Know Your 1RM for Maximal Strength

How strong are you? In the gym, this is a very valuable question. But how valuable is your answer?

Know Your 1RM for Maximal StrengthIf you were approached with this question would you be able to answer it? More importantly, do you know how to answer it?

In the gym, your strength can be measured with just one rep, better known as your 1RM. Your 1RM is a key indicator in determining your overall/maximal strength. By definition, it is the maximum amount of weight you are able to lift for one rep without breaking form and is typically measured on compound exercises such as the bench, squat, and deadlift.

If you are not sure how to find your 1RM there a number of charts available to help.

Below is one example of how to find you 1RM:

Number of Reps % Perceived Exertion
1 100
2 95
3 90
4 88
5 86
6 83
7 80
8 78
9 76
10 75
11 72
12 70

(Source: http://www.strength-training-woman.com/1RM.html)

Following a proper warm-up, choose a weight that should challenge you between 6 and 12 reps on a compound exercise (i.e. overheard press, bench press, lat pull down or squat). Count how many reps you can complete with perfect form, then refer to the chart.

So, let’s say I lifted a 10 lb weight for 7 reps with perfect form on the overheard press. According to the chart, I lifted at approximately 80% of my 1RM.

The 10 lb is then divided 80% (.80) giving me the number 12.5 (or my 1RM).

Now look at the number you have. Are you satisfied?  Or would you like to see this number grow?  A true competitor never settles. So, are you ready to boost your value with intense strength training?

Since your 1RM is an indication of strength, the best way to increase it, is to cycle through a strength building program that requires you to lift at approximately 80-90% of you 1RM (between 3 and 7 reps).

The following are tips to help you jack up your 1RM:

Develop Your Kinetic Chain

To increase your overall strength a large focus should be placed on developing your kinetic chain.  This can be done by incorporating free weights into your program. With free weights you not only target a particular muscle group but also engage other muscles that assist in the work, helping to improve your co-ordination by improving the neuromuscular pathways that connect your muscles to the central nervous system.

Compound Lifts First

Second, always begin your workout with your biggest compound lifts (bench, squat and deadlifts) before moving onto other isolation exercises.

Add Variety with Power Training

Maximal strength training can improve exercise economy and endurance performance. Such a program will lay the foundation for increasing your potential for additional power development, but is not effective as a whole. Your 1RM lift requires explosive power that can only be developed when strength is converted into explosive force. Power training should, therefore, be included to help improve the rate of force. Just one day of plyometrics in your typical strength-training split can help you convert your maximal strength into explosive power and help to increase your 1RM.

Rest

Rest comes in two forms – rest between sets and rest away from the gym.

When handling heavy weights, you will require about of 2-3 minutes of rest between sets.

Finally, remember – strength will not increase in the gym. It will, however, flourish with proper rest and nutrition. When pushing heavy weights, schedule recovery weeks in between strength-training weeks. Two weeks heavy, one week light is a good cycle to follow when trying to build strength. Likewise, give each muscle group at least 48 hours of rest. This will help avoid injuries associated with overtraining.

Nutrition

BCAAs are essential in promoting muscle recovery and strength development. More specifically, the BCAA leucine has been found to stimulate protein synthesis and aid in muscle recovery. Leucine is the most concentrated amino acid in the skeletal muscle tissue and can be found naturally in nuts, brown rice, cottage cheese, chicken and fish.

This powerful BCAA works by activating the anabolic pathways (mTOR pathway) that work in conjunction with your body’s insulin. Studies have linked leucine to lowering elevated blood sugar levels, as well as increasing growth hormone production. Even more, it aids in achieving positive nitrogen balance. Just 2.8 grams of leucine can help increase protein synthesis by as much as 60%. This boost in muscle recovery will help you keep your weight training frequency at its maximum potential.

Leucine BCAA by ALLMAX Nutrition is a pure and powerful crystalline product that is derived directly from vegetables (corn) and created through a complex fermentation process. It includes zero preservatives, additives, binders or excipients. The result: an ultra fine powder with maximum absorbency.

So go ahead, realize your value and then boost it with intense strength training and leucine. With your new 1RM you will not only rule the gym, you will pretty much own it.

Valeria Fazio

Valeria Fazio holds a B.A. Honors degree in history from Carleton University and a diploma in professional writing from Algonquin College. She has been competing in amateur fitness and figure competitions for three years, and has recently qualified for the 2011 Ontario Provincial Figure Championships. As a certified personal trainer and nutritional coach, Valeria helps others in her free time to achieve their fitness goals.

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