Thursday, January 26, 2017

A rant about percentages


We've been talking about percentages lately. I gave you a percentage chart that you should keep with you. Jordan is designing her Strength and Power class around percentages of your training max. I want you to know your percentages and how your weight typically scales with certain reps. Percentages are a great tool, but don't get too caught up in them - there are times when the standard percentages won't work for you.

What do I mean? By definition, the maximum you can lift for a single rep (your 1RM) is 100%. Usually programming is based off that weight. A program may prescribe 5 at 80% or something like that. But that only works if your strength scales the same way as the program predicts.

The red line in my poorly drawn graph above shows what a typical RM is for various lifts (I removed the labels because it's not perfectly accurate and I just wanted to show the idea). The 1RM is 100% (that's always true). A 2RM (the most you can lift for 2) may be 95%. A 3RM may be 90%. An so on, as the reps go up, your percentage has to go down. Over the years people have gotten overly scientific about it and there are accepted truths about how your maxes scale as you add reps. The red line are the numbers I found as "typical".

But not everyone scales the same way.  Some people may look more like the green line, as the reps go up, your percentage drops off quickly and then levels off.  Others may have a pattern that looks more like the blue line where you can work at a higher percentage for many reps and then start to drop off.

Basically, younger people, men, power athletes (football players, sprinters, weightlifters) tend to look more like the green line. Older people, women, endurance athletes (runners, cyclists) tend to look more like the blue line.

The way to interpret the green line folks is that they have a very high 1RM because they're strong but they don't have much endurance so they can't work at a high weight for too long.  The blue line folks don't have as much absolute strength, but they can sustain that strength longer.  The red line is what happens when exercise scientists average out all of the individual differences.

Why do I bring this up now? If a coach gives you a percentage (I often do that during the strength portion of our workouts and Jordan will be doing that in her new class), you need to interpret that with how you typically respond to the weight. I may say "do these 5 at 80%" but if you're a power athlete, 80% may kill you, and if you're an endurance athlete, 80% may be too light. So you may need to play with it a little. Keep a log to learn trends on what's easy and what's hard. As you get more experienced, you'll have a good idea where you fall on the chart.

If you're completely new to lifting, you won't even have good 100% numbers yet. You need a level of skill and time with the barbell before you can even go hard enough to call a lift 100%. A log is even more important for you so you can see how you're progressing.

tl;dr - Percentages are great until they're not; know your body.



Workout

squat 8-5-3x5
2 pull-ups + 2 dips between sets

then

3 rounds:
row 4:00
rest 4:00 - during your rest complete 5 heavy cleans



Endurance Option

squats
2 pull-ups + 2 dips between sets

then

3 rounds:
row 4:00
rest 4:00 - during your rest complete 5 heavy cleans



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