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View Full Version : Training, Prilepin, and Goal-focused Cycles


Chad Lammert
06-10-2012, 12:13 PM
Hi Greg-

Once again, I just want to thank you for creating this place and giving everyone here the opportunity to ask questions related to the world of weightlifting. It's because of your effort that you've got to be one of the best in the biz not only for weightlifting coaching, but also building a weightlifting community. For that, and I'm sure I'm not alone, I thank you.

So, on to my question.

First, in your book you say how the Prilepin table is more descriptive than prescriptive, so immediately I will take what is said here with a grain of salt. However, to what extent should the Prilepin table be included in a lifter's training?

Second, when following a goal-focused cycle, i.e. classic lift position and technique cycle (from your book), does Prilepin fit in at all? For example, just today I was doing week 4's saturday workout where both the snatch and clean and jerk are prescribed 80% x 1 x 3. With a curiosity to incorporate Prilepin, I did those three lifts, but I also made sure to incorporate 15 other lifts below the 80% for a total of 18 lifts. Also, I chose 18 from the optimal column because 805 was just at the top of the 70-79% range and I figured I could use the opportunity to continue technique training.

Third, and last, is my approach to Prilepin's table correct in the first place, or was I supposed to interpret it as 18 lifts to be counted only between the weight ranges of 70-79% and any warm-up reps below 70% should not have been counted--if that is the case, I should get back out there and finish the workout.

Thanks again Greg not only for your time, but also this community.

All the best,

Chad

Greg Everett
06-11-2012, 09:15 AM
I never use it. I don't find it helpful, one because of the huge ranges, two because it doesn't address the variability in lifts, three because it doesn't address the variability in lifters, four because it doesn't address the variability in goals for a given lift/workout/program/etc.

http://www.70sbig.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Prilepins-Chart.png

The optimal rep Rx is for the reps in the associated % range. So you would have needed 15 more reps between 70-80% to meet its optimal Rx. But in the case of your workout, the goal wasn't to accumulate volume at that %, and notice that you were doing singles, where the table would have you doing 3-6 reps. Doing 18 sets of 1 is much different than doing 6 sets of 3.

Now consider the % range - 70-80%. That's a huge spread. 18 reps at 70% is not a big deal. 18 reps at 80% is pretty tough.

It can be used best in my opinion to simply see if the volume of an exercise prescribed is reasonable. i.e. if you give someone 10 sets of 2 at 90%, you can check the table and see that's outside the range and you should probably knock the number of sets way down. But honestly, stuff like that is pretty obvious I think - not many people would prescribe that kind of volume w that kind of weight.

Then consider something like pulls, which are nearly universally prescribed based on max weights of the associated classic lift. 90% x 2 x 2 clean pulls isn't much of a pull workout, but according to the chart, that's optimal.

So what you end up with is needing to interpret the table pretty creatively, which to me means not really using the table and just using your own judgment anyway. Maybe I just don't get it. But I've not met any weightlifting coaches who have used it (or admitted they do at least), presumably for the reasons above.

Dave Van Skike
06-11-2012, 12:01 PM
The chart is a tired bit of exercise dogma...but I think it does have a lot of utility for gen pop. .


It can be used best in my opinion to simply see if the volume of an exercise prescribed is reasonable. i.e. if you give someone 10 sets of 2 at 90%, you can check the table and see that's outside the range and you should probably knock the number of sets way down. But honestly, stuff like that is pretty obvious I think - not many people would prescribe that kind of volume w that kind of weight.


For most people trying to muddle their way through this rule of thumb is hugely beneficial. I think athletes writing their own exercise prescriptions are often clueless as to what is reasonable until they have tried and failed numerous times.


Then consider something like pulls, which are nearly universally prescribed based on max weights of the associated classic lift. 90% x 2 x 2 clean pulls isn't much of a pull workout, but according to the chart, that's optimal.


That example is a little unfair as you're using 90% of a clean not 90% of a max clean pull. not that I know or care about the difference between the two but the chart isn't really useable unless you're calculating like things.



So what you end up with is needing to interpret the table pretty creatively, which to me means not really using the table and just using your own judgment anyway.


