What is an RM Back Squat?

Have you read a training program, which prescribes a 1 RM Back Squat or 5 RM Back Squat and asked yourself ‘What is an RM Back Squat?’

This article and video discusses

  • What is an RM Back Squat
  • Why you need to know your RM Back Squat
  • What are RM Back Squat loads
  • And how the Spanish school of thought applies the RM Back Squat load

Let’s take it away, RM Back Squat simply refers to Repetition Maximum Back Squat.

The ‘R’ stands for ‘repetition’ and the ‘M’ stands for ‘maximum’.

What does that mean?

It is the maximum amount of repetition you can do with a given weight or given load.

So, let me explain.

A 1RM Back Squat is the one repetition maximum, the load you can lift in a Back Squat for one repetition (but not for two).

Check out this 1 RM Back Squat of Olympian and World Champion Track Cycling Jeffrey Hoogland.

A 3RM Back Squat is the three repetitions maximum, the load you can lift for three repetitions, the fourth repetition is not possible anymore.

A 5RM Back Squat is your 5 repetition maximum, the load you can lift for five repetitions but not six.

I guess the idea is clear; ‘RM means ‘repetition maximum’, consequently, the last repetition is actually the last repetition, you can’t do one more repetition.

A 10 RM Back Squat is, well just check out this 10 RM Back Squat from Double Olympian BMX Supercross Twan van Gendt

How can the RM Back Squat help?

If you want to know your 1 RM Back Squat, you can test your multiple RM Back Squat and then use a conversion to calculate your 1 RM.

How does that work?

You choose a weight that you can lift for multiple repetitions, for example you know you can do 3 or 4 reps and you lift that weight for as many reps as you can, note down the weight and reps and calculate the 1RM of your Back Squat.

How can that help?

You can use your 1RM Back Squat to prescribe training intensities, for example, if you want to work on maximum strength, you need to work/train at 85% of your 1 RM Back Squat or above.

If you know your 1RM is 100 kg, you know you need to work with 85 kg or more.

If you want to work on hypertrophy, you know you need to work in a range from 65 – 85% of your 1 RM Back Squat, depending on whether you want to work on functional hypertrophy or non-functional hypertrophy.

Check out the differences between functional hypertrophy and non-functional hypertrophy in the article The Holy Grail of Strength Training – Sets and Reps

Consequently, if your Back Squat 1 RM is 100 kg, you know you need to work with 65 – 85 kg in your training.

You can make the same calculations for power and strength endurance.

Even though Power can be trained through a broad range of intensities, knowing your 1 RM Back Squat can help to choose the appropriate training loads.

If you want to work on ballistic power, you need to train with 20 – 50% 1RM.

Coming back to the example, if your 1 RM Back Squat is 100 kg, you need to train with 20 – 50 kg and then ballistically.

Check out the table on the different Power Training intensities from the article How to do Power Training.

different types of Power Training, different Power Training methods

And if you want to improve your strength endurance, you usually work with 30 – 60% 1RM, you chose loads of 30 – 60 kg for your Back Squats (if your Back Squat 1 RM is 100 kg), check out more details on strength endurance training.

1 RM testing vs multiple RM testing: Why should I test multiple RM’s?

Why is it helpful to test multiple RM’s to determine the 1 RM and not directly test the 1RM?

Let me start with one issue, that is close to my heart, contrary to the common belief that 1Rm testing is dangerous, the reason for multiple RM testing is not, that 1 RM testing is dangerous.

1 RM testing is not dangerous if you have the technical proficiency to perform 1 RM testing. Certainly, if you don’t have the technical proficiency in a given exercise, then 1 RM testing is not really safe.

It’s like driving a car, if you know, how to drive a car, it’s safe if you don’t know how to drive a car and choose to drive a car, it’s pretty dangerous.

Back to the topic, what are the benefits of multiple RM testing to determine the 1RM?

If you want to test your 1 RM, you need to have training experience of working with higher intensities or so-called maximal loads, which are loads above 90% 1 RM.

The experience of working with these higher intensities, you normally only get after 18 – 24 months of training, before that you are very likely to work with submaximal loads (below 90% 1 RM, or even below 85% 1 RM).

So, the question stands out, what do you do with athletes who have just started out and have a training history of 6 or 12 months?

For these athletes, if they have acquired the technical proficiency of a Back Squat, for example, you can test them on multiple RM’s.

