Weight lifters will use the term "one rep maximum" in order to refer to the maximum amount of weight that they can lift one time. The one rep max is often used as a proxy for how strong someone is (or isn't).

Recreational lifters, other types of athletes, and the general population rarely bother with testing themselves in order to determine their maximum strength.

From a human factors and usability point of view, it can be useful to know what the average maximum strength of a population is so that design can take those limitations into account. Please see the footnotes 1,2,3 for some practical applications of this question.

My question is if it's possible to estimate a person's maximum strength for a given activity by seeing how many repetitions they can complete at a lower weight. For example, if someone can bench-press 100 lbs 10 times in a row, can that be used to estimate the maximum amount they could bench-press once?

If so, does that estimation model:

  • hold consistently across activity types?
  • hold consistently across increasing amounts of weight?
  • hold consistently across age and gender distributions?

1An entertaining example: amusement park / carnival attractions can be designed differently in order to accommodate the various distributions of strength.
2A mobility example: aids for the disabled can be enhanced if it's found that their maximum strength is below the threshold for a device.
3A diagnostics example: restraints can be designed just to the maximum of a particular demographic's abilities in order to provide a more comforting or friendly appearance. This provides a humanizing touch while maintaining the accuracy of the diagnostic test.

  • $\begingroup$ Is this really engineering-related? You might be better off on Biology. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 20:40
  • $\begingroup$ This biomedical engineer says it's definitely related to engineering. Although that's not to say that the answer couldn't come out of the biology field or sports medicine field. Device design, especially for the disabled, must take into account reasonable strength limitations. I'm more interested in estimating for the general populace, but I'm curious to know how the estimates hold across different demographics. $\endgroup$
    – user16
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ How would the answer be gotten? Would it be from a model based on human muscle structure or on the strength of a certain material? The first would seem to be based on biology; the second would seem to be based on engineering (materials science-related stuff, I would think). $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ @GlenH7, Unless someone around here happens to specialise in this particular biomedical area, I doubt that any answers submitted here are going to be much more than someone googling on your behalf. $\endgroup$
    – user133
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 6:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Meta post: meta.engineering.stackexchange.com/questions/62/… $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 14:05

1 Answer 1


This actually isn't as much of an engineering question as it is a physiology question. There are actually a number of widely used estimates to predict your one-rep maximum, aka "1RM", if you know how many repetitions you can do at a lower weight. See here for more info.

All of the methods are based on empirical studies, and are basically look-up tables of coefficients.

  • $\begingroup$ How do those coefficients hold up against different demographics? $\endgroup$
    – user16
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 6:09

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