T Nation

Training Without Percentages


#1

For a while I've been wondering on and off how well a program not based on percentages would work for powerlifting. I know of Reactive Training Systems for sure, but that's not quite what I was thinking about.

In a nutshell, has anyone had experience or just an opinion on whether a program like this would be good for an early intermediate raw with wraps powerlifter (me)?

My basic stats are 30 years old, around 205 lbs at 6' and somewhere between 15-20% bodyfat. Best lifts are so far 484/250/560 (not all on the same day). I've got two meets under my belt, best total 1215 @ 198 lbs at the end of March 2015.

The reason I ask is that since I've been training (PL or otherwise in the last 5 years) I've ALWAYS had a very set program and tried to follow it religiously. As my strength increases, I'm finding more and more often that some days it really doesn't feel good to have to stick to pre-set loads. Some days I feel great and want to go heavier, some days I feel like garbage and its a struggle to hit those targets. I've been going well enough, though, no real injuries and my lifts are going up - which is why I'm hesitant to change what I'm doing since its working just in case something might work better.

I was thinking of something that's pretty fluid with a lot of leeway for how you're feeling on the day:

Block 1

Day A1
Squat - work up to a heavy single, double or triple
Bench press - 3-5 sets of 3-5 'grooving' reps (by grooving I mean practicing the movement against a load that isn't light but doesn't make technique go to hell)
Row variation - some sets of some reps
Lower body accessory - some sets of some reps

Day B1
Bench press - work up to a heavy triple
Deadlift variation NOT COMPETITION STYLE - work up to some light to moderate triples, depending on the variation
Press variation - some sets of some reps
Row variation - some sets of some reps

Block 2

Day A2
Squat - 3-5 sets of 5 'grooving' reps
Bench press - 3-5 sets of 3-5 'grooving' reps
Row variation - some sets of some reps
Lower body accessory - some sets of some reps

Day B2
Bench press - lots of light but fast triples
Deadlift supplement - 3-5 sets of work (not super heavy but enough to make it not easy)
Row variation - some sets of some reps
Elbow prehab 1 - some sets of some reps

Block 3

Day A3

Competition deadlift - work up to a single, double or triple
Bench press - 3-5 sets of 3-5 'grooving reps'
Lower body accessory - some sets of some reps
Elbow prehab 2 - some sets of some reps

Day B3

Squat - lots of light but fast doubles
Bench press - work up to a heavy triple
Lower body accessory - some sets of some reps
Row variation - some sets of some reps

The only thing I'm a bit hazy on is the progression model. If anything I'd probably go for an extra 5-10 lbs every time I finished the third block and go back to the first. Its pretty basic, but I figure it should work.


#2

You’ll love the double progression method. Work up to a nice weight for the smooth, “grooving sets.” Do some sets. Next session add a few more of these smooth reps. Next session, add a few more.

Think of the old-school Doug Hepburn method, only don’t get super caught up in the super tedious rep scheme. Just do more smooth reps of sets over time.

Working off percentages is reassuring, you kind of always know how much you can lift. Using the bar-speed, non-maximal, double progression approach, you have to be confident the work is making you stronger, even if you’re not constantly adding weight to the bar every session.

Personally, I think this is a great way to train. It helps me focus on the lifts. If I get too focused on actual numbers, I find myself heaving and jerking weights around, trying to hit specific numbers instead of lifting “better.”


#3

Seems fine for starting off. You’ll know what adjustments to make the next time around. I generally don’t like doing more on good days if I’m following a program which a specific progression. I would just adjust down intensity during a high volume phase and adjust down reps during high intensity phase. For programs where there is no specific time set for overreaching then it makes more sense to perform based on how you feel.


#4

[quote]MarkKO wrote:
For a while I’ve been wondering on and off how well a program not based on percentages would work for powerlifting. I know of Reactive Training Systems for sure, but that’s not quite what I was thinking about.

In a nutshell, has anyone had experience or just an opinion on whether a program like this would be good for an early intermediate raw with wraps powerlifter (me)?

My basic stats are 30 years old, around 205 lbs at 6’ and somewhere between 15-20% bodyfat. Best lifts are so far 484/250/560 (not all on the same day). I’ve got two meets under my belt, best total 1215 @ 198 lbs at the end of March 2015.

The reason I ask is that since I’ve been training (PL or otherwise in the last 5 years) I’ve ALWAYS had a very set program and tried to follow it religiously. As my strength increases, I’m finding more and more often that some days it really doesn’t feel good to have to stick to pre-set loads. Some days I feel great and want to go heavier, some days I feel like garbage and its a struggle to hit those targets. I’ve been going well enough, though, no real injuries and my lifts are going up - which is why I’m hesitant to change what I’m doing since its working just in case something might work better.

[/quote]

I usually work up to a heavy single then drop back to a weight I can get 5x2 or 5x3 for some volume.

