Monday, October 4, 2010

1-Rep Max Testing Protocol

Most likely, that's
his warm-up set.

Around 3 years ago, I made the switch from trying to get "big" - which most guys still pursue - to focus on building strength.

So how do you measure strength? Typically you see what your 1-rep max [1RM] is for a lift. Although, I did little research on executing that. Instead I did a few sets and kept packing on the weight.

It comes off as sound in practice. However, the trick is the amount of sets you do. Too many sets and you become fatigued when you finally try hitting your personal record. Too few and you're not prepared enough to lift the weight you decided on.

From my internet perusing over the years, I haven't seen any set formulas or guidelines to go about testing 1RM's besides do a good number of sets and increase the weight accordingly. But, 2 years ago I asked over at Precision Nutrition and got great feedback.

The most helpful reply was from Coach Mike who provided the following response:
"When I certified with Poliquin, we used the following protocol:

4 @ estimated 40% rest 10 s

4 @ estimated 40% rest 10 s

3 @ estimated 60% rest 30 s

2 @ estimated 75% rest 60 s

1 @ estimated 80% rest 120 s

1 @ estimated 85% rest 120 s

1 @ estimated 90% rest 180 s

1 @ estimated 95% rest 240 s

1 @ estimated 100% rest 240 s

Rest another 240s before testing each successive max single

Fast twitch fiber types may end up doing another 5-6 singles before "maxing out," so limit to two lifts/wkt

Test quarterly max."
This isn't the only way to test your 1RM. This is the only written out formula I've seen to date.

To avoid fatigue, other users suggested to limit testing to 2 lifts per week with exercises that don't work the same musculature. When I checked my deadlift (hip-dominant w/ horizontal pull), I tested bench press (horizontal press) 2 or 3 days later. There's little hamstring involvement in the bench press and almost no pec usage in deadlifting.

Now if someone decided to do bench press one day then standing overhead press a few days later, they wouldn't perform to the best of their abilities due to the same muscles - delts & triceps in this case - used earlier in the week.

Now, go hit some PR's and then some.


  1. Testing for a 1RM is fun as hell. There's just something that feels so great about hitting a PR, and knowing you trained your ass off for it.

  2. I love lifting as heavy as possible. The feel of moving so much weight is such a different feeling than doing the typical reps & sets.


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