Benefits Of Single-Rep Powerlifting

Maxing Out: The Surprising Perks of Single-Rep Strength Showdowns

When it comes to setting a new personal best, strength is the name of the game. There are only so many options and tricks to see the biggest boosts in strength in the shortest amount of time, including single-rep powerlifting. Is it possible to build muscle with single-rep training, or is it just a fast way to get injured? Let’s take a look at what single-rep powerlifting is and the benefits of single-rep training for serious powerlifters.

As the name implies, single-rep training involves performing a powerlifting-focused exercise – squat, bench press, or deadlift – where each set involves using 100% of your one-repetition max or the maximum amount of weight that you can safely lift with perfect form one time.

It’s recommended when trying a single-rep training program that you work up to it over an extended period. Powerlifters don’t reach their max immediately, so it’s best to work toward a single-rep powerlifting program gradually to maintain form, preventing injury and burnout. Below, you’ll find a sample single-rep powerlifting workout. 

Single-rep powerlifting can be incorporated into your current program to promote the following benefits:


The main benefit of single-rep training is building strength. After all, strength is one of the main goals of weightlifting in general, right? When you do single reps, you improve your body’s ability to lift heavier weights. Whereas bodybuilders are primarily aiming for building muscle, powerlifters generally want to gain as much strength as possible without gaining as much mass allowing them to stay in their weight class. Continual increases with single reps can improve your strength on a gradual basis while allowing you to maintain proper technique.


A standard powerlifting set requires between three to seven repetitions, depending on the exercise, fitness goal, and weight being used. Higher reps may cause you to burn out or feel fatigued faster. This is a fast way to jeopardize your form and technique. Single reps allow you to continuously improve your technique since you won’t be experiencing fatigue after higher reps.

High Intensity

By now, you’ve probably heard of the benefits of high-intensity interval training, and single-rep powerlifting falls into that category. When you lower your repetition, you can lift a higher weight and this provides a higher-intensity workout. High-intensity workouts, especially lifting in short bursts with maximum weight, trigger a higher fat burn through increased energy expenditure and excess post-oxygen consumption or EPOC.

Mental Toughness

High-intensity single reps can help your lifting mindset as well as your overall confidence by assuring you that you can lift a heavier weight, even if it is only for one rep. Therefore, you’re able to lift even more weight in your next session, believing that you can do it because you did it the last time. It’s another cumulative cycle.


Single-rep training provides more than enough volume to stimulate growth. One trick to challenge the central and muscular nervous systems would be to set a time limit and perform as many single reps as you can in that time. Beginners to powerlifting can use this trick, but you may want to use a weight load of 75% to 85% of the one-rep max to reduce the risk of strain while still making gains.

Core Strength

Another major benefit of single-rep training and powerlifting, in general, is an increase in core strength and posture. When you’re doing squats and deadlifts, it’s vital to maintain the right posture to avoid muscle and joint strain. Single-rep training boosts that core strength even further due to the quick nature of the program, which is another reason to work up to the heavy single reps gradually.

You’ll learn very quickly if you don’t have proper form (your body will let you know) and you don’t want to experience that with a heavier weight than you can handle. But when you strengthen your core slowly, it will support the heavy single-rep weight when you reach that stage. Good core strength and posture also tie back to that mental confidence factor as well—the taller you stand, the more confident you feel. 


This gradual program prepares your body for your goal, all the while building strength and muscle so that when you are ready for your single-rep powerlifting, it will feel natural. You’ll begin with warm-up sets that gradually increase to your one-rep max. The following workout format can be used with squats and bench presses as well. 


  • 1 set of 10 repetitions (barbell only)
  • 1 x 7 – 50% of 1RM (warm-up set)
  • 1 x 5 – 60% of 1RM (warm-up set)
  • 1 x 3 – 80% of 1RM (warm-up set)
  • 1 x 1 – 85% of 1RM (begin working sets)
  • 1 x 1 – 100% of 1RM
  • 1 x 1 – 100% of 1RM
  • 1 x 1 – 100% of 1RM
  • 1 x 1 – 100% of 1RM
  • 1 x 1 – 100% of 1RM
  • 1 x 1 – 90% of 1RM
  • 1 x 1 – 85% of 1RM


When performed properly, single-rep training for powerlifting can provide many cumulative benefits for weight loss, muscle building, fat burn, core strength, technique, and mentality. Whether you’re looking to build strength or increase mass or both, single-rep training can work to your benefit. Just be sure to follow recommended guidelines, don’t go for the gold too soon, and remind yourself that you’ll reach your goal before you know it.

Have you tried single-rep powerlifting? Did you find it more effective than a traditional program? Have a video of yourself setting a new single-rep best? Tag us on Instagram so we can share it!