April 22, 2024

Coach Notebook

Many coaches have achieved outstanding outcomes with percentage-based exercises and see no purpose to vary. That’s fantastic—keep the course. I wish to make the case {that a} repetition-based system could also be a simpler and sensible strategy to designing exercises, and it doesn’t require a calculator or Excel spreadsheet.

To make my case, let’s take a deep dive into the professionals and cons of share techniques after which see what repetition techniques provide.

(Lead photograph by Viviana Podhaiski, LiftingLife.com)

Behind the Numbers

I used to be launched to share techniques a half-century in the past by my coach, Jim Schmitz, a three-time Olympic Video games coach. On the time, the favored time period to explain these kinds of exercises was “depth biking.” I later found in depth articles about share techniques by means of Russian articles translated by Dr. Michael Yessis and weightlifting sports activities scientist Bud Charniga.

Among the many most referenced articles about share techniques by U.S. sports activities scientists had been these written by Alexander S. Medvedyev, whose periodization mannequin is commonly cited in NSCA publications. Nevertheless, I discovered the works of Arkady N. Vorobyev and Robert A. Roman to be among the many most readable and sensible.

One e book I extremely advocate for these new to the game of weightlifting is Bob Takano’s Weightlifting Programming: A Profitable Coach’s Information. Takano “walked the speak” as an completed weightlifting coach, and his e book is a step-by-step e book concerning the Russian share system.

From right here, take into account investing in a replica of Supertraining by Professor Yuri Verkhoshansky and Dr. Mel Siff. Supertraining is a sports activities science textbook that gives an total perspective of the Russian coaching system. It’s not a simple learn, however it’s undoubtedly a traditional useful resource that must be part of each critical power coach’s library.

Picture 1. Russian weightlifters popularized percentage-based coaching techniques. Proven is Russia’s David Rigert, a 1976 Olympic champion who broke 65 world information. (Bruce Klemens photograph)

The Depth Issue

In share techniques, “depth” refers back to the weight that may be lifted for one repetition (1RM). When you can bench press 100 kilos for one repetition, 100% depth would equal 100 kilos. It follows that 95 kilos equals 95% depth, 90 kilos equals 90%, and so forth.

Bench pressing 80 pounds for 10 reps may seem harder than bench pressing 85 pounds once, but 85 pounds represents a higher intensity level from a program-design perspective. Click To Tweet

Confusion arises when muscle magazines consult with the depth of coaching as the problem of an train, typically accompanied by a photograph of a massively muscled bodybuilder straining on a set of leg extensions or barbell curls. Sure, bench urgent 80 kilos for 10 reps could seem more durable than bench urgent 85 kilos as soon as, however 85 kilos represents the next depth degree from a program-design perspective.

Picture 2. Depth is set by the load on the bar, not by how difficult it’s to carry out a set. (Miloš Šarčev images)

Within the Russian system, the depth degree of an train influences different loading parameters, together with reps, units, and complete quantity. Let’s take a better take a look at every.

Reps. Depth percentages are related to the variety of repetitions carried out. One commonplace conversion equals one repetition with 2.5%, working down from 100%.

Most share charts skip one rep, such that two reps equal 95% quite than 97.5%. Thus, in case you can elevate 100 kilos for one rep, you must have the ability to elevate 92.5 kilos for 3 reps and 75 kilos for 10 reps. Picture 3 presents a breakdown of this components.

Picture 3. A well-liked chart changing train depth percentages into repetitions.

Units. The depth degree influences what number of units an athlete ought to carry out. An inverse relationship exists between depth and units, such that fewer units could be carried out at larger intensities. Thus, if the depth of an exercise is 95%, 2–3 units may be prescribed; if the depth is 90, the variety of units may be 4–5. And so forth.

Quantity. Coaching quantity is the full quantity of labor carried out, which in weight coaching is the full variety of reps carried out. Once more, complete reps. This implies 3 units x 10 reps (30 reps) represents a better coaching quantity than 5 units x 5 reps (25 reps).

