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Knowing your 1RM’s (one rep maxes) is worth much more than bragging rights!

“How much can you bench bro?”

This question flies around all over the place and in most gyms you’ll be sure to hear it. Even if you mention you’re into training – weight training specifically, you’ll undoubtedly have been asked this question! Right?

The question in that scenario is pretty pointless. All you get out of saying a potentially high number is useless bragging rights!

But, knowing your one repetition maximum on the bench press itself is worth a whole lot to you if you are serious about seeing progress physically. However, just knowing your bench press 1-RM will not cut it. You’ll want to have a very accurate idea what your maximal weight is on a vast spectrum of large compound movements.

Movements like:

  • The Deadlift
  • The Squat (and it’s variations; front, back, overhead etc)
  • Overhead press/Military press
  • Bench press variations (Close grip, incline, flat etc.)
  • Bent over rows – even one arm rows
  • Pull ups/ chin ups (your one rep maximum with additional load, assuming you have the capacity to use added load) 

You could get even ‘fancier’ with it and use more movements than that, but generally knowing those serve greater importance and value.

Here’s why:

The biggest and most blatant reason for knowing your maximum numbers on all those moves is to equip yourself with knowledge, which can be used regardless of the type of training you embark on.

When your program prescribes a certain rep range, that rep range ALWAYS corresponds to a percentage range of your one rep maximum. So by being oblivious to your numbers, how do you know you’re using the correct weight to provide sufficient stimulus in order to achieve growth?!

Generally speaking – it looks like this:

  • 1-3 reps – 90-100% of the 1RM (Maximal strength)
  • 3-5 reps – 85-90% of the 1RM (Relative strength)
  • 6-8 reps – 78-83% of the 1RM (Functional hypertrophy)
  • 8-12 reps – 70-75% of the 1RM (Classic bodybuilding parameters)
  • 13+ reps – 68% down to around 60% as you near the 20 rep mark (High volume bodybuiling, moving more into endurance training parameters)

Obviously, these are very generalized. Factors such as fiber type and neurological efficiency will influence exactly what percentages apply to you. But as a rule of thumb, you’ll be well on track using those ranges in conjunction with the appropriate rep brackets.

So if you happen to test your true 1RM on the overhead press and find that during your pressing workouts, you were only using 60% of your one rep max for 8 reps, and you were wondering why you haven’t been able to “bring up” your delts and triceps – then that is likely why! 

That is not all

The other huge benefit of knowing your max lifts is the ability to use them as a progress tracking tool. 

Once you know all your numbers for the lifts that a program specifically advocates, you can log them all and once the phase has finished and you’ve used a recovery week. You can then re-test the movements. Which will tell quite a story!

It will tell you just how much progress you made throughout the 8,12 or 16 week phase you just completed. It will also tell you which movements you didn’t witness as much progression on. Which in turn, gives you a great initiative regarding the direction your training should take next. 

So forget the concept of maximum lifting numbers being only for braggers and boasters.

They really do provide crucial value to anybody’s training. If you aren’t tracking performance, how do you know if you’re moving forwards or backwards?! 

Stay tuned because in my next post, I’ll provide some handy pointers on how you can accurately test your one rep maximum’s in a SAFE fashion.

JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

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