If you want to improve, you need to know where you stand right now. Here are methods of testing your one-rep max!
A lot of people talk about their one-rep max (1RM), but few of them actually go to the trouble of testing it often enough to make it useful for their goals and programming. You will, though, and we're going to show you how.
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: Why it's important to you, why it's useful to know it, and how to actually test it.
What your 1RM 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 power lifters, 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. Technically, you can determine your one-rep max on any movement, from deadlift to triceps kick-backs. But I think it's most useful for compound movements, and in particular, strength-focused movements. Single-joint movements are more difficult to test accurately. So keep your testing focused on the big presses and pulls, and continue to train by feel on your isolation work.