Usually, the extra superior an athlete is, the extra units they’ll carry out at the next share. Throughout a single month, right here is how the share distribution may search for an influence clear for a low-level and high-level athlete:

    Low-Degree Athlete

    70%–75% x 20 units

    80%–85% x 10 units

    90%–95% x 5 units

    100% x 2 units

    Excessive-Degree Athlete

    70%–75% x 15 units

    80%–85% x 12 units

    90%–95% x 9 units

    100% x 5 units

Right here is an instance of a four-week share coaching program utilizing the entrance squat, hex bar deadlift, and incline bench press. It reveals the heaviest working units for every week:

For a weightlifter, right here is how a single coaching session may be designed, together with warm-up units:

    Day 1

    Snatch: 70 x 2 x 3, 75 x 3, 80 x 3, 85 x 3 x 3

    Clear and jerk: 70 x 2 x 3, 75 x 3, 80 x 3, 85 x 3 x 2

    Again squat: 50 x 5, 70 x 5, 80 x 3, 85 x 2 x 4

To save lots of time, notably when working with massive numbers of athletes, software program applications equivalent to Excel can mechanically convert percentages into particular weights. There are additionally many business merchandise obtainable that may do these conversions. Nevertheless, some power coaches solely give their athletes the chances and allow them to do the conversions on their smartphones (besides at Ivy League colleges the place the athletes can convert these percentages of their heads!).

The major problem with a percentage system is that it’s impossible to predict with precision what maximal weights can be lifted in each training session. Click To Tweet

The key drawback with a share system is that it’s unimaginable to foretell with precision what maximal weights could be lifted in every coaching session. One answer is utilizing depth brackets quite than a single share prescription. Let’s discover.

The Depth Bracket Resolution

An article I discovered in a weightlifting textbook translated by Charniga was written by Russian weightlifting coach M.S. Okunyev. It launched me to the idea of coaching brackets.

As a substitute of a single depth prescription for the working units, Okunyev used an depth bracket that gives a spread of weights. Reasonably than a exercise prescription of 80% x 3 x 5, you can have an depth vary of 80%–85% x 3 x 5. A exercise for the again squat may proceed as follows:

    Again squat: 50% x 5, 65% x 5, 75% x 5, 80%–85% x 3 x 5

Let’s dig deeper. For the three working units, listed here are a number of permutations:

    80 x 5, 5, 5

    80 x 5, 80 x 5, 82.5 x 5

    80 x 5, 82.5 x 5, 82.5 x 5

    80 x 5, 82.5 x 5, 85 x 5

    80 x 5, 85 x 5, 85 x 5

    82.5 x 5, 85 x 5, 85 x 85

    85 x 5, 5, 5

The system additionally affords flexibility as a result of you may cut back the load on a subsequent set if a repetition purpose will not be met. For instance:

    80 x 5, 85 x 3, 80 x 5

    80 x 5, 82.5 x 4, 80 x 5

    85 x 3, 80 x 5, 82.5 x 5

As you may see, the depth of subsequent units is set by what number of profitable reps are accomplished in the course of the earlier set. Having a nasty day? Stick with the lightest weight. Feeling sturdy? Go heavy…after which some!

Utilizing percentages is taken into account a scientific technique to design exercises and the optimum technique to prepare weightlifters, however they’ve many drawbacks.

Percentages Predicaments

Share techniques look nice on paper and make a power coach appear tremendous scientific, however there could also be higher choices. Listed below are seven components that have an effect on the effectiveness of share exercises:

Percentage systems look great on paper and make a strength coach seem super scientific, but there may be better options. Click To Tweet

  1. Muscle fiber make-up. Muscle fibers are labeled based on the muscle fiber make-up, utilizing labels equivalent to sort I (sluggish twitch) and kind II (quick twitch) that assess a muscle’s power and endurance. Nevertheless, there may be an inverse relationship between power and endurance—the stronger the muscle, the much less its endurance. This relationship presents an issue with share conversion charts. Let’s take a look at one excessive instance.
    The quadriceps are primarily sluggish twitch, and the hamstrings are primarily quick twitch. Utilizing 90% of a 1RM, an athlete could possibly carry out 5 reps in a leg curl however 20 reps in a leg press. Utilizing a traditional share conversion chart, the weights really useful for a leg press may be too heavy for a leg curl.
  1. Gender. Many power coaches have discovered that feminine athletes can carry out extra reps with a given share than males. Whereas a male may have the ability to carry out 4 reps in a bench press with 90% of their 1RM, a feminine may do twice that many. Thus, the conversion charts that labored for male athletes might signify weights which might be too gentle.
  2. Coaching age. As athletes improve their power, they develop into extra neurologically environment friendly, such that they’ll carry out fewer reps at a selected share.
Picture 4. In her first weightlifting meet, Crew BFS weightlifter Nicole clear and jerked 138 kilos (left) and ultimately lifted 229 kilos. Extra skilled athletes can deal with extra frequent coaching and better coaching percentages. (Left photograph by Karim Ghonem, proper photograph by Vivian Podhaiski, LiftingLife.com)
  1. Coaching specificity. Specializing in muscular endurance protocols, whether or not within the weight room or on account of their sports activities coaching, can alter share conversions. For instance, power coach Charles R. Poliquin discovered that some elite rowers can do 12 reps at 97% of the utmost, whereas the typical trainee will do 1–2 reps. Thus, share charts are usually not absolute for a single particular person.
    Poliquin additionally discovered this impact with the Canadian nationwide synchronized swim staff. These athletes transfer their limbs constantly for lengthy intervals with high-velocity actions to stay excessive on the water. Poliquin had athletes who may bench press 135 kilos for 20 reps however may barely handle a single with 145.
  1. Every day variations. We’ve got good days, and we’ve unhealthy days. On good days, a single share prescription could be too gentle, and on unhealthy days, too heavy.
  2. Coaching schedule. While you elevate can typically have an effect on how a lot you may elevate. When you’re accustomed to lifting within the morning, chances are you’ll do considerably extra or fewer reps with the identical weights within the night. Because of this, athletes in lots of sports activities alter their coaching to the time zone wherein they may compete. If an athlete normally trains within the morning and an upcoming competitors is within the night, they need to attempt to observe within the night because the competitors approaches.
  3. Train choice. Share charts are solely common pointers that can’t apply to all workout routines. For instance, performing excessive reps in a clear and jerk requires considerably lowering the share. Likewise, performing larger reps within the dumbbell biceps curl is simpler than within the again squat.
Picture 5. The kind of train influences the repetitions carried out. It’s rather more difficult to finish 10 reps in a again squat than a dumbbell curl. Proven is scholarship recipient and health mannequin Jordan, who led her softball staff in three classes final 12 months. (Karim Ghonem images)

