Most of us are interested in progress. Our human nature, on both an individual and collective scale, strives to improve, evolve and grow. This manifests in a variety of ways, from strength and mindset to social issues and technology. I think you know which angle I’m going to take in this post 😉
In the world of fitness, it’s all about gains–strength, muscle, conditioning, and so on. For those of us who prize getting stronger and putting on muscle, we need progressive overload (the gradual increase of stress placed on the body). It’s easy to drift through our workouts, sticking to the same weight and rep scheme month after month. That may be comfortable, but it comes at the cost of flat lining our progress. To keep things moving, we need a marker. A test to gauge our strength. Enter the one-rep max.
A one-rep max (1RM) is the maximum amount of weight you can lift one time for a given exercise. Aside from measuring our strength, it’s also a good way to test how ballsy you are. If you’ve never done ‘em before, 1-rep maxes can be pretty intimidating. I like to joke that testing my 1RM is my cardio because it gets my heart pounding with anxiety.
If you follow fitness accounts on social media (including mine) you might’ve seen something about 1RMs and wondered if they’re something you should try. They’re not necessary if you’re new to working out and could even be dangerous if your form is not on point. Newbs should just focus on learning technique and establishing a foundation of strength and stamina. However, if you’ve been working out for a bit and feel comfortable with squats, bench press and deadlifts, finding your 1RM can be beneficial if you want to get stronger. It’s also fun to test your limits of your strength and see where you stand.
The idea is you test your 1RM, then cycle through a four to six week program and re-test your 1RM to see if it increases. It’s incredibly satisfying to see your numbers go up over the months and years, and it really puts the journey in perspective.
If finding your 1RM seems a little too extreme, you can also find your three- or five-rep max instead. Once you find your three- or five-rep max there are online calculators you can use to get a rough estimate of your 1RM.
Once you have your 1RM, you train based off of percentages of that. There are many different kinds of strength programs out there that do this, but basically, you train between 70-90% of your 1RM. Usually you will start off at the lower end and cycle your way up each week.
To summarize, you should find your max if you:
- Have an interest in powerlifting or olympic weightlifting
- Have been lifting for at least a couple of months and want to see where you stand
- Want to be more methodical about the way you train
- Want a way to track your strength gains
There’s also a big mental component to finding your 1RM; it teaches you a lot about yourself and what you’re capable of. But more on that in this week’s newsletter, which you can read by signing up on the form on this page 🙂
Have you ever attempted a one-rep max before? If not, would you consider it?