A for Athlete


Various protocals for conducting a one rep max test.

Also see the books:

  • "Essentials of Strength and Conditioning" from NSCA (Baechle and Earle)
  • "Designing Resistance Training Programs" (Fleck and Kraemer).

"Accurate results" is an elusive concept for most strength tests because there are so many variables to control. At best, you can get today's one-rep max on an individual. Also, it's not that necessary, or sometimes even advisable, to perform a one-rep max test for individuals unless you are performing a research study where such test results are outcome variables.


If the test is not done the exact same way each time it is administered the results will not be accurate.


Mark Cotton's tips[]

Use a flat bichromial grip bench. Start with the simple question, "What do you think is your one rep maximum lift?" With most athletes they tend to have an honest appraisal of themselves. The businessman or woman not so much. In their case I usually reduce the given number by 20%.

Once the estimated 1RM is established, follow this protocol:

  • 40% -4 reps/2 sets/10 second rest period/then 1 set each
  • 60%-3 reps/30 seconds
  • 75%-2 reps/60 seconds
  • 80%-1 rep/120 seconds
  • 90%-1 rep/180 seconds
  • 95%-1 rep/240 seconds

You either have arrived at a 1RM your next set or repeat the last set until you do. All sets require lowering the weight at a 3-4 second tempo. Additionally, any variation from strict form...a spot needed, hips elevated, bar speed variation on the way up, tilting bar...anything, ends the test and the last strict movement is recorded as the 1RM.

I also verify my findings by including further structural balance testing by using the dumbbell external rotation which is generally 9.8% of your max bench and the Dumbbell Trap Three Raise which generally is 10.6% of your max bench. This is for an 8RM.

Scott Murray's tips[]

He has used the following from Newton, R. U., Cormie, P., and Cardinale, M. (2011). Monitoring strength and conditioning progress. In M. Cardinale, R. Newton, and Nosaka, K (eds). Strength and Conditioning. Biological Principles and Practical Applications. This is a similar protocol to that detailed by T. R. Baechle and R. W. Earle (eds) in Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning.

1RM Protocol being

  • 10 repetitions at 50% 1RM. 3-5 minutes rest
  • 5 repetitions at 70% 1RM. 3-5 minutes rest
  • 3 repetitions at 80% 1RM. 3-5 minutes rest
  • 1 repetition at 90% 1RM. 3-5 minutes rest.
  • Up to three attempts to determine actual 1 RM with 3-5 min rest between each effort.