Safely Test Your 1 Rep Max - The Best Measure of Maximal Strength Capacities

Have you ever heard the saying 'your can't improve what you don't measure'? Well there is a lot of truth to it... If gaining strength is a goal of yours then you can't get a better measure than the 1 Rep Max Test. By measuring your 1 rep max before and after completing your training program, you will get a true representation of how effective it was and give you a bench mark for setting new strength goals. Win-win!

However, you may have heard or guessed that testing your 1 rep max can be dangerous, and of course if not done correctly then you are right. Having broken my back in 2012 (yes, I unfortunately crushed my L1 vertebra and now have a big chunk of metal in my back - yuk!), I am all about safety first!

So how do you do it safely? Its all about being properly prepared and doing it when you are ready. Firstly it is important to realise that it is very taxing on your nervous system and your entire muscoskeletal repertoire. That big fancy word (that hope makes me sound clever hahahaha!) means muscles, tendons, and bones etc. Therefore, this is not something that you should be testing on a weekly basis. It is far better to use it before and after a full training block that might last 12 weeks or more. In the case of competitive athletes, they tend to save it for competition day!

Secondly, I personally would not advice a beginner to attempt this test as you are yet to prepare your body for safely lifting heavy loads with proper form. Instead build up to heavier lifting over 6 months or more and then calculate your estimated 1 Rep Max by performing your lift for 5-10 reps and then plug it into this calculator (click the link to go to the calculator).

Whether you are regular lifter or a newbie, prior to doing your test, you want to reach a point where you have gotten used to lifting around 80% of your guessed 1 Rep Max for 3-4 reps. If you have never tested your 1 Rep Max before then it is advisable to use the calculator (testing higher rep range of 5 reps) at least a few weeks before so that you can use your guesstimated 1 Rep Max to effectively plan your real test.

Try to do your tests in a gym where the temperature and environment is controlled, in the afternoon when your bodies circadian rhythms are more primed for heavy lifting, when you have spotters to work with, and when you are feeling well and have eaten accordingly. Finally, make sure you take at least one rest day before your test to ensure that you are properly rested ready to smash your PB!!!!


Make sure you warm up properly guys! This is so important when it comes to preventing injury. Give yourself 10-15 minutes to do your warm up. This should includes some light cardio to get your blood pumping and your muscles warm. You also need to do dynamic stretches and activation exercises that are related to the exercise you are testing for. For example, if you are going to test the deadlift, then you want to be doing body weight lunges, squats and good mornings followed by bridges and banded crab walks to activate the glutes.


This is a series of warm up lifts that lead you right into your test sets. Take as much rest as you need between sets. 3-5 minutes between your heavier lifts are likely to be optimal.

  • 10 Reps with just the bar

  • 8 Reps with 50% of estimated 1RM

  • 5 Reps with 60% 1RM

  • 3 Reps with 70% 1RM

  • 2 Reps with 80% 1RM

  • Depending on how strong and stable you feel chose to repeat the above, go for 2 Reps at 85% or skip this set and go straight to 90% - listen to your body!

  • 1 Rep with 90% 1RM

  • 1 Rep with 95-98% 1RM

  • 1 Rep with 100-105% 1RM

  • If you feel there is more to give, rest adequately and go again a few more times!


Your best weight for 1 rep is your new 1RM and measures your maximum strength capacities. You can also calculate your 'relative strength' by dividing your total weight lifted by your total body weight. Either both in kg's or bot in lbs.

Happy testing yall!

As always, let me know if you have questions as I would love to hear from you.

Kelin x

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