Percentage Based Training

Hey guys,
Can you explain to me what exactly percentage based training is, cause I can’t seem to find any source that explains it. And, also, how do you set up a percentage based program?

I think that’s because it’s probably considered one of the most basic methods. It’s simple: your training loads are expressed as a percentage of your maximal lift: what you can lift once only. That’s one hundred per cent.

Alternatively, and this is a much, MUCH better way to do things, you work up to a set of five reps at a weight that is hard but lets you get five clean reps. That weight is your TRAINING MAX, and you calculate your training loads as percentages of that training max which is considered to be one hundred per cent.

The advantage of using a training max instead of am actual max is this: your strength fluctuates from day to day. It depends on many factors including nutrition, sleep, mood and health. If you base all your percentages on a true max, on a bad day even 80% may be too much - because on that day, you aren’t close to being able to move that true max. In that case, 80% of your true max is probably closer to 95% of what you can move on the day.

Now, when you use a training max, this situation will probably never arise because your percentages are based on a load you can move for five clean reps. Even on a day where you got dumped, fired, kicked in the crotch and had your tax audited, you will be able to move that at least once. You will definitely be able to hit your reps at whatever percentage of that training max.

Generally you only use those percentages for your main lift and accessories which are usually a big compound lift (squat, press and deadlift variations). For other work, you generally wouldn’t worry too much about percentages and just pick a load you can do the required reps with and gradually add weight or reps over time.

Particular percentages are considered better than others for achieving particular goals, typically in specific rep and set ranges. An excellent primer for this is Prilepin’s chart, which you can Google; and there is also this:

Very, very broadly:

50-70% for five to twelve sets of two to three reps: speed and explosiveness

65-85% for three to ten sets of five to fifteen reps: size, some strength especially closer to the top end

80-95% for three to eight sets of one to eight reps: strength, with decent size at the lower end for more reps

Honestly, though, if you don’t want to think too much and just get familiar with training while getting bigger and stronger do this:

Pick a weight you can do for eight reps for one set. Then do five sets of it for five to eight reps. When you can do eight reps for all five sets, add 10 lbs and start again.

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Yeah, but I saw an example and it was something like this:
Week 1: 4x6 @ 70%
Week 2: 5x4 @ 75%
Week 3: 5x3 @ 80%
Week 4: 4x2 @ 85%
And I don’t understand why is it changing the set/rep scheme every week.

Could you maybe give me an example of how to set up a program based on percentages?

@dynamitestrength sorry, read my edit.

But can you explain to me why for instance in my example you change the set Rep scheme each week?

It’s called linear periodisation: as the cycle progresses, intensity (bar weight) increases while volume (total amount of reps) decreases so you can recover properly. It isn’t a particularly good method of periodising training, but it isn’t terrible either.

Also, just in relation to your question about how to set up a percentage based program: don’t, not now. Pick a program that is geared towards what you want to achieve and follow it to the letter without adding anything to it for at least 12 weeks. You’ll learn a lot more that way and get better results.

Read the 5/3/1 book and articles along with Prilepins chart.

The reason sets and reps usually change during percentage based training is simple - you can’t squat 90% for 8 sets of 5.

As the percentage/weight increases the sets and reps HAVE to drop otherwise you just can’t physically complete the sets/reps.

This chart is more of a guideline but if you look at it and look at your 4 week cycle you posted you’ll notice they are semi similar. Most programs will fall into the total range of prilepins chart. Some will be less, some will be higher.

It’s all highly individualistic and determined by whoever is writing the program.


I want to ask one more thing: when setting up a linear periodization program that has hypertophy phase, strength phase and peak phase, can I stick to the same set/rep scheme in a phase (for instance 4x10 for hypertrophy phase) and just apply progressive overload or should I be changing the set/rep scheme every week (of course less and less volume each time)?

You can keep sets/reps the same and try upping the weight or change up by upping the sets/reps which will directly affect the weight used.

With hypertrophy though it’s hard to increase the weights in a linear fashion every time in my experience. Yes you should try to use more weights over time but hypertrophy is all about the muscle, not so much the weight.

Personally I wouldn’t try writing out my own program when there’s so many options out there that work.

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Yeah, I know there are, I myself use at the moment 5/3/1 , but I want to be able to make my own programs and not be dependant on others. But at the moment I’m feeling so overwhelmed and confused about this stuff. I feel like I have to have a degree in exercise science to be able to make my own program. And I don’t want to be an elite powerlifter, I just want to be able to use the most basic type of periodization and programming, cause I probably will never need something more complex.

