Death to the One-Rep-Max

"Risk comes from not knowing what you're doing."

-Warren Buffett

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was SUCH a good show. The introduction's theme song remains one of the most recognizable TV show themes.

"Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool..."

What a fantastic program. Honestly, what are kids these days watching instead? Adventure Time? 90s kids clearly had it best.

So, what do Fresh Prince and weightlifting have in common?

Practically nothing to be honest; but the above lyrics have the word "maxing" in them and I will gladly use that as my excuse.

On this site, I often quote one-rep-max to give advice on structuring your rep range and program.For those who haven't heard of this before, it's a lifting measurement. Generally speaking, a weight you can perform for 6 reps is equivalent to 85% of your 1RM and a weight you could perform for 10 reps is roughly 75%.

I use this concept as a reference because depending on the intensity of your sets, simply prescribing a "rep range" won't be enough. 8 reps taken to failure will be a VERY different weight from the load you would use for 3 sets of 8 reps.

Although I refer to the 1RM often, let me make something clear.


Some people are encouraged to test it, particularly athletes, powerlifters, and olympic lifters. Frankly, I wish these organizations would do away with using this as their gauge of strength; it's just ridiculous to encourage kids to regularly test how much weight they can lift for just ONE rep.

Here's why I'm so against this:

risk of injury

Let's say that you stubbornly go into a gym on a poor night of sleep or under the duress of a cold.

Frankly, you are NOT going to be at your best. You're just not!

So despite your best warm up sets and stretches, you find yourself grinding the bar while attempting to get a rep out on Bench Press.

But you don't.

The bar doesn't move up.

So you tell your partner to grab it, but at that point, it might be too late. When fooling around with weight THAT heavy, you really open your body up to injury. You could easily tear your pec to the point where you would need surgery.


At what point in your life would you have to lift something at maximum intensity for no more than 4 or 5 seconds?

Probably never.

So why does it matter what you can Bench, Squat, etc. for just one repetition?

Doesn't make much sense to me.

Think about physical labor performed by construction workers or charity volunteers; a lot of the work they do is influenced by endurance rather than strength.

But hey, let's take a strength-based sport like Wrestling or Football.

Even in those cases, a 1RM still would be pointless since a 1RM does little to induce hypertrophy. As I explained in a previous post on rep ranges, such a weight is just too freaking heavy to effectively encourage muscle growth.

Chances are, the guys you see perform this at the gym couldn't leave their egos at the door. The weight on the bar isn't everything.

Wrap Up

There you have it, guys. Some basic reasons not to go crazy with 1RM.

At the end of the day, worry more about increasing your numbers on a regular basis than your maximal lifts.