By Mike Tuchscherer 28 February 2018
Bottom line up front: It wasn’t developed for Powerlifters and will have limited direct applicability. A much better way is to extract the useful information from it and apply the principles rather than the chart directly.
Lots of coaches really like prilepin’s chart. I’m not one of them. I can see why they like it. It’s a tool that seems to clear away lots of ambiguity in writing training. But I don’t think it delivers when viewed through that lens. Like many things I view it as a tool. There are positive aspects to take from it. But strict or blind adherence to it is less than productive.
Let me start by giving a few reasons why you wouldn’t want to blindly follow the chart. First is that the chart was not developed for powerlifters. It was developed from an analysis of the training logs of high level Russian weightlifters. Weightlifting and powerlifting share similarities but they are certainly not the same sport. So even if you believe that a training log analysis can yield and optimized training model that applies to everyone, the analysis was done in a different sport. So at a minimum it has serious limitations when it comes to powerlifting training.
The second drawback that I see is in how the analysis was done. If you analyze the training logs of elite weightlifters and try to make something that’s generalized to everyone else then there will be outliers almost by definition. In fact the analysis is done on the outliers so the odds of it applying well to the average lifter I would say are slim.
A more technical criticism that I have of the chart is that the intensity ranges are too broad. The difference between 70% and 80% are rather large. To lump them into the same intensity bracket doesn’t give us much resolution.
With all that said I think there are definitely some positives to take away from the chart. But they have less to do with the chart itself and more to do with the principles that the chart speaks to.
The chart advocates for submaximal effort repetitions. Doing multiple sets of fairly low rpe work allows the lifter to concentrate on technical Perfection. This is important in powerlifting as well as weightlifting. Submax effort work is a tool that can be used to improve your technique under heavier loads. It is important to note that this is a principal and that the rep ranges suggested by the chart may not be the only repetitions that provide this type of effect. And depending on the exercise and the lifter’s ability, the rep ranges in the chart may not be appropriate at all. However the principal is the important aspect.
For powerlifting I would not advocate training composed of all submaximal effort lifting. I think having high-effort sets allows the lifter to develop certain qualities that are not developed with low effort sets. The low effort sets have their place of course but so do the high-effort sets.
Another principal alluded to in the chart is that lower intensities should contain higher volumes. High intensities should contain lower volumes. This should not be a groundbreaking concept if you are writing training for other people. But it does provide some practical guidance on how the distribution of volume should change across intensity zones. My complaint in this case is that the volume of lifting per session is not often a limiting factor. People can work themselves harder in most training sessions. The question is the overall volume and the lifters ability to recover from it. So in this case there has to be some level of training frequency that is assumed and is not spoken of in the chart itself.
So once you consider differences in training frequency, work capacity, strength level, etc, the actual volume done in each intensity zone could vary quite a lot. But in an individual case the volume done at a higher intensity will almost always be lower than the volume done at a lower intensity.
If you can look at a tool like prilepin’s chart and extract the useful ideas then I think you are quite a bit ahead of other coaches who cannot. If they are blindly adhering to the tool their training will be suboptimal at best.
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About the Author:
|About the Author
Mike Tuchscherer is the owner and head coach at RTS. He has been powerlifting since 2001 and since has traveled all over the world for competitions. In 2009, he was the first man from USA powerlifting to win a gold medal at the World Games – the highest possible achievement in powerlifting. He has coached over a dozen competitors at the world championships, a score of national champions, and multiple world record holders.