Again, coming back to the topic of safety, off course, you wouldn’t want to put loads onto them, that they have never done, but also, even if you would, because they have never experienced such a high load, they would be able to express the forces required for these maximal efforts.

Consequently, even if they could, they probably wouldn’t get to their potential Back Squat 1 RM.

For these athletes, it’s better to test the 3 RM Back Squat or 5 RM Back Squat and then convert the result to a predicted 1 RM Back Squat.

I have also outlined that in more detail in the article Four methods to calculate your Front Squat max, how to use multiple RM testing https://christianbosse.com/four-methods-how-to-calculate-your-front-squat-max/#2

For an overview of direct 1 RM testing, check out this piece 1RM Testing   from Science For Sport or the How to Test Your 1 Rep Max from Bodybuilding.com

How can I convert the multiple RM Back Squat to a 1 RM Back Squat?

If you know your 3 RM Back Squat, you know, this is around 90% – 93% of your 1 RM Back Squat, your 5 RM Back Squat is around 85% – 87% of your 1 RM Back Squat and your 10 RM Back Squat is around 70% – 72% of your 1 RM Back Squat.

You can then make your calculations from your multiple RM to your 1 RM.

You can use a conversion chart like the one below, which I have explained in detail in the article How often should I Back Squat

Back-Squat-How-ften-should-you-Back-Squat-load-exertion-table

Or you can just use a 1 RM calculator, you can find plenty through a simple search,

Here are two good ones

Important to note, these numbers are guidelines, and change from

  • athlete to athlete due to individual differences
  • lower body and upper body tend to have different profiles (you can go even more in-depth, that different muscle groups show different profiles)

In addition to that, strength and power athletes show a different profile than endurance athletes.

What does that mean?

If you check the chart you can see, that at 60% 1RM you can do around 15 reps. A true strength & power athlete will certainly do less than that and a true endurance athlete will be able to do far more than 15 reps.

It’s also worth noting, that the further away you test from the 1 RM, the less accurate these numbers become, hence a 3 RM Back Squat to 1 RM Back Squat conversion, will be more accurate than a 10 RM Back Squat to 1 RM Back Squat conversion.

What are RM Back Squat loads?

RM loads refer to ‘repetition maximum loads’ which means that you are training to failure or near failure.

As an example, if you prescribe a training program that says 3 RM Back Squat, means you chose a load that allows you do 3 repetitions, and there is no rep left in the ‘tank’. Which means, you pretty much grind out the last rep.

Are RM Back Squat loads a good thing or bad thing?

The answer to that question depends on what you are training for.

If you are interested in hypertrophy/building muscle mass it is a good thing, because it sets a high stimulus for muscular growth.

If you are an athlete, it’s not necessarily the best thing.

Why is that?

Because you need much more time to recover from RM loads, than if you have some repetitions left in the tank, and it tends to screw up the rest of your training. As an athlete, most of the time you have more to do than drag yourself to the gym, train the hell out of you and drag yourself home to eat and recover.

What the Spanish school of thought has taught me about RM Back Squats

During my study times in Madrid and later when I worked in Barcelona, I learned about the concept called ‘carácter del esfuerzo’, and the idea is, that you test multiple RM and describe the exercise intensity by a repetition number of the maximum repetition.

As example, you test your 12 RM Back Squat and get the load you can lift, which is let’s say 90 kg.

Exercise prescription can look like this:

8 (12) which means 8 repetitions at your 12 RM, which means 8 reps at 90 kg.

Typical training prescription can then look like

  • 10 (12) or 12 (12) for hypertrophy

or

  • 4 (12) or 6 (12) for speed-strength and power training

The same can obviously be done with a 6 RM, an 8 RM etc and then be prescribed as 3 (6), 4 (6), or 4 (8), etc.

The benefit of this method is, that you know exactly how many reps you have left in the tank, which is not always accurate with traditional RM testing. Remember, as an example, some athletes can do as little as 4 reps at 85% 1 RM, whilst others can do 8 repetitions.

Consequently, if you prescribe 4 reps at 85% 1 RM, the exertion level between athletes can vary greatly.

The disadvantage, you need to do more testing at a given exercise to collect the different RM loads.

Concluding What is an RM Back Squat

Next time you ask or get asked ‘What is an RM Back Squat?’ you know ‘RM’ refers to ‘repetition maximum’, the maximum number of repetitions you can do at a given load.

You can use multiple RM testing to predict the 1 RM and you can also prescribe training intensities based on RM loads.

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