How To Test Your 1RM

Have you ever wondered how much you could lift if your preparation was perfect, if the conditions are perfect? I bet you have!

Little Gym Book was founded to help track your gym goals and make progress. The most obvious test is your one rep max. It can be simple, but it’s not as simple as rocking up to the gym, putting every plate on the bar and seeing if you can lift it. It takes time.

Before looking at how to test your 1RM, ask yourself if you should, and how often. Your situation and goals will dictate the answer. Professional athletes for example, rarely test their 1RM, and might never test it in the gym. A professional athlete's goal, even some amateur, is to peak in competition, not in the gym. For us mere mortals, 

We’ve split our process in to 3 parts:

1. Follow a consistent program

2. Take a break

3. Plan sessions to test your 1RM

Progress is made through consistency. Spend time preparing your weekly routine; when are you going to train? Where? How often? Have you got enough time to recover? 10-12 week programs work well, with small increases each week. Most programs we have seen start with sets at around 60% of your 1RM, building up to 80-90% of your 1RM in the final week.

At the end of your cycle, rest is critical. The hard work, the strength building is done in the weeks leading up to the test. Allow your body time to recover before the test. We recommend 3-5 days. Remember, these aren’t free days for cheat meals and drinking. Give your body it’s best chance to perform when your test.

Let’s say you have four lifts to test, squat, bench, deadlift and overhead press. Think about this timeline:

Final training day of your program, then:
Day 1: Rest
Day 2: Rest
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Test Squat and Bench
Day 5: Rest
Day 6: Rest
Day 7: Test Deadlift and Overhead Press

What should you do on test days?

Warmups are important for every workout, but even more so when testing your 1RM. You are potentially putting your body under more stress than it’s ever been before, which increases the risk of injury.

Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes warming up, some low impact cardio at a steady pace, dynamic stretches and warming up specific movements with little to no weight. Ideally a longer version of the same warmup you do before every session, don’t try anything new on test days. Try and balance warming up and raising your heart rate, without losing too much energy, take a 10 minute break after warming up before starting your sets.

What sets should you do?

6-8 reps at 50% of your current 1RM
Up to 5 minutes rest, depending on how you feel
3-4 reps at 70-80% of your current 1RM
Up to 5 minutes rest, depending on how you feel
1 rep at 105% of your current 1RM

Successful lift? Congratulations! Can you go heavier?
After a short rest add 5-10% and try again. Repeat until you fail. You now have a new 1RM to use for your next cycle.

If you didn't make 105%, wait 5 minutes and try again. Still didn't make it? Today wasn't your day, learn from it and move on. After a day or two rest, start your next training cycle.

TOP TIPS: Plan, schedule, stick to what you know, warmup, be realistic.

Good Luck!

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