What is Repetition Maximum ?

One method of measuring the effectiveness of a resistance exercise program and calculating an appropriate exercise load for training is to determine a repetition maximum. This term was first reported decades ago by DeLorme in his investigations of an approach to resistance training called progressive resistive exercise (PRE).

 A repetition maximum (RM) is defined as the greatest amount of weight (load) a muscle can move through the full, available ROM with control a specific number of times before fatiguing.

Use of a repetition maximum. 

There are two main reasons for determining a repetition maximum:

  1. To document a baseline measurement of the dynamic strength of a muscle or muscle group against which exercise-induced improvements in strength can be compared,
  2. To identify an initial exercise load (amount of weight) to be used during exercise for a specified number of repetitions. DeLorme reported use of a 1-RM (the greatest amount of weight a subject can move through the available ROM just one time) as the baseline measurement of a subject’s maximum effort but used a multiple RM, specifically a 10-RM, (the amount of weight that could be lifted and lowered 10 times through the ROM) during training.

Despite criticism that establishing a 1-RM involves some trial and error, it is a frequently used method for measuring muscle strength in research studies and is a safe and reliable measurement tool with healthy young adults and athletes as well as active older adults before beginning conditioning programs.

Test Your 1RM: Step by Step

  •  Choose which move you are going to test (squat, bench press, etc.)
  •  Warm-up with light cardio activity and dynamic stretching for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
  •  Do six to 10 reps of your chosen move, using a weight that's about half of what you think your max will be. Then rest for at least one to two minutes.
  •  Increase the weight up to 80% of what you think your max might be. Do three reps, then rest for at least one minute.
  •  Add weight in approximately 10% increments and attempt a single rep each time, resting for at least one to two minutes in between each attempt.
  •  The maximum weight you can successfully lift, with good form and technique, is your 1RM.

PRECAUTION: Use of a 1-RM as a baseline measurement of dynamic strength is inappropriate for some patient populations because it requires one maximum effort. It is not safe for patients, for example, with joint impairments, patients who are recovering from or who are at risk for soft tissue injury, or patients with known or at risk for osteoporosis or cardiovascular pathology. Also, allow twenty-four hours of rest time for a muscle before performing a 1RM test. Don't perform this test in the afternoon if you had a morning workout of the same muscle group.

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