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Programming and Percentages of 1 RM


Most programs call for a certain number of reps at a percentage of 1 RM, for example, 75%x5. I have been looking at a few programs including 5/3/1 and when I calculate the weight based on my 1 RM I come up with a ridiculously light weight for the number of reps. I wonder if it is that I have a weak 1 RM relative to my higher rep strength which is throwing off the program percentages.

It seems I have two options; I could use a weight that I can lift for 5 times if the program calls for 75%x5, or I could do exactly what the program recommends even though I would not be even approaching failure for that set.

I would appreciate any thoughts or advice you might have.


For 5/3/1, remember that the last set is the only one you'll really be killing yourself on, and that ever 4 weeks you'll be upping the weight gradually, which means over time you'll get closer and closer to a "5rm" for example.

Do NOT start improvising weights if you're doing Wendler's program.


In training you should never fail on any lift unless it is a test day.

A good calculator for max rep sets is 2.5% per rep...example, a max triple is about 92.5 %

So, as you can see, a set of 5 with 75% is a good work set, where if you were doing a max 5, you would be around 87-90%

AS for your rep maxes, everything is relative, and you may not have the explosiveness yet to guage your 1RM well. So If you are just starting a new program, pick solid conservative numbers. I have never done the 5/3/1 so I couldnt give any advice directly to it.

Much of my work is based on some Sheiko, and some Hatfield and my own ideas worked in. I find that 5 sets of 3 at 80% is a good work day. Much of my numbers run off of that day, which I got from a Sheiko program.

If you have anymore questions feel free to PM me or check out my training log


Yeah, I can definitely say from experience that going to failure constantly is a surefire way to kill yourself. I was trying to hard to get my deadlift to 585 from 525, and that meant I was frequently pushing myself to the limits and failing lifts. In the end, not only didn't I get 585, I didn't even get above 525 before my back got hurt and knocked me out of commission for a while.


Thank you for the help. This gives me the confidence to just trust the program.

I checked my reps with the 2.5% per rep calculator and it is just on the money for my squats.

It seems I have a misconception that all work sets need to just approach 1 rep shy of failure to do any good; and this misconception might explain why my squats and deadlifts have stagnated.

LSUPOWERDC - I will choose a program and run with it, and if I have any questions I will take up your offer and send you a PM.


I'm tellin' ya, 5/3/1 is the shit. I'm only near the beginning of it, but it just feels better than anything I've done yet.


5-3-1 works in cycles and waves. After each cycle, you add 10 lbs. to the training max. You complete a wave when you can no longer increase the weight you are using as your training max for the next cycle.

On your first "5s" day on the first cycle of a 5-3-1 wave, you might get 10-12 reps on the money set--its not supposed to be a 5 rep max. When the weight gets to where the money set is equal to or less than your 5 rep max, because you add 10 pounds each cycle, then its time to reset your max. In other words, 5 reps is not the target, if that is all you can do, its the signal that you have exhausted the wave and need to reset and start a new wave the next cycle with a recalculated, lower training max.


I think there's some merit to your generalized %'s, but people are different. For example, I can only get 6 reps with 80% of my max on the bench. I can only get 8 reps [in good form] with 70% of my dead. People are different. I've read that the more fast twitch dominant you are, the less reps you'll get with %'s above 80, or something like that.


Same here my 3rm is 93% and 5rm is 87%..been this way for years.

yeah, sometimes I think I'm just one giant SLOW TWITCH MUSCLE... I knew a guy who was strong as shit 5 reps and less but was a total pussy with say 8-10. It was weird. he would complain of the muscles burning. Then he started training for a half marathon because he was chasing this hot chick..yeah, juvenile but it worked.. after he ran the 13 miles he was like a freaking squatting machine. No more burning he says...IDK


This should be IN the 5/3/1 book. It's the most condensed, but understandable explanation of the theory I've seen so far.


Magoo-- as far as the deadlift is concerned-- I realized awhile back that that I do better in the lifts with an eccentric motion (squat,bench)

SO to remedy this I started doing only singles on deadlift. My DL was around 530-540 last january. A month ago or so I was trainig for a raw meet, i wound up not doing the meet but on my test day I hit 575 on deadlift. All of my dl training is now singles.

For example, the raw cycle i wrote for myself, week 1 is 10 singles with 80%, no set rest, standing on a plate or small box.

Check my training log and you will see more of what im talking about, also check the ones i did for meets before now.


I bought 5/3/1 last night; I will start it next week.