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The 3 Important Loading Points

There are three ‘loading points’ that you need to understand and master to be able to autoregulate your training with ease, get maximum progress and zero chance of overtraining.


These are:

  1. Max Power Point (or threshold). This is the lightest load you can use and still produce a high level of force with if you try to accelerate the load. Beginners normally have a higher MPP relative to their limit strength, simply because they are not able to utilize a large amount of their resources or strength potential because they are not efficient at a movement yet.

For example their actual maximum on a bench press might be 125lbs but their muscles have the potential to lift 200lbs. They thus need a higher percentage of their ACTUAL maximum (125lbs in this case) to be able to produce a significant degree of force. Force = mass x acceleration… at some point, the load can be too low to lead to a significant force production for that person, even if he accelerates.

By the same token, an elite lifter will need a lesser percentage of his maximum to reach a load sufficient to produce a high level of force.

A good example of this is that Westside lifts originally did their speed work with 60% (even 70% in some cases) but as they got stronger they experienced better results by going down to 50% then to 40%.

This is one of the reasons why a beginner with very low strength levels (compared to his potential) would not benefit optimally from an actual advanced Westside-inspired program; speed work would still work for him, but he would need higher loads to accomplish the same goal.

  1. Max Force Point (MFP): This has already been discussed in the past. This is the heaviest weight you can still dominate for all your reps. More on that later.

  2. Max Load Point (MLP): This is the heaviest weight you can lift without having a sticking point in an exercise. This is normally right before the grinding. If you were to do one more set with a slightly heavier weight, you would grind for at least a repetition. The more advanced lifters, especially those with a power training background and an efficient nervous system, will have a lesser gap between their max force point (MFP) and their max load point (MLP).

In fact, elite power athletes like olympic lifters, sprinters and throwers often have next to no difference (their max force point and max load points are the same). These athletes almost can’t grind. They either make the lift (and it seems relatively easy) or they don’t (and it’s not even close) there is no in-between.

Ideally you want to train between the MPP and MFP most of the time, with some work going up to the MLP (probably once every 3-4 weeks).

As you can see, it shows that the more efficient your nervous system gets, the wider is your training zone and the more you can push yourself without overloading the nervous system. Beginners have a shorter range to work with and can more easily go overboard. This is one of the reasons why looking at percentage-based programs of elite lifters is not always a good idea.

If your nervous system is not up to par with their, you are very likely to overload the nervous system. For example, a squat routine might call for tons of sets in the 85-90% range which is fine for an elite lifter (because they are still below their max load point) whereas for beginners they will be either exceeding their MLP or always be on the edge, which can be hard to recover from.

This could be one of the reasons why some people report amazing gains for a Sheiko program while others get overtrained real fast. Or why some are getting results initially then crash after a few weeks.

Here are the important loading points in table form. For many this makes it easier to understand.

I also added the adjustment for sets of 1 and 5 reps. With sets of 1, 3 and 5 it is fairly easy to establish the proper loading for sets of 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 (even 6) reps. The zone where you should (from my experience) spend the most of your training time in.

Same as before… A = beginners (or less neurall efficient, less explosive) B = intermediate and C - advanced (or neurally efficient, very explosive).

NOTE: Those percentages, just like any specific loading recommendations, are not set in stone. On any given day your strength potential fluctuates, so percentages are never 100% accurate (pun intended). But it does give you a starting point and helps illustrate the concept.


Here are what I would call ‘the ideal training zones’.

Note that in some cases (especially with high level athletes) the zone is much wider. This simply means that the athlete will benefit from more various training along the different points in the force spectrum.

With a wide training zone you can either:

  • ramp up for longer (e.g. start you ramp at 45% and work your way up to 90%)

  • include exercises in various zones (e.g. one explosive or activation exercises performed in the 45-55% zone, one movement performed in ramping fashion in the 60-85% zone and one partial ROM exercise performed in the 85-90% zone)

  • only perform work in one portion of the effective training zone (just because the effective zone is wider doesn’t mean that you have to use all of it)

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

Ideally you want to train between the MPP and MFP most of the time, with some work going up to the MLP (probably once every 3-4 weeks).


I understand each person will have a specific load they can acheive on that day but how about volume to cause that physiological reaction?

Will one set at the MFP do that or do you need more sets?

Very nice read. I always like to learn more and more =) .

This is exactly why I love this site so much! Bodybuilding EDUCATION at it’s best!
Thank you very much coach!

Does this not factor in differences in fast/slow twitch muscle ratios? For instance if Person A has more fast twitch fibers than Person B wouldn’t person B (with more slow twitch fibers) be able to achieve more reps with a given percentage of the 1RM?

Christian regarding the MLP i thought more neurologically efficient lifters generally are able to perform less reps at a given % of their 1RM?

1.I understand that the MLP and more the MFP in an exercise can differ between training days, related to someones daily capacities, physical condition etc each individual day.
Can this somehow have an effect also in MPP?

2.I think a higher level of force (higher force output) equals higher mass and strength stimulation or it does optimize stimulation.
How does force output correlates with stimulation, which mechanisms take effect etc?

I also understand that even if the max points are lower in one day from other days, if we autoregulate and work in the zone where we produce the highest level of force in that day, we still optimize stimulation.

My mother language isn’t english, so I don’t know if I expressed my thinkings with the right words or the right way, I just wanna know if my understandings making sense.

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

  1. Max Load Point (MLP): This is the heaviest weight you can lift without having a sticking point in an exercise. This is normally right before the grinding. If you were to do one more set with a slightly heavier weight, you would grind for at least a repetition. [/quote]

Coach, you know, I am not exactly clear on what counts as grinding and what does not.

