On today’s episode of Live Lean TV, I’m going to teach you how to calculate your 1 rep max, so you can scientifically choose the correct amount of weight, based on your specific training goals, and current strength levels.
Have you ever wondered how much weight you should be lifting during an exercise?
This is how to calculate your 1 rep max (1RM).
Don’t worry, this isn’t just for strength, it also works for muscle gain and endurance.
One of the most asked questions I get is, how do I know how much weight I should be lifting for each exercise in your workout program?
This post will answer that question, so you can stop basing your weight selection off of feelings, and start basing them on results based science.
In this video, I’m also going to share:
Let’s get into it.
When it comes to calculating your 1 rep max, most people think it’s only used in the world of strength based programing.
However, knowing your 1 rep max helps ensure you are lifting at an intensity level that is in alignment with your goals, regardless if your goals are improving:
Note: when I use the term “intensity”, I’m simply referring to the load or the amount of weight you are lifting.
As a general guideline, here are the best rep ranges associated with the following weight training goals:
Getting stronger is a key component to becoming a Live Leaner.
In order to build strength, lifting heavier weight, in a smart and safe manner, is key.
Remember, we’re Living Lean for life.
Good luck doing that with a jacked up back.
In order to get stronger in a safe manner, calculating your 1 rep max is a great starting point.
According to this study, the 1 rep max test is also a proven and reliable way to test your muscular strength, as well as tracking your strength building progress over time.
Your 1 rep max is simply the highest amount of weight you can lift, with proper form, for just one rep.
This is an indicator of how strong you are on specific exercises.
In most cases, people either select a weight that is too light to properly build strength or too heavy for their current strength levels.
Lifting too heavy often causes more harm than good, as it leads to lifting with poor form, which overloads the joints with resistance, rather than the targeted muscles.
This is why so many people get injured when training for strength.
Even though you can test your 1 rep max on most exercises, the most common exercises to test your 1 rep max include:
Calculating your 1 rep max is one way to ensure you are safely lifting enough weight to get stronger.
Knowing your 1 rep max for a given exercise removes the guess work and emotions surrounding your weight selection for that exercise.
Once you calculate your 1 rep max, you can then objectively base all of your weight selections, for any rep range, regardless of your goals, off a percentage of your 1 rep max.
This is an effective and objective approach to weight selection, rather than relying on subjective feelings of how much you think you can lift for a given exercise.
It takes all the guess work away from selecting the correct weight and is the safest approach to optimizing strength building.
This is why using percentages of your 1 rep max is the most objective way to properly train for strength.
For example, if your workout program indicates 6 reps of the barbell deadlift, you can easily calculate how much weight you should be using to challenge your strength for 6 reps, based off of a percentage of your 1 rep max.
There are a few different options to calculate your 1 rep max.
I’ll share more details of each option in just a bit.
Regardless of which option you choose, it’s essential you follow a proper warm up first.
I can’t say this enough.
Building strength in a smart and safe manner is key to Living Lean.
To safely build strength, a thorough warm up of the body, the muscles, and the joints is important.
Before testing your 1 rep max, you must complete the following warm up protocol.
The best way to warm up before testing your 1 rep max is to complete the same exercise with lower weight, for multiple warm up sets.
This will prepare you mentally and physically, while warming up the central nervous system, muscles, and joints.
The warm up sets are based off of a percentage of what you estimate your 1 rep max will be.
For example, if you estimate your 1 rep max will be 225 pounds, your first warm up set will be 50% of 225 pounds, with rounding down equals, 110 pounds.
If you want to attempt more weight, rest 5 minutes, then try it again.
Once you can only lift the weight with proper form for one rep, this is your 1 rep max.
If you are doing your 1 rep max test for multiple exercises, rest 2 minutes, then move on to the next exercise.
Complete only one 5 rep max test per exercise.
Now that you know your 5 rep max, it’s time to quickly input this data into the one rep max calculator on our website.
We have embedded a free quick and simple one rep max calculator below:
For example, if you lifted 225 lbs and failed at 5 reps on the barbell flat bench press, the amount calculated for your 1 rep max would show your percentages as follows:
This calculation is a rough estimate that shows your 1 rep max on the barbell flat bench press is approximately 253 lbs.
Since this is just an estimate, and the goal is to get stronger in a safe manner, I recommend you round numbers down.
This would be a 1 rep max of 250 lbs.
Now we have an objective measure to properly select the correct weights to optimally build strength safely, during your upcoming strength workouts.
Now that you know your 1 rep max for a specific lift, you can select the correct weight based on the rep goal as indicated in your workout program, using the below percentages:
For example, here’s how to simply calculate how much weight to use if your workout program indicates 8 reps on the barbell flat bench press:
As you can see, knowing your 1 rep max is important not only in strength based programs, but also muscle endurance and muscle gain programs.
Now that you know how to calculate your 1 rep max, you now have the power to stop basing your weight selection off of feelings, and start basing them on results based science.
If you’re ready to take your training to the next level, try our workout and nutrition app to get access to all of our workout programs, recipes, and meal plans.
Here’s a link to a free 7 day trial to get access to our app.
If you’re unsure of which program is best for your goals, go take our free Live Lean Body Quiz to quickly find the most suitable program based on your goals, fitness level, and access to equipment.
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Brad Gouthro is the founder of Live Lean TV, a media company focused on helping men and women “Live Lean” 365 days a year. Brad’s programs and content have helped millions of people all over the world learn how to get in shape, and more importantly, sustain it for life.