Prilepin’s Chart and Powerlifting

 

Written by: Kevin Cann

 

I am beginning a Strength School with PPS.  This is an educational/classroom type thing where we will cover all of the basics in strength training and the theory of PPS.  Some do not have access to equipment right now and some have access to very limited pieces of equipment.

 

It is important that everyone understands the basics of strength training with these limitations.  This is how we make good training decisions and get stronger in a minimal environment.  Knowledge is power.

 

One of the basic pieces we will be covering will be the assignment of volumes and intensities within a given program.  Prilepin’s chart is probably the most discussed tool for determining volumes and intensities out there.

 

As with anything, there are some good features of this chart and also some not so good features of this chart.  A.S. Prilepin was a Soviet weightlifting coach.  He analyzed the training logs of high level Russian weightlifters.

 

Upon his analysis he concluded that the rep ranges and number of lifts suggested were optimal for getting better results on the platform.  Anything more and the speed of the lifts would decrease, and recovery would become more difficult.  Anything less, and the lifter was not getting enough of a stimulus to get stronger.

 

The Russians had tremendous success in the sport of weightlifting.  However, this does not mean that this chart can directly be utilized for powerlifters of all skill levels.  We need to keep in mind who was analyzed in this chart.

 

Elite level Russian weightlifters.  These weightlifters started at 8 years old in many cases and have had over a decade of time under the barbell when they were being analyzed.  This is not the case for the majority of powerlifters.  The longest one of my lifters has been lifting is 5 years.

 

The lifts themselves are very different.  The Olympic lifts require more speed and more technical proficiency than the powerlifts.  This does not mean that technique and speed are not important for the powerlifts, but they are called the “slow lifts” for a reason.

 

The ranges of the chart are quite broad as well.  There is a big difference between 70% of 1RM and 80% of 1RM.  This chart is just a guideline for the coach to follow.  It is not a written in stone dogma that needs to be followed exactly how it is written.  There are some good things to take from it.

 

I actually like the recommendations of the reps per set in Prilepin’s chart, even for powerlifting.  I believe that these numbers work best for practicing technical perfection.  At the end of the day it may be the total number of reps completed in a training session that matters.

 

For example, 10 sets of 3 at 65% of 1RM may be more beneficial than 3 sets of 10 at 65% of 1RM.  Yes, the intensity of the second example will be more per set, but when we increase the intensity, we often decrease the quality.  Both have a place, but the coach needs to understand what they want out of the training day.

 

I will use 10 sets of 3 at 65% sometimes, but I will also use 5 sets of 5 at 65% and even 5 sets of 6 at 65%.  They all have their place.  Develop the technical consistency with the 10×3 and challenge it with 5×5 and 5×6.

 

I am not a huge fan of doing higher rep sets than this as I believe there is diminishing returns with the quality of reps and the physiological demands of the higher rep sets.  That is muscular endurance, not muscular strength.  The further we get from 1RM, the less specific.

 

When you look at the chart for powerlifting, I feel we can do higher volumes of the more submaximal weights, but lower volumes of the 90+% weights.  I sure as shit could not do 10 singles at greater than 90% of 1RM.  I have programmed as much as 40 reps at 70% of 1RM successfully as well.

 

The fatigue accumulated from the submaximal weights will not breakdown the quality of repetitions in powerlifting quite as easily as it will with weightlifting.  Powerlifters will lift heavier absolute loads, making the volumes in the higher intensity zones more difficult to accomplish.

 

Then we need to take into consideration the variation we use in training.  PPS utilizes a lot of variation.  Many we know our 1RMs in because we use them in max effort lifts.  We do not perform max effort pause squats for example.

 

Too many lifters will cut the pause short to lift more weight.  I bet the Russian lifters would not do that!  I found it was best to use pauses as a variation to build technique, but not necessarily absolute strength.

 

For pauses we will use our best squat for the percentage work.  So how does this apply to the chart?  A 70% squat with a 2 second pause is much more difficult than a 70% competition squat.  However, the chart has a range between 70% and 80%.  In this case the numbers of the chart may actually be ok.

