6-8 weeks is plenty.
Lets guess that your 1RM on Deadlift is 225 lbs.
Be sure to rest 3 minutes between sets for recovery. When training heavy rest is important for numerous reasons.
Set 1 – 5 reps
Pick a weight with something you can do for 5 reps without struggling.
Lets say 135
Set 2 – 4 Reps x 165lbs.
Rest 3 minutes
Set 3 – 3 Reps x 185lbs.
Rest 3 minutes
Set 4- 2 Reps x 205lbs.
Rest 3 Minutes
Set 5 – 1 Rep x 215lbs.
Rest 3 Minutes
1 Rep Max Test
Set 6 – 1 Rep x 225lbs
Now you have done a proper “ramp up” to test your 1RM.
If 225 lbs. comes up good add another 5-10lbs, BUT always keep in mind this rule:
“Don’t Miss A Lift”.
The goal is to test in the 90-95 % range but to not miss a lift. The lift you miss has a greater chance of hurting you than the lift you get.
Another rule of lifting heavy is “Always Leave A Little In The Tank”. You can read more about my thoughts on this on THIS blog post where I discuss blowing out my back.
Testing your 1RM is a great way to see your true strength. As well lifting HeavyWeights is a lot of fun.
Lift Heavy Weights and Stay Strong.
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Rob King is a Competitive PowerLifter, Coach and Writer.