Last Updated on April 26, 2014 by Amir Rehman
A reader asked me how did I calculate my weights from the past article Weight Training Routine from the Archives?
Basically, you need to know your Maximum One Rep Max (or “1RM” in short) and the approximate percentages at the lower weights.
Below are my guidelines on weight percentages that worked for me for my different lifts.
- 1RM = 100%
- 8 reps = 70% (usually the warm up set)
- 6 reps = 85%
- 4 reps = 90%
The problem with testing the 1RM is you can get injured testing an athlete… just ask Asafa Powell prior to his preparation for Beijing 2008. Nowadays, we only test for “doubles or triples”… that is 2 or 3 rep sets.
I’ll use empirical weights as my weight room still uses those plates. I guess they bought them from the USA.
For example, if my 1RM Bench Press is 315lbs (3 x 45 lb plates on each side, plus 45 lb bar), then
- 8 reps = 70% = 220 lbs.
- 6 reps = 85% = 267.5 lbs.
- 4 reps = 90% = 282.5 lbs.
You can easily use Microsoft Excel and use the ROUND function to round up to the nearest 2.5 or 5 lb increment, depending if your weight room has 1.25 or 2.5 lb “donuts”.
Note that these are training weights, and not to failure.
But Will I Get Big?
In a nutshell, maybe.
This is my first question I get from both Men and Women, with different concerns or goals by gender.
But I guarantee you will get strong.
Doing 5 or 6 reps at 85% load is a good guideline for muscular hypertrophy and maximal muscle fiber recruitment. This is bad news if you don’t want to get big.
But that fact remains, if you do this after a 2 hour track workout, and you aren’t training to failure on all those sets, then you might gain some mass. But not as much as if you did only weights on a 5×5 type of program. The next time you get injured from running, and are stuck doing weights as your primary workout, check out your numbers…. I’ll bet they’re rising!
You will definitely gain strength, and that is the whole purpose of doing weight training:
- strength training, i.e. squats, bench press
- explosive training, especially from the Olympic lifts like power cleans or hang cleans.
In as much as I think the Bench Press is useless (unless you are a power lifter), it has one benefit: it will hold you steady in the set position of starting blocks.
Honestly folks, when was the last time someone sat on your face while lying down and had to push them upwards with your arms and chest?
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Other 1RM Testing Protocols
Another example of calculating 1 rep max is from the book The Ultimate Guide to Weight Training for Track and Field by Sportsworkout.com
It’s a simple test where you find an exercise and weight you can do for 8 reps or less. Then follow the cart to see where your weight and reps intersect, and that becomes your theoretical One Rep Max (1RM).
Note that this test is to failure.
Comparing to my workouts, with exception of the 8 reps set (because it is a warm up set), the 4 and 6 reps numbers are pretty close to the actual 315.