Using a One Rep Max or Training Max to Program

May 12th, 2015

Category: Training

Using a One Rep Max or Training Max to Program

-When designing programs for anyone looking to enhance lifts there comes a time when working with percentages can be very valuable.
-Percentages give us a good general rule of thumb of around how many reps one can do at a given weight.
-As a coach to achieve a desired stimulus, we need data to program what kind of weight should be lifted for any given main lift.
-The question is do I use my single best lift to base my percentages or do I use a percentage of that number?

Here is a common scenario

Let’s say an athlete has a test day.  He/she is going to test in the squat.  We warm up and work our way up to a one rep max, which would be 100% of maximum effort.  In order to do this, the athlete slept, ate, recovered, and warmed up the best they ever had.  Not only that, but they got so psyched up with music pumping and people watching.  Let’s say this athlete hits a 400lb squat.  So it’s safe to assume that this athletes max is now 400 and we should dictate everything around that number? This is a common mistake that can hinder progress.


The problem with using this number is that the stars had to align for this athlete to get this number.  Meaning on an average day he/she wouldn’t be able to perform that max again. With this, there is a chain reaction of missed reps because of improper planning with the wrong weights.


Now we aren’t saying that the athlete can’t achieve 400 lbs just that it took everything to go right in order to achieve this.  So it would be a bad call to base this lifters program off of the 400 pound lift.
In this case I want the lifter hitting 75% for 8 or so reps. In this scenario just presented, it could truly but 80% or 85% percent he is working with if we based it off this 400 pound squat. The rep ranges you programmed in are now too many because the number of reps was supposed to be for a number he/she can safely do 8-10 reps at.   A difference of 40 pounds in our hypothetical situation! That can make a huge difference for your athlete.

The Fix

What we would do then is take roughly 90% of the one rep max (400 lbs) and use this number as our new training max.  In this case 90% of 400 = 360.  Now we have a more realistic number to work off of daily that would more than likely ensure quality lifts each session.   The name of the game is quality, and if we don’t achieve quality reps then we can’t progress safely.

Summary and Tips

-Just because you or an athlete you coach has gone for broke and reached a great number, it’s not safe to assume this can be achieved everyday, which is what we need to know to safely dictate quality reps at given percentages.
-It’s better to underestimate the training max then to overestimate.
-We can always add weight if things are too light, if you get crushed early on in the workout the chances of coming back to optimal strength levels decreases greatly for that training session, which means no progress towards your goal.
-Try 90% of what you did on your best day and stick to a program.  You should see some good gains in the coming weeks.