As part of an online competition I want to perfom 1RM on all of my lifts (squat, bench press, over head press, bent over rows, dead lift). I do not know what my current 1RM is and would like to find out in a safe way. How can I do this safely?

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You should have a general idea of what you should be able to do based on the training you've done to date. If you haven't trained long enough to have an idea, I highly recommend waiting a bit. This will help you plan your warm ups.

Estimating 1RM Based on Longer Sets

For a ball park estimate of what you would be good for, use the formula below:

Eff = ((W * R) / 30) + W


  • Eff = effort or 1RM
  • W = weight lifted
  • R = reps performed

I would use your current maximum work set you've done to plug in to the numbers. So if you are doing Starting Strength, and your highest squat was 225lbs for 5 reps your estimated 1RM will be about 255lbs. Just note that the higher the number of reps you use for this estimate, the less accurate the formula becomes.

I recommend this method if you are figuring out what to plug in to a program that uses percentages. I also recommend this method if you are a beginner. Work up to your heaviest set of 3 or 5, or pick a weight you know you can lift repeatedly and go for the maximum reps.

Actually Testing 1RM

Testing your 1RM requires preparation to do it safely.

  • Use a power rack with adjustable safeties. Do not rely on a spotter
  • Set the safeties low enough that they won't interfere with the lift, but you can escape out from under the bar if you have to leave it on the safeties.
  • Have someone judge the lift, or use video. It doesn't count if your squat is high, or you don't lock out all the way.
  • Taper your warm up so that the last one or two warmup sets are singles.
  • Increase from your warmup weight toward your expected 1RM with 10-20lb increments (larger increments for lower body and smaller increments for upper body).
  • Once you have to set the bar on the safeties, you are done. You'll be too fatigued to keep forcing that lift.
  • Make sure you have plenty of rest before 1RM testing. Take a week off of training before you go at it.

When preparing for a competition, you have 3 attempts. Most recommendations I have seen are close to these percentages of your target max: 85%, 93%, 100%. (I've also seen 90%, 95%, 97%). The idea is that the first attempt should be something you can easily do for a triple. The second attempt increases your total for the day, and the last attempt is going for a Personal Record (PR). This is the approach I now use. If I hit all three attempts, I don't try for a fourth.

NOTE: Here is a huge reason to use safeties and not rely on a spotter:


At the weight the power lifter was lifting, it would be unreasonable to expect the spotters to be able to do much with it, even if their hands remained under the bar the entire time.

  • I'd say the other mistake was letting the spotter help him get the weights off the rack. If you need help getting it up, it's probably not safe.
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Sep 7, 2012 at 22:30
  • @RobinAshe, if the OP is a beginner I would agree with you. However, there comes a time in your training where the energy it takes to get the bar off the pins for bench takes away from the ability to do the lift. I hit that mark at around 255lb bench. I made that lift, but my next attempt at 265lb failed because I spent too much energy getting the bar off the pins. I should have been good for 275lb by the sub-max estimates. Commented Sep 8, 2012 at 1:23

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