Repost: Prilepin’s Chart

Prileipin’s Chart is the result of a lot of Russian research done with Olympic weightlifters. It depicts the optimum number and range of reps given a certain percentage to increase strength. The researchers looked at bar speed, technique, and the lifter’s next competition max and developed the following numbers (for more on Prilepin’s Chart and it’s use on strength training, check out this solid article by Tim Kontos on EliteFTS).

The “Percent” column indicates the percent of the lifter’s 1RM. The “Reps/sets” column represents the range of reps that can occur for a single set. The “Optimal” column shows the optimum number of total reps at this percent range to implement a correct dose of stress (fewer reps would be too low a stress, more reps would cause too much stress). The “Total Range” column indicates the lower and higher extremes a lifter could use when lifting in the indicated percent range. For example, the 55-65% row says that a lifter would use three to six reps per set, the optimal rep total is 24 reps, and the range of total reps is from 18 to 30. If the lifter used sets of 3, they could perform 8 sets to achieve the optimal 24 rep total.

This chart is a very good way to structure a training day, though it isn’t really necessary unless you’re more of an “advanced intermediate” type of lifter (i.e. someone who has been using intermediate programming for at least six months, and probably at least a year). Let’s say you found yourself going hard too often in your training, and de-loads were necessary and often. If you actually looked at your percentages and rep totals, you might find that you’re essentially doing three heavy days a week. Instead, you could fluctuate your week’s training better (perhaps with a Heavy-Medium-Light set up) by orienting your training sessions with Prilepin’s Chart.

If Monday you went heavy, the chart would help you see that “heavy” is anything over 90%. You’d do about four total reps by hitting a couple doubles or some singles, and you definitely wouldn’t breach the ten rep mark — it would just be superfluous training volume at this percentage. If you kept the rep ranges the same, you could aim to improve the weight slightly the following week. This is essentially what is done in the Texas Method and Advanced Texas Method protocols (though numbers of sets and reps are modified for goals, like raw powerlifting).

Prilepin’s Chart also allows for proper progression. If you’re less adapted to using its protocol, then you would stick to the lower end range of reps within a given percentage. For example, instead of using 15 to 20 reps in the 80-90% category, you’d stick to the lower rep range of 10 and build it up over time (perhaps adding a rep or two every week). You can see how it’s easy to apply more stress via total tonnage than simply adding weight, and this is also why you’d want to be more advanced before even worrying about any of this. Less adapted intermediates can make plenty of progress with a good training template and not over working themselves, but this Chart can corral those who are ignorant, belligerent, or not on a given template (hmm, two of those three describe Brent…).

Westside Barbell and Louie Simmons are the primary sources that educated the general strength population on Prilepin’s Chart. Louie based the DE/ME structure on these percentages and rep ranges and has tweaked them over the years (I’d suggest getting a copy of the “Westside Barbell Squat and Deadlift Manual” if you’re interested to see his implementation). Things are tweaked because a) the Westside lifters are using supportive gear and b) the above chart is based on the the quick Olympic lifts. Supportive gear will assist the lifter in his performance, so heavier percentages can be used. The Olympic lifts have a much lower time under tension and can be typically labeled as “sub-maximal” with respect to absolute strength, so a powerlifter or strength athlete will typically use fewer reps than an Olympic weightlifter. Also, Tim Kontos pointed out that a sport athlete (who is running, attending practice, or using a broader range of lifts) will use fewer reps so as not to apply too much stress that would inhibit the rest of the training.

Prilepin’s Chart is a good tool to use for experienced lifters, yet it can give a good programmer a strategy for how to plan his session, week, and training. Take a look at your own training and see how it compares with these rep ranges. If you decide to use it, remember to start with the lower rep ranges. If you experiment with something and it works well, then let us know (but include your stats and previous program). Don’t forget that less experienced lifters will complicate a good progression by trying to adhere to percentage-based training.

Werner Günthör

The other day I used a sweet picture of Werner Günthör. In an effort to teach all the newer readers, here’s a post I wrote in 2010 about him (with minor edits).

Meet Werner Günthör, a powerful athlete from Switzerland. Günthör was an athletic shot putter who stood 6’6″ and weighed close to 300 pounds of pure 70’s Bigness (this website lists him at 130kg). His best put was 22.75 meters in 1988 in Bern — that’s about 74.5 feet. Günthör won a bronze medal in the 1988 Olympics as well as three world championships in the late 80s and early 90s. He also won an indoor world championship and European championship. You can find videos of Günthör training on YouTube. His training was awesome, and here’s my favorite video (the last sequence is the best):

How awesome was that? It’s not a bad idea to model conditioning work after Günthör’s plyometric training, particularly jumping and bounding. Ease into these movements, especially if you haven’t done them since high school athletics; plyometrics will initially be stressful on the joints and soft tissue.

Here is another video of Günthör and who I assume is his training partner. The whole video is an impressive showing of athleticism and displays the old school mindset of including related physical conditioning to training.

