One Rep Max
Forget About Projected Max
by James Bullock

One Rep Max

1RM stands for one rep max and if you have been training for very long or have read some of our other articles then you obviously know that.

A “projected” max does nothing but build false confidence. No one cares what you think you might be able to do. Do the damn work and display your strength with actual max lifts.

Performance Max Set is using the heaviest weight possible for a specific rep range without going to complete failure. So when the bar starts to slow down significantly you terminate the set. This method actually shows your maximal strength at a given rep range. This is one of the primary methods I use for my athletes and in my own personal training.

Building Strength and Displaying Strength

When you attempt to go for a new one repetition maximum on a specific lift you are displaying your current level of absolute strength.

Building strength consists of using sub-maximal weights as fast as possible. Approximately 80 to 90% of your training emphasis should be on building strength. There is no reason to regularly test your 1 repetition maximum. Focus on the performance and speed of every rep, set, and training session and you WILL GET STRONGER; I guarantee it.

I used to test my 1 rep max every 4 weeks and that works…for a while. Beginner and even some intermediate lifters can get away with that; I did for about 3 years. Your training methodology has to adapt and change more often the more efficient your body becomes, specifically the central nervous system.

Currently I test my one rep max when my performance on my lifts has improved significantly. That could be improved speed, reversal strength, technique, total volume with higher weights, and so on.

Don’t get caught up in always attempting a new one rep max. Focus on performance and when you do attempt that new epic max the reward will be even sweeter than you thought.

Testing Your One Rep Max

I pretty much treat a one rep max as I would any other rep maximum. I will work up in weight until I get a personal record. The key is to know how much weight to increase from set to set. Some jump way too much and others too little. For example, if you bench 500 pounds and you jump only 10 pounds per set, your CNS (central nervous system) will be shot by the time you make it to a new max attempt.

Here is an example of working up to a max of 410 in the bench press.

  • Bar 3 sets of 5 reps
  • 95 for 3 sets of 5 reps
  • 135 for 3 sets of 3
  • 185 for 1 set of 3
  • 225/3
  • 250/1
  • 275/1
  • 295/1
  • 315/1
  • 335/1
  • 355/1
  • 375/1
  • 395/1
  • 410/1

Notice that the biggest jump is from 185 to 225 (40lbs) and that is due to it still being on the lower end of the maximum and transitioning from performance prep to performance work. The second biggest jump is 25 pounds. The body needs time to be able to handle heavier loads later in the session. Your muscles, tendons, central nervous system, and skeletal structure all need to be prepared to perform optimally.


James Bullock

Strength and Honor


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About the Author

James Bullock is the head coach for Irondom Performance Systems and Combative Sciences. He's written programs for athletes and non-athletes alike, including numerous world record holders in various sports. Combative Sciences was found in 1999 and is the culmination of decades of martial arts training. 

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