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Calculate Your Max Deadlift: How And When To Use 1RM

 Written by 

Mauro Castillo

 Last updated on 

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Knowing your max deadlift is highly beneficial when it comes to having an efficient workout program, so you can better estimate for training purposes.

Having to do a 1RM deadlift every week is not healthy nor sustainable, which is why many coaches and athletes focus on calculating your max effort lift once or twice and then base the training plans on the percentages from that lift.

Men knowing how to deadlift thanks to a deadlift max calculator
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In this article, you’ll learn how to calculate your max deadlift and how and when to use it to better your workout plan and keep your training experience at the highest level.

This is what I’ll cover:

– What is a 1RM?

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– How to test your 1RM using the deadlift max calculator formula

– The best way to warm up for a one-rep max

– How and when to use your 1RM

– Increasing your 1RM

Let’s get into it!

What is 1RM?

1RM is the abbreviation for “one repetition maximum,” meaning the heaviest weight you can lift for one rep. Other names are “maximum lift” and “single repetition maximum.

Just like there is 1RM, there’s also 2RM (max weight for two reps), 3RM (max weight for three reps), and so on. CrossFit’s training methodology often includes 20RM to test muscle endurance.

It’s worth mentioning that a PR (personal record) is not the same as a 1RM. The personal record is the heaviest weight you’ve ever lifted for any given exercise at any point in time. The 1RM is the heaviest you can lift now.

In other words, your PR can be your 1RM, but your 1RM is only sometimes your PR. If your PR was months (even years) ago, and you still need to update it, I’d recommend trying your 1RM to measure your current strength level.

An athlete at the gym performing deadlifts after using a deadlift max calculator
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How Do I Test My One-Rep Max Using The Deadlift Max Calculator Formula?

The most accurate way to test your 1RM strength is by putting weights on the bar and deadlifting it . That will give you a natural feeling of your base of strength.

It’s also the best way to consider your fitness level and other variables such as sleep, nutrition, and excellent form. All of these are crucial components for your 1-RM performance.

Another great way to test your deadlift max is by using a one-rep max calculator (1RM calculator). These fitness calculators are found online and based on accurate formulas like Ripley’s equation.

Boyd Epley first introduced this 1RM formula in 1985, and it’s the most accurate in estimating the 1RM for bench press, back squat, and deadlift (1).

The formula is:

1RM = weight x (1 + (reps / 30))

The best part about using these online max calculators is that you don’t have to lift your one-rep max to know how much weight is involved.

You log an “x” amount of reps at an “x” weight, and the calculator will estimate your maximum weight in conjunction with 2RM, 3RM…5RM…10RM, etc.

How to Warm Up to Test Your 1RM

Regarding strength training, the shorter the rep range, the longer the warm-up. These attempts are usually heavy and taxing for the body and the central nervous system (CNS).

A man preparing his 1RM deadlift
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Warm-ups are also an effective way to work on proper form. Reviewing your weaknesses and focusing on cleaning your movement pattern is a crucial part of your health progress with the deadlift.

An efficient warm-up has three goals:

– Increase core temperature

– Prime the CNS

– Mimic the main movement pattern as the main exercise or workout

The best way to do this is by mixing movements and techniques such as foam rolling, plyo exercises (jogs, running, and jumping), and (as in this case) deadlifts with and without extra weight.

Hands-on barbell

Once you’ve gone through the essential warm-up, it is time to grab the barbell. For a more accurate guide, follow this example:

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  • Set 1: 8 reps with an empty barbell 
  • Set 2: 6-8 reps at a manageable weight (50% of your estimated 1RM)
  • Set 3: 4-6 reps at a moderate weight (55-65% of your estimated 1RM)
  • Set 4: 2-4 reps at a moderate-heavy weight (65-80% of your estimated 1RM)
  • Set 5: 1-2 reps at a heavy weight (80-95% of your estimated 1RM)
  • Set 6: First attempt at new 1RM
  • Set 7: Second attempt at new 1RM

This example could change between individuals, their goals, and their fitness level. Regardless, make sure you’re resting at least 2-3 minutes between attempts after set 4.

Even if your muscles are not feeling fatigued, your CNS is getting taxed on every rep, and it might hinder your ability to push your maximum weight on that single repetition.

An older man doing deadlift safely thanks to 1RM deadlift calculator
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How To Use Your 1RM Deadlift

One of the best ways to take advantage of your max weight is using percentages.