Ladies will want to fast forward to 1:43.
More intense plyo training at 2:38.
3:33 is the start of a hilarious montage of Günthör doing all kinds of awesome things, including playing tennis. You can’t really get an idea of how massive this guy is until he wedges a racket in his fist. There’s another really funny part that I’ll let you see for yourself, so this would be the best part of the video if you were strapped for time.

Günthör is one of my favorite athletes because of his explosive training and awesome style. A 70’s Big man indeed.

How To Make A Training Session

Recently both of my younger brothers asked me to help them with a training program. One of the first “lessons” I gave them was how to organize a training session for a program oriented towards getting stronger, building size, and leaning out. Here is a quick guide on how to do so.

• Begin with a general warm-up. This can be light calisthenics, walking, jogging, rowing, or biking for 2 to 10 minutes.
• Do some mobility work. Massage or roll first, then stretch. Rolling the soft tissue helps loosen it up before trying to stretch on it. I’m going to remake a video o this soon, but hit the upper back, lower back, hips, and quads at a minimum. Joint approximation should be done last. The point of mobility before training is to improve range of motion to facilitate good mechanics — especially if the correct ROM of the exercise is limited.
• Warm-up with the main lift you’re doing that day. That means start with the bar for a set of five and then progressively add weight until you reach the first set. As your warm-up sets go up, titrate the reps down. For example, if my first set was 225×5, I could do warm-ups like this:
• 45×5
• 95×5
• 135×5
• 185×3
• 205×2 or 1
• First set of 225×5
• Do all of the work sets for the main lift of that day. Bodybuilding programs like to add unnecessary super-sets; to get stronger and bigger, do the compound strength movement first. Do it for 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps.
• Now it’s time for assistance exercises. Do compound exercises before isolation exercises. Do the strength related exercises first; do the hypertrophy (or muscle building) exercises last. Do them for 3-5 sets of 5-10 reps.
• Compound assistance exercises include pull-ups, rows, lunges, and dips. You won’t need much more than this.
• Isolation assistance exercises include curls or triceps extensions. Don’t bother with leg curls or leg extensions.

Werner Gunthor lifted, sprinted, and jumped his way into your heart.

• Finish the session with high intensity conditioning. Conditioning should be something short and hard, just like your pecker. 30 seconds of running fast, 30 seconds of rest on a treadmill. Or 30 second bike sprint and then 30 seconds of easy pace. 50 to 150 burpees for time. 400m sprints. Some of the old benchmark CrossFit workouts like “Cindy” (you can cap the time at 10 minutes) and “Helen” are pretty good. Push a sled. Sprint up a hill. Running has a bad rap because it’s the worst fucking thing ever, but athletes need to sprint. You can’t look like an athlete without training like one. So, sprint.

There’s nothing flashy or sexy about how to organize a training session. Do something that looks like this three or four times a week consistently, sleep eight hours a night, and pay attention to not eating like shit, and any beginner will make progress.

If you’re interested in beginning diet information, read “Garbage In; Garbage Out” or “Improving Diet“.

The System

Here’s a little story. Jean Claude Van Damme walks into a bar. His loose fitting tank top sits on top his oiled, shorn body, glistening under the dim lights. His pants are baggy, always baggy. His \$3,000 loafers side step a spilled drink on the floor and he surveys the bar.

This bar is like most bars: a mash up of disgusting human behavior and a few shiny gems strewn about. One gem catches Jean’s eye, a beautiful creature sitting at the bar. With hair like a fresh brewed espresso and fingers as crafty as a bonobo, this beauty lazily reclines on a barstool. One arm dangles over the back of the stool, the other consumes a juicy, fleshy treat.

“You know…I could eat a peach for hours…” says Nic Cage, the beautiful creature. A powerful feelings sweeps over Jean’s loins as he knows his night — Nay! His life! — cannot be complete without speaking to, without learning the secrets of Nic Cage’s heart.

Jean saunters up, thumbs hooked in his waist band, squeezing a few beads of sweat out onto his shoulders. He catches Cage’s attention and slowly rumbles, “Hello my sweet, may I buy you a dreenk?”

Cage, is startled, “Sorry boss, but there’s only two men I trust. One of them’s me. The other’s not you.”

Jean’s face slips into desperation. He can no longer hold onto his beaded sweat and it begins to embarrassingly soak through his tank top. Suddenly, a paw thuds on Jean’s shoulder. Despite the grease and sweat, the paw remains motionless after the sound of the clap echoes through the bar. All music and conversation has stopped. All eyes are on the man with the paw.

It’s literally a paw. There’s a guy holding a bear paw, and he slapped it onto Jean’s shoulder. It’s the creepy “Get off my train,” guy from the movie Ghost. He stares into Jean’s eyes and then asks, “Who do you think yer talkin’ to?” his words spilling out like gravel.