I also have a progression starting at approx half my max. I pick a rep range for that day and add 10-30lbs per set based on 45/25/10lb plates. For example:

Raw bench max 375 - 5 rep day
Warm up then 185x5 205x5 225x5 245x5 275x5 295x5 315x5

When I get to 335, I probably won’t get it for 5 so I stop at 315. Then comes the next session:

Raw bench max 375 - 3 rep day
Warm up then 185x3 205x3 225x3 245x3 275x3 295x3 315x3 335x3

I won’t get 355x3 so I stop at 335. Then do the same with doubles.

On the fourth week, you can de-load depending on how you feel or you can do 3 weeks of working up to a heavy single (not max or all time, just something heavy and fast, non-grinder) then back off with a weight for 5x2 or 5x3. I usually drop back roughly 20% of whatever the heavy single was I did that day.

This works well for me and it’s autoregulated.


#5

The version of triphasic training that is programed for me only uses percentages during the final peaking phase before a meet.

Otherwise it’s up to our own intellect to determine weights. If it’s a medium day ( which would normally be in the 80-90% range ) we work up to a weight that feels explosive without being so explosive that it’s speed work and without being so heavy it’s a max effort day. Aiming for 2-3 reps left in the tank.

On heavy days we shoot for 1-2 reps left in the tank. Set programs are nice in that you just do what the program says, however you’ve got to take into account days when you’re recovery is shit and back off on your own. You can’t always hit those prescribed numbers depending on a few factors.

For example we generally run 3 week phases, so if week 1 was 300lbs, week 2 was really awesome and I hit 320 but week 3 300 feels like a ton of bricks, i’ll back off slightly instead of trying to do 320+ so that I can maximize the training effect and not hinder recovery even further.


#6

For me training without percentages would be Auto Regulation


#7

Great answers and info guys. Sorry to hijack Mark.

osu- I feel like I’m slowly trying to invent the way you’re already training. Every time you post its like, “oh yeah, why don’t I do that?”

Corstijeir- can we go read all of David Allen’s articles on Elite fts, then come back and ask you some questions?


#8

I managed to get a 601 pull as a 181er without ever touching a percentage for my deadlift. Percentages work, but not using percentages also works.


#9

[quote]FlatsFarmer wrote:
Great answers and info guys. Sorry to hijack Mark.

osu- I feel like I’m slowly trying to invent the way you’re already training. Every time you post its like, “oh yeah, why don’t I do that?”

Corstijeir- can we go read all of David Allen’s articles on Elite fts, then come back and ask you some questions?

[/quote]

Of course- but he’s the best person to ask. Feel free to pop into my log.


#10

[quote]FlatsFarmer wrote:
Great answers and info guys. Sorry to hijack Mark.

osu- I feel like I’m slowly trying to invent the way you’re already training. Every time you post its like, “oh yeah, why don’t I do that?”

Corstijeir- can we go read all of David Allen’s articles on Elite fts, then come back and ask you some questions?

[/quote]

Do what works for you. Experiment often. That’s all I do. Principles last and never change. It’s all in how you implement them.


#11

Be like the water, not like the vase.

Lifting is the never ending hobby.


#12

Thanks for all the feedback guys! Flatsfarmer, feel free to hijack any time. Makes things interesting.

I incorporated a bit of this last session and it worked well.


#13

Incorporated this approach again today. It worked really well. I’ve started taking note of RPE for competition lift sets too.

I think I’m going to keep on with my current program but for heavy days be much more flexible.


#14

[quote]MarkKO wrote:
Incorporated this approach again today. It worked really well. [/quote]

This seems like a strange thing to say. How do you know something ‘worked really well’ that quickly? The goal is to become stronger, and there is no way in hell for you to know if your workout today made you stronger. The only thing you can really assess on the same day is whether or not you enjoyed the workout, and whether or not you are fatigued following it.

As far as the percentages thing goes, I agree with pwnisher. I’ve used them, and I’ve not used them. Both approaches can work. Not using percentages seems to suit me better, but I’d be open to trying a stricter percentage-based template again at some point.


#15

[quote]flipcollar wrote:

[quote]MarkKO wrote:
Incorporated this approach again today. It worked really well. [/quote]

This seems like a strange thing to say. How do you know something ‘worked really well’ that quickly? The goal is to become stronger, and there is no way in hell for you to know if your workout today made you stronger. The only thing you can really assess on the same day is whether or not you enjoyed the workout, and whether or not you are fatigued following it.

As far as the percentages thing goes, I agree with pwnisher. I’ve used them, and I’ve not used them. Both approaches can work. Not using percentages seems to suit me better, but I’d be open to trying a stricter percentage-based template again at some point.[/quote]

Probably should have specified - it made me feel better about what I was doing and that translated into doing what I was doing better. Instead of going into training thinking ‘today I have to hit x reps at y load and if that doesn’t happen this is a problem because it throws off my progression’ I went in thinking ‘today I am going to work up to x load for and see how that feels and work from there’.

I know (well, I’m pretty sure) I’m going to get stronger so long as I focus on the competition lifts and my weak points, incorporate some heavy loads, some lighter loads and keep working on the technical quality of my reps and overall training while making sure I recover properly. How I actually do this in terms of programming doesn’t really matter as long as those elements are included.

I pretty much always enjoy my training and pretty much always feel some degree of fatigue after it. Even a shitty training day is generally better than no training.