Whether you’re a powerlifter, a bodybuilder, or just someone looking to do your best work in the weight room, this is the lowdown on one-rep max testing:
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What Your 1$M Means For You
In the simplest terms, your one-rep max is the amount of weight you can lift for one rep on any given lift. Many people think this information is only useful for powerlifters, and while it’s definitely important for them, it’s still useful to know your ultimate strength as a bodybuilder.
Why? The one-rep max is important to know not only because is it the ultimate measurement of your strength, but because it can help you optimally build out your training block. Once you know your one-rep max, you can then set accurate percentages for different goals, such as hypertrophy-specific work, strength-specific work, and power-specific work.
For example, if I do some hypertrophy-focused lifting, staying at about 3 sets of 10 reps, I know I should be training at around 75 percent of my one-rep max. This will allow me to complete the reps and sets and set up an appropriate amount of specific weight for that exercise. If I didn’t know my one-rep max, I would have to go by feel. I might set the weight too high and fail to hit the appropriate rep range, or too low to get the training effect I’m seeking. By knowing your one-rep max, you can objectively set up your training program.
Don’t get me wrong: Training by feel can be effective, particularly for beginning lifters. But it also leaves plenty of room for error. And the more advanced you get, the more important it is to dial in your percentages to keep growing.
How to Test Your 1RM
I have two protocols for testing a one-rep max. One is for people who don’t have much experience testing their max, and the other is for those who have extensive testing experience. If you haven’t tested yourself many times before, here’s how to determine your max before starting the PH3 13-week trainer.
Start by using this one-rep max calculator for whatever exercise you want to know. Take a weight and a number of reps you know you can do with good form—seriously, no chest-puffing phony numbers here! For example, if your best-ever rep-out set on the bench press is 200 for 8 reps, plug that in. That will give you your estimated one-rep max and all the accompanying percentages. The fewer reps, the more accurate it will be. So 5 reps at 215 is more accurate than 8 at 200.
Once you know your max, take note of 90 percent of your estimated one-rep max. This is the amount you’ll to use to test. Using the 90 percent number for your max will give you a much more accurate representation than if you use the 100 percent number.
Before you start stacking plates, perform a thorough dynamic warm-up. I suggest you utilize the warm-up below. It was developed by Dr. Rori Alter, a licensed physical therapist and nationally-ranked power lifter. Once you’ve completed the dynamic warm-up, do as many warm-up sets as you need—without going to failure or wearing yourself out—and lift that 90 percent weight for as many reps as you can. Next, take that number of reps, plug it into the calculator below, and refigure your one-rep max. That’s the max you’ll use to build out your first week’s programming on PH3.
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