Jean’s biceps flex hard and he performs a flurry of unnecessary splits and the guy from Ghost falls through a wooden table, pieces of wood exploding throughout the room. A swarm of bar patrons rush to engage Jean, who somehow has already removed his shirt and is adamantly flexing, increasing his systolic blood pressure well over 170. Johnny Cage steps from behind a row of trees and Steven Segal somersaults into the room. Boba Fett crashes through the roof while Danny DeVito in his Penguin attire from Batman Returns stumbles in, opening and closing his umbrella menacingly. All of these villains begin beating Jean to the ground. As they pummel him, Jean looks through the mass of punches and kicks to see Nic Cage sitting on his bar stool laughing…laughing.

Allow me to explain.

You are Jean Claude Van Damme. Your attraction to Nic Cage is your “bright idea”. Everything that happens after is a reflection of your bad decisions. Think of the bar in the story as your “system”.

I use the term “system” to summarize all of the crap going in the human body. In physiology, we teach all the systems separately to understand the whole. Systems of the body include the integumentary (skin), skeletal, muscular, nervous, endocrine, circulatory, lymphatic and immune, respiratory, urinary, digestive, and reproductive. It’s easy to forget how these are interrelated, whether from a training perspective or in modern medicine.

In our case, it’s important to pay attention to all the stuff that effects our system. This awareness can help make programmatic adjustments to prevent illness, injury, or poor performance because the state of the system is an indicator of recovery capability. If the system is “depressed”, or something causes a debilitating effect on it, then all functions of the system are hampered.

Let’s go through two case studies.

The first is a person with a lot of emotional stress due to relationship issues for a month. Significant emotional stress itself can lowers the can lower the capability of the system, but it’s often associated with altered dietary and sleep habits. The person is tired, not getting enough calories, full of inflammatory stress hormones, and then on top of all of that, they are trying to maintain their normal training load.

The person in this example now has a depressed system and their physiology is not functioning at a normal level. Now imagine that they go out for a night of drinking and stay up late — events that depress the system. Their metabolism is working to oxidize the alcohol and they are dehydrated, further harming the system. A day or so later, they get sick.

It’s not that they were hit with a super bug infection that knocks them on their ass. It’s that their system had the shit kicked out of them by several different things and a minor bacteria or virus took advantage of the immune system being compromised. A good training program is a stress on the system. But so is emotional stress, a lack of sleep, binge drinking, and a lack of calories. All of the factors together create a storm that the body can’t recover from. Eventually there will be a fail point.

For the second case study, we’ll travel to  this Reddit post in /weightroom. The TL;DR is that a young fella’s deadlift strength has significantly decreased. He made a list of potential contributing factors he thought may be contributing. My answer is in the comments (/u/70sbig), but I wasn’t surprised to hear that he took a few weeks off, started a manual labor job, was training 7x/wk, decreased his deadlift frequency, and had a decrease in caloric intake.

Any one of those things would provide a change on his system that would likely have a debilitating effect. Seeing them all sitting before you in succession makes it very obvious to see why his strength suffers. But if you’re living your life and not looking at all of the variables that can influence training, it’s easy to miss them until the fail point occurs. The fail point is when you get injured, miss a lift, or finally realize you’re sick.

You easily can find yourself in a situation. You’re in a metaphorical bar (a depressed system) attracted to a beautiful creature (training). You won’t see the danger you’re in until you’re getting a solid beat down from Segal, Boba, and bad guys that know Whoopi Goldberg (the things walloping your system). Look, this metaphor is wildly out of control. The lesson is this: you may not be able to avoid problematic circumstances, but you can at least identify them and make better decisions to accommodate them. The last thing you want is to helplessly see the face of Nic Cage laughing at you uncontrollably.

Why?

Times are a changin’.

Folks in times like the Great War did things because they had to. Nowadays most of us privileged, first-world folk get to do things because we want to.

I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.

–John Adams, letter to Abigail, 12 May 1780

Little did Mr. Adams know, people would hide themselves behind glowing screens, living vicariously through the exaggerated deeds of others. Past efforts in politics, war, and commerce provide the freedom to do…or don’t.

But that’s what sets us apart. Every time you step under a bar, you’re doing. Instead of talking or watching, you execute. Every time you look at the distance you’ll sprint or the thing you’ll lift with an honest, healthy fear, you are doing. When you look down at your hands and see grit, callus, and blood, it’s the product of work. The product of life.

You train for a purpose, do you not? Training is nearly synonymous with suffering, because true training is difficult. At times, it’s a giant pain in the ass. The moment is hard when the doubt or fear sets in. The planning is hard when you pass on adult beverages or place head to pillow one hour earlier. But there is purpose to this suffering. Not only for the end result, but the moment of clarity when you burst through the fear or adversity. It’s the small victory, the success in the moment. It’s re-racking or lowering a weight with quivering muscles, the electricity flowing through your body. At the success in the moment. There is purpose to this suffering.

And that’s why we do it.

Update: Today is PR Friday, which is a forum to allow you to share your triumphs and failures with your strength training brethren. How has your training been this week? What questions do you have for 70’s Big or your peers? Talk and mingle. Follow 70’s Big on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.