IMO, it should be the goal of any self trained athlete (99%) to have learned the how and why of what works for them. Creativity and judgement need to be learned. The chart is a learning tool

Kind of like how fairy tales teach basic rules of consequences, exercise dogma like the chart are good starting points for learning what is reasonable and what is unreasonable..once you have this general sense you can begin to push it.

By the same token, I would not expect a good coach to ever have use of the thing as he/she can tell with their eyes how an individual is reacting to volume or intensity within a very short assessment period.


So..is the chart "Correct"? Probably not...Does it have utility? I think quite a lot.

Chad Lammert
06-11-2012, 12:56 PM
I'm a little bummed because I thought this was going to be some sort of holy grail for programing volume. No matter. When I'm looking at your cycles and I see a day where the prescription is 80% x 1 x 3, what is expected by you the coach regarding warm up sets or back off sets and how can I interpret the sort of volume necessary for that day's workout?

Greg Everett
06-11-2012, 02:52 PM
I'm a little bummed because I thought this was going to be some sort of holy grail for programing volume.

Unfortunately it doesn't exist. There are so many factors that influence how a given volume of training will affect different lifters (and the same lifter at different times) that it would be impossible to make a simple formula for it. The class system developed by the Soviets is the closest thing to this, and even that needs modification based on age, training experience (neither of which is necessarily aligned as might be expected with class ranking), and lifestyle factors, etc.

As I said, and as Dave said more enthusiastically, it can be of use for some broad guidelines to be sure, but I would suggest you consider it just that: guidelines, not hard and fast rules.

Regarding my expectations, I don't have them beyond expecting a lifter to warm-up as ideal for him/herself in order to perform the workout optimally. For some lifters, that means quite a few sets to get to the 80% working sets, and others will be able to get to it very quickly. Largely that's dependent on technical proficiency if we're talking about classic lifts or variants. If I'm looking for a very specific number of lifts, I'll prescribe all sets above 60% explicitly. Often with my own lifters, I'll instruct them on what warm-up wts, sets and reps to take as they're lifting even if it's not written on their programs - this is just based on how that lifter functions generally along with what they look like that day and what I want to see them do that session.

Greg Everett
06-11-2012, 03:02 PM
For most people trying to muddle their way through this rule of thumb is hugely beneficial. I think athletes writing their own exercise prescriptions are often clueless as to what is reasonable until they have tried and failed numerous times.

Fair enough. Although again, I think its vagueness makes its utility even in this sense more limited than people who are using it would like it to be.


That example is a little unfair as you're using 90% of a clean not 90% of a max clean pull. not that I know or care about the difference between the two but the chart isn't really useable unless you're calculating like things.


Well... it was developed as a result of observing weightlifters and intended for programming for weightlifters. Weightlifters calculate pull weights based on classic lifts. So it doesn't seem unfair to me. It seems like it's a problem with the system worth noting for the very beginners you mention above trying to learn how to program. There's no such thing as a 100% pull because where a pull stops being a pull and becomes a deadlift is pretty subjective, and few weightlifters ever pull that heavy anyway.

And even leaving the pull example aside, you can still make the same basic argument using classic lifts versus more strength based lifts like squats. What you can/can't do, or the results of training of each at a given % and volume can be considerably different.



IMO, it should be the goal of any self trained athlete (99%) to have learned the how and why of what works for them. Creativity and judgement need to be learned. The chart is a learning tool

Kind of like how fairy tales teach basic rules of consequences, exercise dogma like the chart are good starting points for learning what is reasonable and what is unreasonable..once you have this general sense you can begin to push it.

By the same token, I would not expect a good coach to ever have use of the thing as he/she can tell with their eyes how an individual is reacting to volume or intensity within a very short assessment period.


I guess that's my issue with it. You can say it's a learning tool to help newer lifters and coaches learn how to program better, but then if you say in order to make good use of it, you have to understand more about programming than what's represented by the table, you're basically saying that a person needs to know more than they can learn from the chart in order to learn from the chart. I'm not saying by any means that it's useless, just that getting hung up on it is probably a mistake. It's one tool in a very large toolbox, and using it for everything is like building cabinets with nothing but a screwdriver.

