Workout Tips

Know Your Own One-Rep Max

Part of getting stronger is knowing your one-rep max, or 1rm for short. Here are the two most common ways to determine this key number.

Leg Press
Dustin Snipes

The easy way...

Doing a one-rep max test for one lift is challenging. Attempting multiple one-rep max tests for major lifts for each of your body parts is just plain crazy. Instead, figure out what you can handle for 10 reps—that means failing at 10 and not being able to eke out any more—and then multiply the weight by 1.33. Going to the bench as an example, let’s say you could do 185 for 10 reps: 185 x 1.33 = 246.05 (you’d round down to 245). It’s an imperfect system, but safer and certainly applicable when it comes to setting your goals and measuring progress over time.

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The hard way...

To establish your current one-rep max on any exercise, you can do an old-fashioned test if you have a spotter on hand to help. Start with a handful of very light, easy sets of the exercise you’re about to test; you’ll want to do enough to increase the blood flow to the working muscles but not so much that you drain your strength. Next, you’ll want to pyramid, with your target 1RM in mind—that is, where you think you’ll end up based on your previous numbers on the lift. For instance, if you think you’ll be able to bench 245 for one rep, you might start at 165 for three reps, then 195 for two reps, then 225 for one rep, and 245 for one. If you successfully lift that amount without help or extreme effort, add 5-10lbs and try one more rep.