I have my usage for it, but mine might be different than what you mean, and I want to understand what you mean.

Personally, I run out of ability to “dominate” the weight at a not particularly heavy percentage. In this situation, while the launch from the bottom will still be very nice – good acceleration there – the bar does not travel very far before it begins to decelerate substantially, coming to a fairly slow pace for the top part of the ROM, or even both middle and top.

So if doing for example doubles, once this happens I will figure that’s as far as I can go with the weight and still be counted as “dominating” it.

But, on the last set if I decide to rep out, I can still get typically another 2 or sometimes even another 4 or 5 reps at much slower speed: perhaps as much as 3 or even 4 seconds per rep.

Or in general, before learning your system for reps, if doing 10x3 at 85% 1RM with good rest inbetween, typically the last 5 sets or so would be quite slow, 3 or 4 seconds per rep, every rep. Not because I wanted them slow but because that was the fastest I could do. But I was not at what I call the smoke-coming-out-of-the-ears point at any time. Nor was my nervous system fried, though it certainly was pushed hard in a good way.

So does a 3 or 4 second rep that feels good and has good form but has acceleration only at the very beginning and possibly even a loss of speed after that count as “grinding” that should not be done, or should in my case the doubles continue until actually being at the edge of a sticking point despite max effort?

Would it be fine under your system for the top weight doubles or triples to be just as slow – if that’s all that could be done with maximum attempt to accelerate – as my later 10x3 sets were? Provided the reps are not at all ragged and with no breakdown of form and there is no burning out of the nervous system?

I notice on the video that those guys were having a little bit of breakdown on their called top weight, last rep. I would have called it there too, and unlike myself I don’t think they would have gotten many if any more reps anyway. But given my present different personal performance pattern, should the beginning of form breakdown and/or edge of sticking point be my deciding factor rather than calling it on major slowness occurring despite best effort for speed?

Lastly: if in my final set for the bodypart I feel I can push out more reps past being able to accelerate them, is it a poor idea for me to rep out that set until I would not be able to do another rep in good-though-slow form? Doing that does not seem to be putting an excessive demand on me.


[quote]Bill Roberts wrote:

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

Coach, you know, I am not exactly clear on what counts as grinding and what does not.

I have my usage for it, but mine might be different than what you mean, and I want to understand what you mean…[/quote]

I’m with you on this one Bill.

Personally I’ve been trying to pay more attention to the change in speed between each rep of a particular set. If I’m faster or as fast on the 2nd rep as I am on the 1st, I’m good to go. Same for the 2nd rep vs. the 3rd. However, if on my first rep in a set I hit even a bit of sticking point I stop.

But what I’m finding is that I reach a weight where either my 2nd or 3rd rep is noticably slower than the previous one before I reach a weight where I wonder if my 1st rep constitutes a speed that might be considered “grinding”.

Don’t know if this is right, just what I’ve been doing…

What’s been harder for me is when I’m reaching my MFP for that day little teeny changes in form start to creep in, and sometimes I have to assess if it was those changes in form that allowed me to “dominate” that weight or if it was just my strength. I’m not talking about lifting my ass off the bench type form changes, but subtler things like if my elbows flared out a few degress more on the concentric as I initiated the quick turnaround…

In the above post, by “the video” I meant the recent bench press video. I hadn’t yet seen the new Shoulders video.

From it I’d assume you do in fact mean that quite substantially slowing reps are out – stop increasing weight before that happens? Even if this may mean, for the individual, then being unable to exceed say 80% 1RM. Your table does indicate 80% as being the top of the optimal range for the intermediate.

I remember a fairly recent video of you benching where the reps were not fast, as the weight was quite high: perhaps they were a second-and-a-half? (I didn’t count and it’s not a clear memory.) You said you were still dominating the weight, yet in a sense I could say that with my 10x3 sets at 85% 1RM where the reps were slow but I still completely owned them. So this is a puzzler for me.

On the repping-out question, I see that in the I, Bodybuilder shoulder program it isn’t called for to max out on the reps on any set including the last, except where an exercise specifically says so.

However, I won’t be able to do the program because of some chronic soft-tissue problems that have to be handled just right. I can however employ the principles and have been doing that the best I can.

So in general, as opposed to the specific program, is repping out on the last planned set a reasonable choice if it seems right to do and does not wind up being overly taxing? Or is it a poor idea to mix that with the explosiveness training in the same set?

I’m sure CT is going to tell us we are over analyzing all this, but I asked a similar question on the training question thread without a reply. Perhaps this is hard to demonstrate in words and varies from individual to individual.

My issue arises when I change my squat depth from at or slightly below parellel to convincingly below parallel. Due to my weak quads, I have a sticking point as I approach parellel and then am extremely fast throughout the rest of the lift. I am unsure of my leeway here and have taken the approach to be patient and include this sticking point in my criteria for stoppage of sets as I do not feel I dominate the weight.

I then follow up with a quad dominate excercise like the Leg Press to work on weakness as this lift seems to partially remove my dominate glutes and hamstrings from doing too much of the work. The difference in the two squat depths is very noticable - changing the weights used by over 100#'s. I am very determined to correct this.

OK, so I think I have a pretty good understanding of how to determine my MFP and MLP for an exercise . . . but how would you go about determining your MPP?

[quote]BigRedMachina wrote:
OK, so I think I have a pretty good understanding of how to determine my MFP and MLP for an exercise . . . but how would you go about determining your MPP?[/quote]

It IS a bit more complex. Well not really, but you have to be in touch with your body.

When a weight is too light and you try to accelerate it, it feels like you are trying to throw a whiffle ball… kinda like you have nothing to push against.

The MPP is the lightest weight you can use, lift explosively and get the feeling that you are pushing against something solid.