Friday, April 20, 2012

What the hell is Prilepin's Chart and what does it have to do with Powerlifting?

What is it?
Prilepin’s chart gives set percentages of one’s max to be used in training. Here’s what it looks like:
Prilepin’s Chart
Percent Reps/sets Optimal Total range
55–65 3–6 24 18–30
70–80 3–6 18 12–24
80–90 2–4 15 10–20
90+ 1–2 4 10

Basically, the Russians would take a percentage of your contest max. Let’s say 70 percent. They assigned reps and sets to this percentage and would then have a lifter perform the classic lifts at this percentage. They looked at what happens to the speed of the bar, the lifter’s form, and the lifter’s next contest max. From this research, they decided what sets and rep schemes would work with a given percentage. For instance, if they had a lifter perform 70 percent of his contest max, they found that if the lifter did 3–6 reps per set, he would get a positive training result (i.e. he had good form, his bar speed was good, and his max went up).
They also found that if the lifter only did two reps per set it wasn’t enough. Either there wasn’t enough of a stimulus (there wasn’t enough weight on the bar) or the bar would move too fast (kind of like trying to throw a ping pong ball as hard as you can). Because of this, the lifter’s form would break down. They also found that if the lifter did more than six reps per set, the lifter’s form would break down from fatigue, which would in turn train bad habits, and the bar would move too slow (if you train slow you become slow). The Russian’s found that a lifter could do anywhere from 2–8 sets depending on how many reps per set the lifter did. In other words, a lifter could do:

8 sets of 3 (24)
2 sets of 6 (12)
4 sets of 3 (12)
5 sets of 3 (15)

The combinations are nearly endless. Why the broad range? Well, the Russians realized that everyone reacts differently to a training program. So, if I react better to higher reps, I would do six reps per set. But if you react better to low reps, you would do three reps per set. Prilepin also knew that in training there will be good days and bad days. If you were scheduled to do six sets of three but you’re killing it, you can keep it going and do up to (but not beyond) eight sets. The same holds true if things aren’t going your way. For example, you had a rough night of sleep or the kids kept you up. Whatever the case may be, if you’re grinding it out, only do four sets.

These experiments were done on Olympic weightlifters. Why is that important? Because that’s all they did. They didn’t run. They didn’t play football. They didn’t throw baseballs. They lifted. So you need to account for this in your program design. In other words, you’re probably better off going toward the low end of the total rep range rather than the high end. However, you can look at where you are in your season as well. If our athletes are in-season, we’ll go even lower than the prescribed number of total reps. For out of season, we bring it back up toward the higher end of the range.

These percentages are based off of a contest max. The lifters were lifting as if (and sometimes it was true) their life depended on it. So the Bulgarians actually use two separate sets of maxes—their contest max and their training max. The training max is something done in the gym. I’m sure you’ve heard of this—you have your contest max and your gym max. Your contest max should be higher than you gym max. If it isn’t, you could be conservative, your gym lift may be questionable, or your training may be flawed.

You also should take into account that when the power lifts (squat, bench, and deadlift for those of you who STILL don’t know) are done for a max move, they are done much slower than with the Olympic lifts. This can be more taxing on the CNS.

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