Strength Power Tests: 1 Rep Max (1RM)

The 1 repetition max (1RM) is often used as a measure of strength within athletes. It is a valid and reliable way to measure participants strength from a wide range of populations.

Within the sport of Powerlifting, the 1RM is competition standard for the Squat, the Bench Press and the Deadlift. Further to this, 1RM Olympic Weightlifting is used for the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk (C&J). However, when testing maximal strength, a variety of different moves can be used, these include (but not limited to): Power Clean, Back Squat, Bench Press, Leg Press, Seated Row, Shoulder Press, Bicep Curl, Heel-Raise, Deadlift, Leg Extension, Low Row, Overhead Press, Tricep Ext, Split-Squat, Supine Press, Leg Curl, Miliary Press, Hip Flexion, Tricep Push Down …

It is important to note, however, that new and novice lifters should stay clear of 1RM tests due to the increase risk of injury and, they may not be accustomed to lifting weights, an increase in muscle soreness.

Although the 1RM test is primarily used to measure maximum strength capabilities, it can also be used to measure other component such as power-time, velocity-time and force-time. This can be achieved by using a force plate.

Training plateaus can also be avoided by using the 1RM test to measure the success of a particular training plan. Therefore, the 1RM test can be used with athletes as a measure of progress. It can also be used to compare athletes relative strength.

Performing 1RM Tests

When performing 1RM tests, there is various research which state differing times of rest periods. Some research says rest periods should be between 1-2 minutes per lift (1,3), which others suggest 3-5 minutes (8,9). Although undertaking anaerobic maximum effort lifts with only 1-2 minutes rest may appear to be counter productive, the studies produce a valid and reliable result. The coach could also use the CR10 BORG Scale to determine the length of the rest period. For example, an effort rating of <3 may indicate a 1-2 minute rest interval, whereas >4 may produce 2 minutes rest period.

Taking the 1RM Test

When undertaking the rest, the athlete must be weighed in lightweight clothing with no footwear or accessories.

After a period of dynamic warm-up and mobilisation, the athlete then performs 3 lifts. The first lift should be around 80% of maximum effort, with each of the 3 lifts becoming heavier in weight. A rest period of 1-5 minutes should be in place between each lift. If multiple 1RM tests are being performed then each lift should be separated by 3-5 minutes.

Maximal strength (deadlift etc) and maximal explosive strength (power clean etc) can be calculated by recording the athlete’s highest weight lifted. For example, if a back squat of 100kg was recorded this is the maximal strength for the athlete.

From this, relative strength can be calculated:

Relative Strength = Total Weight Lifted (Kg) ÷ Body mass (Kg)

An example:

Relative Strength = Total Weight Lifted (Kg) ÷ Body mass (Kg)

Relative Strength = 170 (Kg) ÷ 105 (Kg)

Relative Strength = 1.61

Relative Strength is a useful measure to compare athletes performances and is less bias than simply using the total weight lifted. However, it is not perfect. The Relative Strength can be described as the amount of weight that an athletes can lift per Kg/Lb of body weight.

Think about …

There are a number of key factors that need to be monitored that could affect the validity and reliability of this test method.

  • Range of Motion – It is important that the athlete achieves full range of motion. For example, if the aim is to test a full parallel squat then it is important that this is what the athlete achieves. If the athlete only performs 1/4 squat or 1/2 squat then the result will be invalid. Technicalities need to be consistent and measured within each lift.
  • Check for injuries – as with all lifts, it is important that the athlete is not carrying any injuries. Also if athletes have a specific medical condition, then consent should be provided by a trained medical professional.
  • Time of the Day – The time of the day that the lifts take place can significantly impact upon the performance of the lifts. For example, an afternoon lift may produce higher peak power values than an early morning lift.
  • Effort – 100% must be given by the athlete.

If you have enjoyed reading this strength and power test, then you should take a look at The Squat Jump Test.

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