#324 – The Problem with Percentage-Based Programs


Matt, Andrew, and Niki continue their roundtable discussions in Matt’s library and whiskey sanctuary (or is it a whiskey sanctuary with a library?), today addressing the concept of percentage-based programs.


The majority of templates and books about programming, if not all, describe programs in terms of percentages — percentages of a 1RM, a 5RM, or perhaps a previous working load. From an author’s standpoint, you almost have to write about programming in this manner. You can’t use real weight on the bar, because the application of a program for a 600lbs squatter will look much different than a 350lbs squatter, for instance. Examples of real lifters are helpful, but you couldn’t possibly put enough examples in a book to cover every lifter that might attempt your program.


Unfortunately, many lifters pick up templates, see the percentages, and base their expectations for progress on those numbers. If they see a 1×5 in the program at 90% of their 1RM, they expect to be able to do it because the template said so. In reality, all programs require some modification and adjustment by the lifter or coach to fit their specific goals, strength level, level of advancement, mental fortitude, and, to an extent, how that lifter feels on any given day. A good coach can watch how a lifter is responding to a program and make adjustments on the fly, knowing when to push a lifter past their comfort zone but also when to pull back and keep them excited to train.




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