I recently decided to try a max effort day working my way up to a one rep max on bench and overhead press. I wanted to share my technique in case it helps other lifters.

I always refer back to the method that Jim Wendler proposed a few years ago on EliteFTS. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jim and if anybody knows how to structure a max effort day, it's him.

Estimate Your 1RM First

First of all, you need to be able to roughly estimate what your 1RM is going to be. If you're using the Gravitus app, it's easy. Find a recent PR you hit doing 1-10 reps and look at the 1RM we calculated for you.

Gravitus Exercise History Log
My recent history on Bench with auto-calculated 1RM values

If you don't have the Gravitus app, you can use our online one rep max calculator to get your estimate.

The Workout

Now that you have your target 1RM, you're ready to start doing work. Get your body warmed up (I like to jog 0.5 mi on the treadmill) and then you're going to do a series of 7 sets using weights that are percentages of your estimated 1RM:

  • General warm up
  • 5 reps @ 50%
  • 3 reps @ 60%
  • 2 reps @ 70%
  • 1 rep @ 80%
  • 1 rep @ 90%
  • 1 rep @ 95%
  • 1 rep @ 100%

Rest 2-3 minutes between each set to make sure you keep fatigue to a minimum and have your full strength ready for the end.

Your goal is to successfully hit a PR on that last set. If you find as you're working your way up that the weights are too heavy or too light, adjust slightly as necessary.

A word to the wise: grab a spotter for your last set if you're attempting a risky movement like bench press. Anything can happen when trying to set a PR and you're at your physical limits so best to play it safe.

Good luck with your max effort day. Post your efforts to Gravitus!

Photo of Eric Wagner

Eric Wagner

- Gravitus profile

Eric is the Co-Founder & CEO of Gravitus. His passion for design, tech and setting PRs at the gym led him to start the company and create the app that we know and love.