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Strength Dosing

Hey everyone, it is Erienne with Peak Endurance Physical Therapy. Today, I would like to chat about strength dosage. So with PT, and just in general life, we always want to improve our strength. The more strength we have, the more capacity our body has. The more capacity our body has, the more resilient our body is.

And that’s what we’re after. We want our bodies to be as resilient as possible so that when we go out and do the things we want to do, we don’t risk the breaking down of our body and the injury and the pain. So the more strength the better.

One of the most common questions, if not the most common question, we get as PTs is, “Well, how many reps do I do? How many sets do I do? What weight should I do?” So that’s what I want to talk about today.


For a pure strength dosage, a good parameter to stay within is a five by five, so you are going to do five sets of five reps of this exercise. With this type of exercise, because how intense and how much how harder you have to work in this exercise, it’s going to be when you have low irritability of pain. Meaning I can do it probably pain free. Any pain I do have while doing it is very minimal. To the point where it’s not changing my good form.

Okay, so a five by five, with three minutes of rest in between each set of five.

The other thing to think about is the weight. So we want to be doing this five by five, at above 80% of our one-rep max. There are lot of different factors in there. But let’s talk about how to find what 80% of our one-rep max is, or about where we want to be weight-wise.

How to find your one-rep max:
  1. So the most accurate way to find a one-rep max using back squat as an example is to start doing back squat, and gradually start increasing the weight until you can do one rep before you fail. That’s your one-rep max.
  2. Another way to find your one rep max is by using the one-rep max calculator. Which you can just Google. Type in one-rep max calculator. You take a moderate amount of weight that is somewhat heavy. And then you do as many reps with that weight as you can before either you fail, or your form breaks down. So I’m going to take that weight, and those amount reps, and I put it into a one-rep max calculator. It will give you your estimated one-rep max. And then you can use that estimated number to calculate your 80%.
  3. There are two other ways to estimate where that 80% is. One is that when I’m working at 80% of my one-rep max, that should be at about a seven to eight of 10 effort level. So 7-8/10 rate of perceived exertion. We call that seven to eight of 10 RPE. So we’re not at nine, we’re definitely not a 10 of 10. Because a 10 of 10 would be a one-rep max, we’re at seven to eight of 10 effort level.
  4. The last way to estimate that 80% is called reps in reserve. So when I do my set of five back squats at about 80%, I should feel like after that set of five, I could maybe do two or three more good reps before I would fail. That’s called reps in reserve. So we should have two to three good reps in reserve, before I wouldn’t be able to do it anymore. Two to three reps in reserve or reps left in the tank.

Those are four ways to calculate either your exact one-rep max or estimate what your 80% one-rep maxes. You can take that weight or that stimulus and apply it to that five by five. Which, again, is five sets of five, with three minutes of rest in between. That is a good strength building stimulus. You’re gonna want to do that about three days a week.

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Here at Peak Endurance Performance & Physical Therapy we help active adults in the Madison Area get back to the activities they love without pain or limitations. We see people of all ages, ability levels, and individuals trying to get back to a multitude of movements including: getting back into running, women postpartum, CrossFit athletes, climbers, gymnasts, wrestlers, overhead athletes, and your recreational weekend warrior. If you’re looking to get back to the activities that give you meaning, relieve stress, and make you feel like you again, feel free to reach out below and we’ll see if we’re the right fit for you.