The place can we go from right here? Reasonably than depth percentages, take into account permitting the repetitions to find out the load.

Rather than intensity percentages, consider allowing the repetitions to determine the load. Click To Tweet

Let the Reps Decide the Load

Lengthy earlier than the times of non-public coaching, gyms had been a mixture of powerlifters, weightlifters, bodybuilders, and people simply looking for so as to add some muscle and lose some fats. In 1972, I joined one in every of these gyms, Bob Perata’s health club, in Fremont, California. Bob’s was finest generally known as the house health club of Ed Corney, a Mr. America who appeared within the film poster for Pumping Iron.

One of many members of Bob’s was George Perry, a personable, life-long lifter who launched me to a descending reps exercise system. He believed this methodology was splendid for fundamental weight coaching workout routines, equivalent to bench presses, squats, and (in fact) biceps curls.

I made good progress on the exercise, and after six months, on the age of 16, I may deadlift 445 kilos and do three reps in dips with 115 kilos. I additionally competed within the Teenage Mr. Oakland Bodybuilding Championships. (I didn’t win, however my posing routine introduced down the home—as they are saying, “The older I get, the higher I used to be!”)

One of the simplest ways to clarify how descending reps work is with a sensible instance. Let’s begin with one you may name the 8/6/4 Coaching System.

In a nutshell, the fundamental format of this technique is to carry out eight reps on your first set, six reps on your second, and 4 reps on your third. How simple or arduous this primary set is determines how a lot weight you must elevate in your second set, and the problem of that set determines how a lot you must elevate in your third.

Here’s a pattern three-step development for 8/6/4:

Set 1: Objective, 8 reps. This warm-up set prepares you for heavier weights and shortly assesses your present state of bodily preparedness. Let’s say you may bench press 100 kilos for one rep. Take 50%, which converts to 50 kilos, and carry out eight reps. It’s solely 50% of your max, so you shouldn’t have any drawback finishing all eight reps—if it’s a battle, it might most likely be finest to cease and transfer on to one thing else. (Professional wrestler Ken Patera, the primary American to wash and jerk 500 kilos, was identified to maneuver from train to train till he discovered one wherein he may obtain a private file.)

Set 2: Objective, 6 reps. To your second set, select a weight that’s 85% of your one-repetition most, so 85 kilos. That is the place the enjoyable begins. When you get all six reps, you can strive 95 kilos on your closing set of 4. If it’s notably heavy, stick with 85 kilos or, at most, 90 kilos.

Set 3: Objective, 4 reps. The rep purpose on this set is 4, however carry out as many as attainable. When you get all 4 reps or extra, improve the load in your subsequent exercise. Right here is an instance of a development for somebody who can bench press 100 kilos:

Picture 6 reveals what a exercise card may appear like for a single train.

Picture 6. Accomplished exercise for a single train over six coaching classes utilizing the 8/6/4 Coaching System.

Getting again to my buddy George, one of many advantages of this coaching system is that you’re frequently growing the load, giving your thoughts the phantasm that you’re getting stronger all through the exercise. Sure, you can begin with low reps and improve with subsequent units (so, 4/6/8), however it might have a special impact mentally that the upper reps are tougher. That is notably true with freshmen; this can be a greater strategy for superior athletes, as there may be much less fatigue from the decrease reps.

