Trying Out a Deadlift Calculator

by Kilo on December 5, 2010

andy bolton deadliftNot everyone is comfortable trying for one rep maxes in the big lifts. Hell, sometimes I’m a bit nervous when I’m going to try and deadlift more weight than I ever have before. It’s serious business, or as serious as something like lifting weights can be. But for this of us who value the next PR highly, trying to max is also a lot of fun. When you hit it, it’s more fun, of course. But in the last couple of years I’ve been nearly as interested in upping my three or five rep maxes in the deadlift. The rationale is that, even when I’m able to avoid unnecessary tension, I still feel like I’m less likely to get hurt at a weight I can pull three times, versus a weight that I can only pull (maybe) once.

Enter the deadlift calculator. It’s a nice idea, but I find them flawed in the extreme and can’t recommend them as a reliable gauge. Here’s how it works: you plug your weight lifted and reps lifted into a deadlift calculator, and it tells you what your one rep max would/should be, depending on what your five rep max is. You can just think of it as a one rep max calculator for any lift–can you see how badly that could go, however?

So, when I follow that link up there, here’s what I’m going to type in:

Weight lifted = 315

Number of reps = 15

So according to the deadlift max calculator my max is apparently 516, except I can pull 540.

This is not the worst discrepancy I’ve seen, and I’ve played around with a lot of these calculators. At best I would use them as a gauge to start experimenting with poundage, and I do recommend working on your multi-rep maxes unless you’re a competitor who is required to demonstrate one rep maximum deadlifts. It’s just easier on my mind, and probably on my body.

If you plug your ten rep max in and it says your one rep max is 500, you do not, however, get to go around telling anyone you can deadlift 500 pounds until you’ve actually done it!

I doubt that Andy Bolton ever plays around with these things.


PS: If you’re looking for a way to bust out of a rut with your deadlifts, I highly recommend a Russian kettlebell or a Stronger Grip Plateau Buster.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris December 5, 2010 at 10:51 pm

1RM max calculators are a great tool. I find they are helpful for getting an idea of progress, but they are not to be used alone. I absolutely agree that a calculated max does not mean you get to say that is your actual max. Good point.

Just a note on 1RM calculators: different calculators use different formulas. I believe there are at least 2 or 3 commonly used formulas out there. Also, the calculators tend to get less and less valid as the reps get higher. A calculated max based on a 5 rep set is much more reliable than one based off of a 10 or 15 rep set.

If I use a 1RM calculator I prefer to use the one from NSCA located here:

Or from here:

I believe they use different formulas so checking against both usually gives a fairly accurate idea of a max.

Good post!


Kilo December 6, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Thanks Chris!


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