Workout Tips

Find Your 1RM

Test your strength training skills to discover your one-rep max.


If you’re a bodybuilder - and you probably are if you’re reading this - it’s likely rare that you max out. Yet if you follow many of M&F’s strength programs, you need to know your one-rep-max (1RM) weight. Sure, you can estimate your 1RM by repping out with a weight and using an equation, but sometimes you should truly test your strength by finding your real 1RM. To do so, perform a few light warm-up sets, then try to guess your 1RM weight as closely as possible and make an attempt; if the load is too light, try again.

The more attempts you make, however, the more your energy gets zapped and the weaker you can become, making it unlikely that you’ll discover your real 1RM. In fact, research presented at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine shows that trained bodybuilders frequently underestimate their true 1RM by much more than a few pounds

Universidade Estacio (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) researchers has 53 trained bodybuilders with a minimum of 2 years experience performing the bench press predict their 1RM, then test it. The scientists found that the predictions subjects made underestimated their actual maxes by an average of 35 pounds.

The reason, researchers suggested, was that the rep range subjects trained in (6-12 reps) made it difficult for them to determine the max weight they could use for only one Guess

While many people might assume that male bodybuilders try to inflate their max bench press, it appears they hugely underestimate their own strength. This may seem noble in practice, but it can be a disadvantage when it comes to testing for a true max, as the more attempts you make, the weaker you become. If you rarely max out, be sure to add about 20 pounds to your estimated starting weight when you attempt a true 1RM test. This should prevent you from having to do too many sets before you find it.