Psychology, belief, or training development?

Mindset advocates wax lyrical about Roger Bannister who on May 6, 1954, broke the world record for the mile by nearly two seconds, becoming the first man to (officially) run the distance in under four minutes. The previous world record had lasted for nine years. Within 46 days, Australian Jim Landry broke Bannister’s record by a further 1.5 seconds.

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Prilepin table

Assuming you get to a decent gym, that allows you to do some barbell movements, how do you go about developing the strength you so long for? The reality is that the average Gym instructor may know a bit about hypertrophy ( ” 3 sets of 10 mate!”) but that’s about it. Sitting in a Globo gym among a pile of machines does that to people. It’s tragic. But, let’s say, you have something heavy and you want to lift it, how many sets, how many reps?

One of the secrets of elite trainers, like me, is that we are quite well-read: we look at British, American, and Russian strength training literature. ( mind you, if  Tabata is Japanese, add Japanese literature to that list).An interesting piece of research was carried out by soviet Sports scientist, AS Prilepin, who studied the training logs of  1000 leading weightlifting champions. The table below is an averaging of these logs and shows the % of 1 rep max, the number of reps performed per set,  the optimal amount of reps per workout, and the range of reps used indicated by the research. This table is specifically for gaining maximal strength

The Prilepin Table: 
IntensityReps per setRecommended optimal Total of RepsRange of reps seen in research
Below 70%3 – 62418-30
70 – 79%3 – 61812 – 24
80 – 89%2 – 41510 – 20
90% and above1 – 274 – 10

There are of course a few points worthy of mention. These tables were extracted from the training journals of Olympic weight lifters and it’s possible to argue that this would not apply to other lifts ( the slower lifts like the squat, deadlift press, etc).

This also assumes you have a reliable 1 rep max figure, and for that matter, an up-to-date one.

What I don’t know ( and if anyone does, please let me know) does he use the idea of a 1 rep max as your best ever lift. If you look at Zatsiorsky and Kraemer, they establish a difference between a training max and a competition 1 rep max. They suggest that the difference is about 12.5%  +/- 2.5% in superior weightlifters. The further makes the distinction that a training max is  a load you lift with no emotional arousal which can be monitored by your heart rate. If someone says, lift that weight, and your heart rate zooms up in anticipation, that load is  (probably)  above your training max. This,of course, assumes some experience. Stopping the average sedentary person and saying, lift that weight, will probably get most people’s heart rate up!

These tables and information are, of course, a snapshot. I’m not discussing long-term fatigue, issues of scheduling.


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