Dave Van Skike
06-11-2012, 03:54 PM
I can't believe I'm defending Prilepin's Chart. But c'mom, be fair...the fact it does not adapt itself to the way some weightlifters calculate accessory movements does not diminish it's utility in the slightest. It's a rule of thumb.


I'll not prejudge what a person does or does not need to know in order to understand the chart. You're correct that it is a tool, but I disagree that it has limited utility or that you need a huge base of knowledge to get it right. My position generally is that most people already have too much information about training. Most would be better off with a limited set of very basic tools to master so they could over time begin to understand how they respond to intensity and volume.


As to what it takes to utilize the chart, the great irony is that it was developed for weightlifters but I'll bet its greatest impact in recent years is with the crowd that re- popularized it, powerlifters. I do know that it's used extremely widely by adherents of the Westside template with great results. I have also found in watching thousands of sets and reps among training partners, trainees etc...when I observe people at working weight (70-99%) across several sets I consistently see a significant drop in performance right about the rep range limits that the chart predicts. I also note that when using some of the most effective progressions (3x5, Ladders, the 531 method) the working reps correspond with the chart with a fair degree of accuracy.

So, yes, It's just a tool. You might need to have a basic understanding of volume and intensity and a working knowledge of what your 1RM is...It might not be effective for calculating certain Olympic lifting set and reps progressions or be applicable to some individuals..But as a guideline for strength training, IME it's a reliable little piece of dogma and the stronger you get, the more accurate it seems to become.

Greg Everett
06-11-2012, 04:09 PM
Can you give me an example of how you would use it to plan your training (this is a serious question, I'm not trying to get your kilt in a twist) and not just to note that what you did in your training happened fit in its ranges?

Dave Van Skike
06-11-2012, 04:11 PM
Sure,..Easy one.
hang one..screwed that up.

Greg Everett
06-11-2012, 04:19 PM
By the way Chad - this is a great example of why so many people struggle so much to learn this stuff: people can disagree on just about anything and still get good results.

Dave Van Skike
06-11-2012, 04:41 PM
Can you give me an example of how you would use it to plan your training (this is a serious question, I'm not trying to get your kilt in a twist) and not just to note that what you did in your training happened fit in its ranges?


My own training might not be a great example as I don't really program (I don't believe in it) but in working with folks who are doing our standard PL split,

If the main movement was say a Squat, the secondary movement would be a variation on the squat. So lets say we work them up to a very heavy max set of five. right at lets say 85%+

then we want to move to an accessory movement that supports that, say a pause squat. If they only had that one heavy set on the day, at 85%, I'd look at the total range for 80-90% and know that I could either have them:

stick to pauses for 3 sets of 5, (15+5=20reps, top of the range)

or that I could drop them to 3x3 (9+5=14 mid range)

or more likely they'd be asking for 5 sets of three (15+5=20reps, top of the range) but becuase the triples would be heavier (closer to 90%) this might push them too much so I'd look to curtail this. Also I base the %'s on the actual max of this secondary movement. In this case what their max or best guess max pause squat is)


Now to be fair, most of this stuff, I do on autopilot but if one of my trainign partners asks...what should I do now? for an accessory movements, I almost always prescribe a range and % right out of the chart for 70-80% or 80-90% in terms of sets or reps.

Also, if say, (as I often do) "Go do doubles" I almost always tell them to start at about 90% and expect to get maybe 4 to 5 sets. If they are getting much more, it was too light and we move up.


Now if that seems too ad hoc, I get it, but it's completely informed by the chart and what the range of % and weight. It tunes people's expectations of reasonable and gives them a sense of how much work they should be planning for at about what effort.

Now...it gets even messier when we add in RTS and rates of perceived exertion but you did not ask that.

Dave Van Skike
06-11-2012, 05:04 PM
another thing I've done, is to take canned strength templates, including Matt Vincent's Training Lab for throwers and the Juggernaut Method and plugged them into excel spreadsheets to see how the volume and intensity breaks out on a daily basis.

When I look at how I'd use those progression, on all the segments where the volume looked retarded, I shaved them down to match the chart and ended up with something more sensible.

Again..Prilepin is not magic but as a first pass rule of thumb, it can work pretty well.

Chad Lammert
06-11-2012, 07:38 PM
ooo boy, Greg I see what you mean.