Percentages of 1RM are an intelligent approach that allows you to work on the same strength level as your 1RM without lifting that much weight. 

You can use it for strength, hypertrophy (muscle gain), and endurance. For example, let’s say your 1RM deadlift is 300 pounds.

– If you’re working your strength standards, you’d keep the weight around 85-95%+ of your 1RM, around 255-285 pounds. This is perfect for working in the 4-6 rep range.

– If your goal is to build muscle mass, work the reps around 70-85% of your 1RM (210-255 pounds). This will challenge you between the 8-12 rep range.

Endurance and speed training require the bar to move fast, so a lighter weight is recommended. 50-65% (150-195 lbs) of your 1RM is perfect for most individuals. You can feel the training stimuli within the 4-6 range.

Deadlift variations also affect how much you put on the bar. Remembering weights are not necessarily transferable from one deadlift variation to another is essential.

A 300-lb 1RM conventional deadlift will feel different from a 300-lb 1RM Romanian deadlift. Although the weight is the same, the body positioning and range of motion make all the difference.

Below you’ll find two chars with the repetitions and their respective percentages based on the 1RM.

image
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image 1
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Now you have more freedom to adapt your training to your current strength level.

When You Should Use Your 1RM Deadlift

It would help to use your 1RM deadlift when it’s time to update your current strength level.

For example, if you ran a test to identify your 1RM months ago and haven’t tested it since then, doing it again could help give you a sense of how much you’ve improved.

Another common scenario would be for your daily training purposes. You can’t attempt a new 1RM daily, which is why percentages are so valuable and a terrific way to use your 1RM.

Use them in your regular training cycles or when you’re looking to peak in training, and you’ll notice how your workouts become effective and efficient over time.

An athlete knowing his deadlift max using the calculator formula
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How To Increase Your 1RM

Following a strength training program is the most effective way to increase your 1RM. This allows you to increase the volume and intensity of your deadlift progressively. But other effective methods to achieve this are:

Optimize your nutrition

It’s hard to gain strength if you’re eating Doritos and sodas or under-eating. Fuel your body with the proper nutrients, increase your protein intake (0.8-1.0g per body weight pounds) and keep junk food and alcohol at a minimum.

Lower the rep range / increase the weight.

Keeping the rep range below six reps is crucial if the goal is lifting heftier weights. Otherwise, you’d risk putting your body (muscles and joints) in a position of overstress that could increase the risk of injury. The lower the rep range, the heavier you’ll lift, and your strength levels will also increase.

Improve your technique

The strongest individuals have mastered the technique and form for each movement. Advanced lifters spent hours reviewing training videos, looking for the best angle and small rooms for improvement that could gain them even half a pound.

Before going heavier, double down on the excellent form. This will also keep you healthier for longer while maximizing your body’s ability to perform at its peak.

Train accessory muscles

Increasing your body’s performance is a priority in strength training. That is when accessory muscles (synergists) go into place. They are secondary muscles that help stabilize the primary muscles, increasing the power output.

Suppose you want to get better at deadlifts and squats; you can individually train your glutes, core, and low back. If you want to increase your bench press, work on your rotator cuffs, traps, and triceps. Sooner than later, you’ll feel more robust and more stable.

A man deadlifting after using a deadlift max calculator
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FAQ

What Should My 1 Rep Max Deadlift Be?

It depends on your training goals. If you aim to become your strongest version, seeking a 1.75x – 2.5x bodyweight deadlift should be your training direction. However, if you want to be and feel stronger, a 1.25x-1.5x bodyweight deadlift will be enough.

Does A 1 Rep Max Build Muscle?

Yes, a 1 rep max can build muscle. However, there are more effective methods for muscle mass. Research has shown that all rep ranges from 6-20+ are ideal for building muscle, but doing a single rep doesn’t lead to muscle growth in the long run compared with other rep ranges.

Is 1.5 Times Bodyweight Deadlift Good?

A 1.5 times bodyweight deadlift is perfect. That puts you in the intermediate-advanced category for deadlifts concerning body weight. Novices are usually between 1x-1.25x bodyweight deadlift, which is also reasonable compared to the general population (>0.8x).

About

I've been in the world of CrossFit since 2016. Started as a client, later became a coach, and eventually bought an affiliate with two friends from January 2020 to January 2022. In 2018 I won 1st place at a local competition in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. After I sold my shares in January 2022 I moved then to another city to run as the general manager of another affiliate STI CrossFit.

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