The Prilepin Table

15 Nov

Assuming you get to a decent gym, that allows your to do some barbell movements, how do you go about developing the strength you so long for? The reality is that the average Gym instructor may know  a bit about hypertrophy ( ” 3 sets of 10 mate!”) but thats about it. Sitting in a Globo gym among a pile of machines does that to people. Its tragic. But, lets say, you have something heavy and you want to lift it, how many sets, how many reps?

One of the secrets of elite trainers, like me, and the other trainers at Crossfit Londons Blackboard Gym, is that we are quite well read: we look at British, American and Russian  strength training literature. ( mind you, if  Tabata is Japanese, add Japanese literature to that list).An interesting piece of research was carried out by   soviet Sports scientist, AS Prilepin, who studied the training logs of  1000 leading weightlifting champions .The table below  is an averaging of these logs and shows the % of 1 rep max , the amount of reps performed per set,  the optimal amount of reps per workout, and   the range of reps used indicated by the research. This table is specifically for gaining maximal strength


The Crossfit London Prilepin Table:
Reps per set
Recommended optimal Total of Reps
Range of reps seen in research
Below 70%
3 – 6
70 – 79%
3 – 6
12 – 24
80 – 89%
2 – 4
10 – 20
90% and above
1 – 2
4 – 10

There are ofcourse a few points worthy of mention. These tables were extracted from the training journals of olympic weight lifters and its possible to argue that this would not apply to other lifts ( the slower lifts like the squat, deadlift press etc).

This also assumes you have a reliable 1 rep max figure, and for that matter, an up to date one.

What I don’t know ( and if anyone does , please let me know) does he use the idea of a 1 rep max as your best ever lift. If you look at Zatsiorsky and Kraemer, they establish a difference between a training max and a competition 1 rep max. They suggest that the difference is about 12.5%  +/- 2.5% in  superior weightlifters. The further make the distinction that a training max is  a load you lift with no emotional arousal which can be monitored by your heart rate. If someone says, lift that weight, and your heart rate zooms up in anticipation, that load is  (probably)  above your training max. This  ,ofcourse, assumes some experience. Stopping the average sedentary person and saying, lift that weight, will probably get most people heart rate up!

These tables and information are, of course a snap shot. Im not discussing long term fatigue, issues of scheduling. Yet.


One thought on “The Prilepin Table

  1. Pretty sure Prilepin works off training max, as for most russian systems.
    The oly lifts have little eccentric component, so reps are probably too high for powerlifting movements due to the added fatigue.
    Also bear in mind these soviet lifters all probably had a lot of ‘hormonal assistance’, so the work capacity is maybe not completely generalisable.

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