How to warm up for 1RM

How to warm up for 1RM

warm up 1rm max

Whether its your first or tenth powerlifting competition or you are just getting ready in the gym to increase your PB on a big lift, its super important you are perfectly primed for that given lift. So how do you tackle leading up to such a big weight you’ve never touched before?

General warm up – A general warm up is something that most people overlook. This is you completing specific warm ups, mobility and soft tissue release. Variations of this occur because of upper and lower body sessions as well as your own specific tightness and mobility issues. However if you are new to this sort of routine try one of the below for a generic warm up that will get you primed for a big lift.

Warm up –


Specific warm up – This is where things to start to get a little bit more specific, as the title might of hinted at…

For example if you were warming up for a squat then you’d start squatting to the same standards as if you were aiming for your top set. This is important. Squatting half reps during warm ups isn’t going to get you primed and ready for a full squat at 102%. Likewise for the bench press or any other large compound movement. When warming up ensure that you hold yourself to the same standards, as you want your top set to be.

After this you want your warm up to be consistent and planned. Think of your warm ups as funnel. At the top of the funnel is empty bar and the bottom is your 1RM. As you go through your weight jumps should go from larger to smaller.

  Percentage choice Example 1RM


Example 1RM 160kg
1st Warm up ~20% Empty Barx10 Empty Barx10
2nd Warm up ~50% 27.5kgx5 80kgx5
3rd Warm up ~65% 35kgx3 105kgx3
4th Warm up ~75% 40kgx1 120kgx1
5th Warm up ~82% 45kg 132.5kgx1

Choosing your numbers wisely – If you are a powerlifter or weightlifter you only have three chances on the platform, so make them count. If you are a general gym goer then you can still apply these principles in the gym too. After all it’s usually the most efficient way to get to your true 1RM anyway.

  Percentage choice Example 1RM


Example 1RM 160kg
1st Warm up ~91% 50kgx1 145kgx1
2nd Warm up ~97% 55kgx1 155kgx1
3rd Warm up ~102%+ 57.5kgx1 165kgx1
Bonus extra set if things go well*

*Gym only


  • 1st Attempt – Usually your first attempt should be around the 91% mark and a weight that you are comfortable with any day of the week. It is important to build momentum and confidence when attempting a 1RM. Your goal is to move the weight as soon as possible.
  • 2nd Attempt – A second attempt should be close to a 1RM max but a weight you should feel comfortable with 9 times out of 10. Percentage wise this is around the 97% mark. However if your 1RM is not over the 80kg mark or so you might find that 97% rounded to the nearest 2.5kg ends up being your 1RM. This is something that inevitably might happen especially for new or lighter lifters.
  • 3rd Attempt – Third attempts are your super hero moment. The weight you have been aiming for over the last few months. The important part here is to not get caught up in the moment. Judge the weight based off the speed of the second lift and autoregulate up or down if the speed is different than anticipated. If you were hoping for a 5kg PB and it doesn’t move well on the second, adjust down and get that 2.5kg PB instead. Forward is forward remember.

Whatever happens it is important that you come away with a new max and something to show for all your hard work. Go for it but be realistic. The more sensible your number selection the more likely you are to get that new PB feeling. Simple.

Weightlifting side note – A Lot of weightlifters may focus on fewer reps for warm up but focusing on a more explosive nature. This is a bit more subject to an individual due to competitive reasons. A lot of competitive lifters will sometimes open higher than theses percentages to put pressure on their competitors. If you would like to learn more about this contact our weightlifting coach Kevin “forever’ Yeung at 180 Strength.

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