One of the benefits of the descending reps workout system is that you’re continually increasing the weight, giving your mind the illusion that you’re getting stronger throughout the workout. Click To Tweet

From right here, you may department off to a number of different variations, equivalent to 12/10/8 for hypertrophy or 6/4/2 for extra relative power. What’s the very best repetition bracket? Think about that prime reps will work extra hypertrophy and muscular endurance, and decrease reps can have extra maximal and relative power. Picture 7 reveals the power high quality related to particular repetitions, primarily based on a 1990 analysis paper by Poliquin.

Picture 7. Energy qualities related to repetition carried out.

If you consider it, velocity-based coaching (VBT) makes use of a repetition-based system. You might be prescribed a selected variety of repetitions, and the suggestions system will let you know if the load is just too heavy or too gentle primarily based on how shortly the athlete lifts the barbell. From this attitude, VBT includes permitting the reps and motion pace to find out the load.

Picture 8. Figuring out the optimum weights for a exercise doesn’t should be difficult. Laura (left), a sprinter, just lately graduated from Harvard. Maeve, a volleyball participant, studied elementary training at Fairfield College.

To keep away from coaching plateaus, it’s finest to vary coaching protocols each few weeks. After figuring out the power high quality to emphasise, it’s higher to stay with one repetition bracket for a number of weeks after which concentrate on one other, as follows:

    Weeks 1–2: 8/6/4

    Weeks 3–4: 10/8/6

    Weeks 5–6: 8/6/4

    Weeks 7–8: 6/4/2

    Weeks 9–10: 8/6/4

The criticism of this exercise is that there’s just one arduous set per train, however for freshmen, it’s sufficient. Superior athletes can add extra units, equivalent to 12/10/9/8 or 6/4/3/2. Nevertheless, so the physique is aware of what power high quality it’s speculated to adapt to, you must typically hold the repetition unfold to 4 reps (12–8, 11–7, 10–6, and so forth).

Additionally, take into account that many highschool weight coaching applications are overwhelmed. I’ve identified weight coaching applications with 70+ children and one teacher, so a easy program equivalent to 8/6/4 could be a good begin. Right here is an instance of a exercise card utilizing a repetition system that athletes can fill in.

Picture 9. Exercise card utilizing a repetition-based system.

After I was the editor of Greater Quicker Stronger journal, I wrote articles a few set/rep exercise card they developed for his or her exercises. Hundreds of athletes and PE college students used these playing cards. BFS additionally had a software program system, however many coaches I interviewed stated they preferred the exercise playing cards as a result of they get the athlete actively concerned within the coaching course of. Additionally they advised me that their college students loved writing down their private information.

For sensible examples of utilizing repetition-based applications along with your athletes, I refer you to the early works of Australian power coach Ian King and Canadian power coach Charles R. Poliquin. Two traditional books to get you began are Methods to Write Energy Coaching Packages: A Sensible Information, by King and The Poliquin Ideas, by Poliquin (As a matter of full disclosure, I used to be the editor of The Poliquin Ideas).

Those teaching weight training at the high school level are often overwhelmed by large numbers of students in each session. Repetition workouts might offer a better training experience. Click To Tweet

From a sensible perspective, take into account that academics accountable for weight coaching lessons at the highschool degree typically have little background in designing exercises—and also you most likely gained’t catch lots of them studying Russian analysis papers on periodization strategies within the break room. They’re additionally typically overwhelmed with massive numbers of scholars in every session. Utilizing repetition exercises may provide a greater coaching expertise for his or her college students.

Expertise has a lot to supply the power teaching occupation, and share exercise techniques are right here to remain, notably for weightlifters. Nevertheless, typically it’s higher to place down the smartphone and get sturdy the old school approach by letting the reps decide the load!

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Charniga, Bud. Charniga affords many translated Russian weightlifting textbooks and yearbooks on the next web site: https://www.dynamicfitnessequipment.com/category-s/1819.htm

Takano, Bob. Weightlifting Programming: A Profitable Coach’s Information. Catalyst Athletics, Inc., 2012.

Siff, Mel and Verkhoshansky, Yuri. Supertraining, 1999, 4th version, Supertraining Worldwide, Denver USA 1999. (1st version, 1993)

King, Ian. Methods to Write Energy Coaching Packages: A Sensible Information, King Sports activities Worldwide, 1998.

Poliquin, Charles. The Poliquin Ideas, Dayton Writers Group, 1997.