A.S. Prilepin was a Soviet weightlifting coach who kept meticulous notes of over a thousand of training logs of his trainees. The result of these notes? A general guideline for strength training that people still use to this day.
The Chart: Percentages, Sets, and Reps
Prilepin’s chart was designed for powerlifters, but the strength training aspect is relevant to combat sports. Since powerlifting is also divided up into weight classes, the strength-to-size ratio is just as important. In short, it’s not just about how much you can lift. It’s also about how much you can lift BASED ON YOUR SIZE. See how this could be useful in combat sports like wrestling and jiu jitsu?
If you’re completely unfamiliar with lifting, your 1RM is your one rep max. This is the maximum amount of weight you can lift with one repetition of any given movement such as the squat, deadlift, or bench press. The higher percent you lift, the heavier the load on your nervous system. This makes for longer recovery time and is ineffective from a volume standpoint. That brings us to the next definition.
Consider volume to be the weight you lift times reps times sets. For example, five sets of five reps of 200 pounds on the squat equals 5000 pounds of volume.
One set = 200 lbs X 5 = 1000 lbs
Five sets = 1000 lbs X 5 = 5000 lbs
Makes intuitive sense, right? The higher percentage lift, the lower the total volume. However, you still want to train for a high percentage of your one rep max too so that your nervous system is able to handle those weights. Long story short, you can see that strength training program can get very complicated very quickly.
Reps/Sets [Note: “Reps” are short for repetitions]
This column refers to the amount of individual reps performed in a set. It doesn’t exceed six repetitions because it’s originally designed for power lifts, which focus on explosive, perfect form. Anywhere higher leads to slowing down movements and suboptimal form. For power lifters, this is a problem. You want to be most explosive with the cleanest technique (because proper technique maximizes your ability to exert force while also minimizing your risk for injury).
This explains the total amount of reps in the training session. This number varies because people respond differently to the same training sessions, but staying in the total range helps you get an idea of where the best results might be. World class strength coaches will understand that some athletes (regardless of sport) respond better to higher amounts of volume while some athletes respond better to lower amounts of volume when it comes to strength gains.
Based on Prilepin’s observations, this is the optimal amount of total reps to perform. If you don’t have access and the financial means to hire a strength coach, this is a good enough starting point.
In this particular study, Prilepin’s Chart was applied to the three big lifts: the squat, bench press, and deadlift with favorable results. Additionally, these exercises will also give you the most bang for your buck! In general, while there is a time and place for isolation exercises (like bicep curls), you’d be far more efficient focusing on compound exercises that use more muscle groups such as the squat, bench press, dead lift, pull ups, rows, and overhead press.
Now that you know the sets and reps scheme, happy lifting! Do you feel that your strength training is adequate?
If you’re curious about the diet program that went along with that, you can view the one I used to put on 17 pounds of muscle here.