If you never max out on an exercise, it’s difficult to know what 90% of your 1RM is, let alone 80%. You can estimate your max by using the table below, counting how many reps you do to muscle failure so long as you use good form without assistance from a spotter.

For example, if you can do eight and only eight reps with 225 pounds, then 8 is 80% of your 1RM. Next divide 225 by 0.8 and you’ll find that 100% of your 1RM is 281 pounds. You can also compute 90% of your 1RM from knowing that 281 is your estimated 1RM. Just multiply 0.9 x 281 and that yields 253 pounds.

Hence, if you don’t know your max lift of a given exercise but do know you can do 225 pounds for eight reps, then you’d be using 250–255 pounds on your heavy single-rep sets, and 225 pounds on your 80% sets. The magic is that by using this technique, you should therefore be able to complete 10 reps, not just eight.

### The Technique in a Nutshell

WHAT
The max-out method uses a heavy, single-rep set before a lighter multi-rep set of the same exercise. The approach actually boosts your strength in the multi-rep set.

HOW
The post-activation potentiation of a heavy single rep triggers your nervous system for additional heavy singles and revs you up to be approximately 10% stronger than usual in the following set.

WHO
The max-out method is for advanced trainers with more than one year’s worth of training experience who want to boost muscle growth and strength.

WHEN
Do the max-out sets first for a bodypart when your strength is greatest early in your workout. Remember that’s when your energy reserves haven’t yet been tapped.

HOW LONG
Use the max-out method for 4–6 weeks, followed by 4–6 weeks when you focus on another method. It can also be used at any time to shock a stagnant bodypart.

WHERE
The Smith machine provides a relatively safe method of going to failure on many compound lifts, especially if you don’t have a spotter. Generally, you should favor machines over free weights with this technique, especially when training alone and/or when holding the resistance above your body.

WHY
The max-out method spurs greater strength and muscle growth.

### Multijoint Maximizers

Here are some of the best exercises and their corresponding bodyparts that do well with the max-out intensity technique.

Back: Smith-Machine Barbell Row (over and underhand grip)

Chest: Smith-Machine Bench Press (flat or incline bench)