How to Test a 1 Rep Max
In weightlifting, our greatest and most universal measure of strength is the one rep max, or the 1RM. This is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for one repetition only. This is a fairly useful measure of getting an idea of how much power you have. I always recommended everyone know their numbers for the Big 5 or Big 6 Lifts.
Let's go over how to test it. You must keep in mind that when we are testing it, we are testing complete and well done reps. Especially in a training session, it is important that we do not test or practice bad reps. That is to say, the moment your technique breaks down during the lift, this is when you call it or drop weight. Max lifts and repetitive movements on tope of bad technique is a sure fire way to get injured.
The best time to test your one rep max in any lift is during the follicular and ovulation times of the cycles. After you are done menstruating and though ovulation is when you will be able to produce more force and recruit more muscle to get the job done. Maximum force recruitment happens during ovulation.
The only caveat to this is that while our testosterone is at its highest during this point, so is our estrogen. Estrogen effect collagen and joint laxity. So work hard but do not go into fatigue - especially on test day. Fatigue will leave you more susceptible to making mistakes, losing agility and getting injured.
Testing power activities, whether it’s a sprint or a max lift ALWAYS requires a long and hard warm up. With most workouts a general warm up will do but when we are required output high amounts of power and generate lots of force, our whole body and nervous system needs to be awake and primed for its best. You do not get in a Ferrari, flip it on, and redline the engine. This will destroy the engine block. You drive it around he block a couple of times, let her rip on the highway and then take it to the track to she what she is made of. Or bodies work the same way.
It is truly a fine line between warm up and fatigue. You have to get to know your body a bit so that you can tell when you warm up is dipping in the the tank reserved for performance. But luckily there are a couple pretty easy formulas for warming up a 1RM.
It is best to start with a 10-15 min general warm up that includes stretching and moving in the same movement patterns as the lift you will be performing. You and to break a sweat and get the muscles and joints primped for the task. Make sure in your warm up you do bouts of some kind of movement that gets you out of breath: burpees, kettlebell swings, run, jumping jacks, jump rope - any of these are good to be included.
After you have warmed up, you will warm up your lift. Starting with 50% of your expected 1RM, start doing some reps of your lift. Today we are going to use the squat as an example. At this weight, you will want to sit in the bottom of the quat for a couple of seconds and pay close attention to your technique. Feel your muscles move and activate to send you though the lift. Perform about 8-10 reps here. Add more weight, decrease the reps until you get to a good starting point. I like to do 8, 6, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1...1RM. It’s usually around the set of two that I put on my belt. At this same point the weight should feel challenging but definitely not impossible. We are saving our juice for the singles.
When testing is is extremely important to give yourself enough time in between attempts. Most people are not patient enough to wait and end up lifting from an empty tank over and over. This will only fatigue you and give you a measly number compared to all of the weight you could actually be pushing. Wait anywhere from three to six minutes in between attempts to allow the ATP to build back up in you system.
Other common strength tests
While the 1RM is the gold standard, I believe doubles and triples really reveals how strong someone is. For women, this is a great measure of strength as we tend to have more endurance than force. Plus, the 2 and 3RMs are just more fun to do.
Other great measures of strength are the 10, 15 and 20 RMs. This is pretty big stuff in the weightlifting world, Most people do not have the eggs, balls or mental toughness to test and find their 20 rep back squat. It is a painful and enlightening endeavor. Getting good at these numbers will serve you well, build tons of shapely muscles and impress everyone you tell. But be warned, it;s a bit humbling when you first start.