Do you mean manipulating volume within a hypertrophy phase, or over the duration of the peaking cycle? You HAVE to lower volume (total reps) as you increase intensity (bar weight) or else you will stall much faster. Old school linear peaking cycles like this typically call for you to handle the heaviest weight you can at the given rep range, whether its 10, 8, 6, 3, or singles and doubles closer to the meet.[quote=“dynamitestrength, post:10, topic:222198, full:true”]
Yeah, I know there are, I myself use at the moment 5/3/1 , but I want to be able to make my own programs and not be dependant on others. But at the moment I’m feeling so overwhelmed and confused about this stuff. I feel like I have to have a degree in exercise science to be able to make my own program. And I don’t want to be an elite powerlifter, I just want to be able to use the most basic type of periodization and programming, cause I probably will never need something more complex.

If you are using 5/3/1 and it is working, why are you putting yourself through self-imposed stress in order to create a different program for yourself? Do you think it will work better? It won’t … 5/3/1 is probably the simplest program to understand and most lifters will tell you it is far superior for building sustainable long-term strength than a linear progressive overload program that you would have seen in Powerlifting USA in the 70’s.


So let the guys with the degrees in Exercise Science, or the guys who wrote the books you read to get the degrees do the thinking!

Run Juggernaut or something. It uses Set/Rep schemes in phases, just like you mentioned in your earlier post. Don’t worry about maximum gains. Worry about maximum following the program to learn and understand the process.

It’s really hard to write your own came recipe until you’ve followed the directions to bake a cake a few times.


@FlatsFarmer makes a great point.

I’m one of those people that could run something like Boring But Big until I was dead, it’s stupid simple. Even with extra accessory you’re done in like 60 minutes and get results.

I however pay someone to do my programming. I even understand enough about myself and training to write my own program but it’s just so much easier to follow someone elses.

Once you’ve done it enough you can make adjustments as needed to fit your own needs.

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How exactly could you go through distinct phases of hypertrophy, strength and peaking without changing the rep scheme at all? The only way this could work in any way would be to use a lighter load like 70-75% for like 5x5 and keeping the rest periods to 1min MAX for hypertrophy and gradually up the percentages and rest time.

But if you are really interested in having separate phases for hypertrophy, strength and peaking, you will have to screw around with the rep schemes and training volume as well.

Edit: Also if you are asking about basic building bricks of training like what is percentage based training, you are absolutely not in a position to design a program for yourself. I have trained for 5 years and read about training principles for the entire time, yet I still wouldn’t design anything outside of a very basic program myself.

This I do not understand. Using a pre-made program doesn’t make you dependent on others.

I know that I have to change the set Rep scheme, I know that for hypertrophy you need to do more volume with 65-75 percent of your max, strength - 80-90% with lower volume. But should I change within the phase the set Rep scheme: Week 1: 4x8 @ 70%, week 2: 4x6 @ 75%, week 3: 4x5 @ 80% etc., or could I stay within the phase with the same set Rep scheme and just progressive overload: Hypertrophy phase: 4x8, strength phase: 3x5 etc.

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You can’t, it is physically impossible. If it wasn’t, I would just go to the gym and add 5 lbs to all of my lifts for 8 reps every week forever. Eventually the more weight you add, the less reps you will be able to perform. I’m not sure anyone can explain it much simpler than that.

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The problem with that kind of progression is that you pre-determine both the used weight and the exact amount of reps for all sets you are going to do. This leaves absolutely no room for autoregulation so how would you proceed if you had a bad day and could only do 6, 6, 6 and 5 @75%?

Wendler’s programs address this issue by making the final work set an AMRAP with a minimum rep requirement and utilizing a training max instead of basing the percentages on your actual max load.

What I did in the past was that I did one all-out heavy AMRAP set first, some pre-determined back-off sets on one day and five straight sets with the last being an AMRAP set without strict percentages. I started with a weight I could easily blast 8-12 reps and gradually added weight while requiring only one completed rep per all-out first set. That way I could do 2x122,5kg paused bench on a very crappy day on week 1 and while having a good day next week, I could do 8x125,0kg paused bench set. In addition to this, none of my assistance work used a pre-determined weight but instead used rep schemes like 5x10-15 and I always picked the weight based on how I felt that day.

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