Try This Easy One-Rep Max Test

Know how much you bench? Find out through this easy one-rep max test.

Bench Press 1RM

Do you know your current one-rep max? If you're not sure, it's time to find out. The one-rep max (the largest amount of weight you can lift for one repetition without assistance) is one of the most important numbers in weightlifting since it not only provides motivation but can help you get stronger faster.

Knowing your one-rep max (1RM) will help you figure out the correct weight percentages to lift to gain strength. If your max has changed but you don't alter your program, strength gains will stop and you will plateau.

Many athletes know that they need to determine their 1RM at the beginning and end of every training cycle, but they don't want to take the time and effort to perform a traditional max test out of concerns about injury or overtaxing their bodies.

What if there were a safe and effective way to test your 1RM that you could add to any workout? This would allow you to make adjustments to your workouts instantly and see maximum gains in a shorter amount of time. To do this, all you have to do is add one more set at the end of your warm-up at 80 percent of your current 1RM.

A normal Bench Press session may look like this:

  • 1x5 @ 55 percent 1RM
  • 1x3 @ 70 percent 1RM
  • 1x1 @ 80 percent 1RM

Now, let's say it's the first day of a new phase (microcycle), and you want to see if your Bench numbers need to be increased. To do this, increase your last set to three reps. Your new warm-up will look like this:

  • 1x5 @ 55 percent 1RM
  • 1x3 @ 70 percent 1RM
  • 1x3 @ 80 percent 1RM (Test Set)

During the test set, closely monitor your body's exertion and the bar's speed. If you struggle through the three reps and push the bar at a slow, steady pace, your max has not changed. If you completed the set with ease and maintained speed during the pushing part of your lifts, your max has increased. To get your new 1RM, estimate how many times you'd be able to lift the weight with a rep max calculator.

As you become familiar with the test set, you'll be able to calculate your max with only one or two reps at 80 percent of your 1RM. Fewer test set reps allow you to save your body for future workouts.

For more great training tips, check out Triphasic Training: A systematic approach to elite speed and explosive strength performance.


Ben Peterson, author of Triphasic Training, is currently pursuing his doctorate in kinesiology and exercise physiology at the University of Minnesota. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peterson started his career in 2008, working for the Minnesota Twins as an assistant strength and conditioning coach. Over the past four years, he has worked with hundreds of professional athletes in the NFL, NHL and MLB. Most recently, he has served as a consultant for Octagon Hockey, spending the NHL off-season working with their athletes in the Minneapolis area.

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