It is common that when people search the internet for a program and stumble across one with lots of % of 1RM they become confused because they are not entirely sure of what their 1RM actually is, but fear not, there are a couple of ways around this.
1 – RM Estimator
You can use an online calculator to estimate your 1RM or this simple formula:
Weight x Reps x 0.0333 + Weight = 1RM
You will find this isn’t far off your true 1RM. This then makes the programs with all of those confusing looking % much easier to tackle. Therefore when you see an article or post act has something like Deadlift 5x5x85% + Back Off Set x 60% AMRAP you won’t be like a rabbit in the headlights.
What if you don’t want to do the maths? Option 1 is for you.
2 – Let the reps dictate the weight.
This is a much easier approach for some and allows for an individual to gain a greater feel on what weights they can actually push, while stopping just short of total concentric failure (1-2 reps short). It’s quite easy to use this ideology, if you’re honest with yourself that is.
Say you had to do 6×8 on the squat with a 3-1-1-1 tempo. During your warm up I would suggest doing perhaps 2-4 sets of 8 until you find a weight where the 8th rep feels tough yet manageable, then take that as your first set. Each further set after this one will create some fatigue and strength deficit which will leave the 8th rep feeling pretty hard by set 4 and possibly unachievable by sets 7/8, if that is the case then you’ve picked the right weight and will simply repeat it the next workout and hopefully hit all 6×8 and then increase the overall load.
Now those are only two ways you can establish what weights to use, one for the more analytical amongst you and one for the more kinaesthetic.
Both have their benefits and their downsides.
The first option has the benefit of you knowing what you need to do from the get go, while second has the downside that requires more time to establish what you need. However, the second method give more benefit in the way of feedback and learning ‘feel’ so that you know how far you can push your body, unlike the first method that has the downside of set theoretical numbers which you may or may not hit.
Play around with both and see which one you prefer. Learning is all a part of the process and a vital one at that.