PT on the Net Research

Upping Your 1 Rep Max


I have a member who wants to increase his 1 RM on the bench. Can you recommend any specific way to achieve this? Any research you have would be helpful. Also if you have something that outlines how to perform a 1 RM test correctly that would be useful too.


The 1-repetition maximum bench press test is used to measure upper body strength. However, it is important to realize the strength tested and gained has little carry over to many of life’s functions. In addition, over-use of the bench press will lead to overstress injuries to the shoulder complex. This information is important to relay to your client! If you are going to administer the test, the correct way is as follows:

  1. Be there to spot him AND observe how the movement is being executed (form is more important than how much).
  2. Instruct client to warm-up with a light resistance that allows at least 10 repetitions.
  3. After the warm-upset, rest 1 minute.
  4. Estimate a warm-upload that will allow the client to complete five reps.
  5. Rest two minutes.
  6. Estimate a conservative near maximum load that will allow three reps (base this on form).
  7. Rest three to four minutes
  8. Increase the load and perform a 1-RM
  9. If successful without losing form, rest 4 minutes and repeat step #8 (Increase the load and perform a 1-RM)
  10. If the client failed, rest 4 minutes, reduce load and repeat.
  11. Continue increasing or decreasing load until a 1-RM is achieved with PERFECT form.
  12. Record the 1RM and divide by clients body weight to determine relative strength.

Note: If you want to compare your client's results to the data that has been collected, contact the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas Texas.

Now, once you know what your client's max is, your goal is to condition him or her to improve (if that is the decided goal). Our suggestion, perform more than a 1RM test to determine your client's level of fitness. In other words, don’t use the test ONLY to increase the test results. Assess their flexibility and stability. Both flexibility and stability are PRE-requisites for strength. So if you want to improve upper body strength (1RM), improve the flexibility of the upper body as well as the stability (see exercises in the Exercise Library).

Good luck and be careful not to over-do the bench press!