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Who Needs Training Percentages?

Written on March 21, 2008 at 10:24 am, by Eric Cressey

Q: Eric – I bought your e-book on deloading. Thanks for it! I’m 57 and compete in WABDL. I’m going to do the high-medium-very high-low programming set-up you outlined prior to the 8 week precontest cycle you mention. What percentages do you use in those eight weeks? My next meet is June 14th, so including this week, I’m 12 weeks out. Thanks!

A: I rarely use percentages. Think about it this way…

If you test your squat and it’s 500 at the beginning of a 16-week cycle, and then put 50 pounds on it over the course of that period, the percentages based on that 500 number aren’t very accurate by the time week 11, 12, 13, etc. roll around, are they?

The secret is to build tests into your training program. Within the high, medium, very high, low set-up, it’s best to test them right at the end of the medium and low phases. Or, if you’re a more experienced lifter, you can rotate exercises on a weekly basis – and test maxes on lifts almost weekly as long as they’re changing. So, an 8-week set-up for bringing up a back squat using this approach might look like:

Week 1, High: Front Box Squat, work up to a heavy single, then 5 singles over 90% of that 1RM
Week 2: Medium: Trap Bar Deadlift, 1RM, then two singles over 90% of that 1RM
Week 3, Very High: Back Squat, 5 sets of 3
Week 4, Low: Sumo Deadlifts, 3×3 easy
Week 5, High: Box Squat, 1RM, then 5 more singles over 90% of that 1RM
Week 6, Medium: Front Squat, 4×4
Week 7, Very High: Back Squats, 1RM, then 8 more singles over 90% of that 1RM
Week 8, Low: 3×5 nice and light back squats (maintain familiarity)
Week 9: Retest Back Squat 1RM as part of Week 1 of next phase

Week 0: 1RM Back Squat Test

The Art of the Deload

One Response to “Who Needs Training Percentages?”

  1. Sam Leahey Says:

    Eric – I often here your exact rationale that percentages are not best practice due to the increase in abosolute strength levels as the program progresses.

    I feel like this is something that makes common sense but why is it the the powerlifting godfathers did not account for this when the whole percentage based programs were formulated? Or am i just not abreast in the powerlifting literature and they do in fact have multiple retest throughout their cycles?

    All the best,


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