Dave, you say you don't use programming for yourself because you don't believe in it. What do you do in regards to training and how do you progress? I ask because a friend of mine also follows an anti-programming training regimen, weighs about 20lbs less than me and out lifts me consistently.

Greg--going back to Sunday when I was making sure to hit the 18 lifts, i definitely added more volume then what would have been necessary in regards to the prescription. Specifically, in the snatch I hit my 80% x 1 x 3 by my 12th lift then reduced back to 75% and made another 6 lifts there as doubles. I'm glad I did because I feel I needed that volume to somehow engrain the movement patterns more thoroughly in my head, but I don't like straying from a program--i feel that if I don't follow the program to a "T" then I won't yield its desired response. To what extent was going beyond the call of duty the right choice, and to what extent was this (or would this be if I continued to do this consistently) a deviation from the goal of the prescription and cycle? I hope i conveyed this clearly.

Dave Van Skike
06-11-2012, 08:51 PM
I'd say I Plan. I don't program...

Greg's take on Prilepin as a Weightlifter and my somewhat different take on it as a sometimes thrower, strongman probably is complicated enough for this thread.

Start a thread in the subforum of your choice and I'll try to explain myself more fully.

Greg Everett
06-12-2012, 09:39 AM
If the main movement was say a Squat, the secondary movement would be a variation on the squat. So lets say we work them up to a very heavy max set of five. right at lets say 85%+

then we want to move to an accessory movement that supports that, say a pause squat. If they only had that one heavy set on the day, at 85%, I'd look at the total range for 80-90% and know that I could either have them:

stick to pauses for 3 sets of 5, (15+5=20reps, top of the range)

or that I could drop them to 3x3 (9+5=14 mid range)

or more likely they'd be asking for 5 sets of three (15+5=20reps, top of the range) but becuase the triples would be heavier (closer to 90%) this might push them too much so I'd look to curtail this. Also I base the %'s on the actual max of this secondary movement. In this case what their max or best guess max pause squat is)

Now to be fair, most of this stuff, I do on autopilot but if one of my trainign partners asks...what should I do now? for an accessory movements, I almost always prescribe a range and % right out of the chart for 70-80% or 80-90% in terms of sets or reps.

Also, if say, (as I often do) "Go do doubles" I almost always tell them to start at about 90% and expect to get maybe 4 to 5 sets. If they are getting much more, it was too light and we move up.


This to me is just saying that you're training based on feel, which can be very effective, but just tells me that you're still going more on intuition and experience than the chart. I understand that you're using the chart to help you determine what kind of volume to be shooting for at a given weight. But you have to still decide on that weight within a 10% range (huge) and then decide what kind of reps are appropriate for what you're trying to accomplish (in no way shown in the table).

To stay with your 85% x 5 example, you show that you can adhere to the table's guidelines in at least 3 different ways (and it's more than that really), but the decision is entirely up to you to make based on what you understand about how each one will affect a given athlete taking into consideration the nature of the previous and following training. Again, none of this comes from the chart, it comes from your brain (and maybe a bit from your heart).

Additionally, you have to decide what you're doing to begin with. How and why did you decide to do pause squats to a max set of 5? You didn't get that from the table, you did it because you understand what affect it will have on the athlete and you know it aligns with your goals for that athlete at that time.

So again, all I'm seeing the chart being used for is to know if you're possibly doing too much volume. To me that's "limited utility". It's not useless. It's just a very small piece of the puzzle. Seems to me that you're really relying more on your understanding of what works and what doesn't and then taking a moment to see how much more work you can squeeze in.



It tunes people's expectations of reasonable and gives them a sense of how much work they should be planning for at about what effort.
.

This I will concede, as I did earlier - but again with the caveat that it's still very vague and broad, and it can serve as some very loose guidelines, but it's certainly not going to dial you in, and it's certainly not going to tell you how to develop a training program (or even plan in your case).

Honestly I think you're not giving yourself enough credit for your understanding of programming. It's not the table, it's your experience and knowledge that's guiding your decisions on what to have people do.

And as I think I said earlier, if you find it helpful, by all means, use it. I won't tell you not to. But the OP was hoping the table would be the "holy grail" of program design. I'm just breaking the bad news.