 

However, I would not be doing a 6×4 2 sec pause squat at 80% of 1RM unless the lifter has made some outstanding progress and their 1RM has gone up without us testing it.  I do not even prescribe that much volume at 80% with a competition squat.  Maybe a 4×4, but usually I will stick with 2-3 reps at that percentage.

 

In these cases the coach needs to be aware of the increase in intensity in which the variation creates and adjust accordingly.  If I am going to pause at 80% of 1RM, I am probably doing 1-2 reps per set and 3 to 5 sets as this would be a very hard training day.

 

I think too often coaches and lifters are worried about writing the perfect program.  The perfect program does not exist.  The coach just needs to start somewhere and pay attention.  Prilepin’s chart is a fine starting point for any powerlifter.

 

From there pay attention to how training is progressing.  Adjustments will always need to be made.  How does their technique look?  How is their recovery?  What is the intensity of these rep ranges at these percentages for this lifter?  If I increase the percentages, now what does their technique and recovery look like?  This goes on forever.

 

Over time from paying attention, you begin to develop your own charts for what works with each lifter.  I think generally speaking the volumes and intensities apply to almost everyone with the way that we do things.  The difference more comes about with a specific variation and longer term recovery strategies.

 

Some lifters will struggle more with a particular variation than others.  Some lifters need more breaks from the higher intensity efforts than others.  But in terms of the number of reps per set and how many sets to perform, they remain very constant from lifter to lifter.

 

There are generalities that apply to everyone.  Prilepin’s chart is based off of these generalities for the weightlifters that were analyzed.  From these generalities is where coaching needs to happen to make the necessary adjustments to get the desired training effects for each individual.

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About precisionpowerlifting 33 Articles
Precision Powerlifting Systems is based out of Boston, Mass. Head Coach Kevin Cann leads the raw and single ply powerlifting team through individualized programming leading up to local, regional, national, and international level USA Powerlifting meets. Coach Kevin has worked as a nutritionist and strength coach for several facilities in the greater Boston area including Harvard University and Total Performance Sports. He holds a master’s degree in kinesiology from A.T. Still University and a bachelor’s degree in health and wellness from Kaplan University. Currently, Coach Kevin competes in the 105kg class in USA Powerlifting as both a raw and equipped open lifter and was under the tutelage of former team Russia powerlifting coach and coaching legend, Boris Sheiko, from 2015-2018. Kevin utilizes many of Sheiko’s legendary methods in his programs. This includes the belief that technique is the most important aspect of training. Not only has Kevin been a long term student of Sheiko’s, he also possesses his Master’s Degree in Kinesiology, the science of human movement. The combination of his Master’s degree and time spent working with the legendary coach has awarded him with the skills to thoroughly analyze your lifts and utilize the right variations, weights, and repetitions to improve your technique and continue to steadily progress over time. Through Kevin’s experiences coaching, he has made many adjustments to the program to allow for the success of his lifters. PPS has had an Arnold qualifier every year in its existence, a top 5 national total, 2 top 10 totals, and many top 20 totals nationally. Kevin combined what he learned from Sheiko with a conjugate trining style. He learned that nothing builds 1RM strength like practicing singles. He uses a constraints-led approach with the singles. The variation allows for the athlete to continually take max singles without seeing a decrease in performance. Kevin will use variations that punish technical inefficiency and only leaves room to complete the task with a more technically efficient strategy. Heavy singles also works the psychological components of the sport. Oftentimes this goes untrained and is the largest weakness in a lifter. Along with the max effort work, PPS lifters perform sub maximal work to continue to increase technical proficiency within the lifts. Some of this technique work utilizes special exercises that Kevin learned from Boris Sheiko himself. PPS supports raw, drug free powerlifting. Kevin has coached numerous athletes that have qualified for USAPL Nationals as well as the USAPL competitions at the Arnold Sports Festival. Cost for coaching is tiered and ranges from $125 to $200 per month depending on the services required. This includes an individualized program based around your needs as an athlete as well as feedback on your lifts from videos. Text support as you are training, weekly voice memos explaining details about the upcoming week, and bi-weekly training meetings with the team to discuss training concepts is part of the tier 1 service. For more information email Kevin directly at kevin@precisionpowerlifting.com
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