I used to substitute fiddling around with a deadlift calculator as a substitute for actually testing my max deadlift. If you’re not familiar with the DL or one rep max calculators, they’re simply computer scripts that try to determine how much you can deadlift one time, based on various rep ranges.
In this article I’ll point you to a few different programs and demonstrate how effective (or ineffective they are).
For instance, take a look at this one:
I’m going to use an example from my training log for last week. I currently have a deadlift max of 540 pounds, pulled conventional style.
Last week I pulled 315 for a set of 10. That was fairly close to my limit for a ten rep max. So the calculator will try to estimate, based on my 10 rep max, what my one rep max should be.
So I type in:
- weight lifted = 315
- number of reps = 10
- max = 420 pounds (obviously incorrect)
Another night I pulled some high volume sets of 225, so let’s run those numbers:
- weight lifted = 225
- numbers of reps = 30 (this is pretty close to my 30 rep max)
- one rep max = 1161 (I wish!)
These numbers would be way off whether I was testing squats, bench presses, or bicep curls. My takeaway from this is that I don’t put much stock in the one rep max calculator when it comes to my deadlift totals. They’re kind of fun to play around with, but I’d much rather just go figure it out in the gym.
I do understand the appeal of wanting to extrapolate a one rep max if you find the idea of maxing potentially dangerous. It can be–after all, you’re gearing up to lift a weight that you may not be able to move, and in a misunderstood and occasionally vilified movement like the deadlift, it can be kind of scary.
If that is you, I would simply recommend working on a max with different rep ranges. There’s no reason to resort to a deadlift max calculator or one-rep pulls if you don’t want to. Just work on the maximum amount of weight you can lift five times. Or six. Or ten. I was doing something similar on an Ed Coan deadlift routine a couple of years back. The number isn’t what matters–only the progress.
If you’re adding weight or reps, you’re doing something right! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.