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Why Percentages Are Helpful While Lifting

Percentages are commonly used while lifting. They are a useful tool that helps to determine how much weight should be used for a specific set and rep range. The percentages are usually based off of either a 1-rep max (or a projected 1-rep max) and give a more detailed value for the weight you are lifting. Typically, using percentages is only practical when dealing with the “big” or core lifts, such as squat, bench, deadlift, or Olympic movements. If you are someone that stays away from these movements, especially with a barbell, then this newsletter won’t really apply to you.


Sometimes, percentages can be thrown out the window. A lot of different things can factor in to this, such as how you feel that day, how much sleep you’ve gotten, rest time between workouts or exercises, what the goal of the workout is, and many more. If you aren’t feeling great and are not able to hit the prescribed percentages, don’t get discouraged. Those percentages are based off of your best performance/lift ever, so you more than likely won’t always be able to achieve that level every time you exercise.


Like previously stated, percentages are based off of a 1-rep max (1RM). This means that an individual would perform a lift with the highest possible weight they can for one repetition (with proper form). Finding a true 1RM is a little risky and might not be the best option for those that don’t have experience. This is often the case, so a projected 1RM can be determined in a safer manner by doing either a 3 or 5 rep max. You can then find a projected max by using a conversion chart like this one: https://www.nasm.org/docs/pdf/cpt-1rm-conversion-chart.pdf?sfvrsn=562ff933_8


If you think about it logically, the more weight you add on to the bar, the lower the amount of reps you should (theoretically) be able to perform. So, the higher the percentage, the smaller the number of reps. Here is a rough estimate of how many reps you should be able to perform for a specific percentage:

50-70% ~ ten to twenty reps

70-85% ~ four to eight reps

85-93% ~ three to five reps

93%+ ~ one to three reps

**lots of rest (3-7 minutes) should be taken between sets of 93%+

There is a time and place to train above 90% of your 1RM. However, you should only train at this intensity if you are fully prepared as well as understand and accept the risks that are involved with training at this high level.


Here is another link to a percentage chart that can be used to help determine what weights to use based off of your 1RM and the percent you are lifting: https://www.nsca.com/contentassets/61d813865e264c6e852cadfe247eae52/nsca_training_load_chart.pdf


When training, there is a relationship between the amount of force produced compared to the velocity of the weight moved. The relationship is often referred to as the Force vs. Velocity Curve where, the higher the force, the lower the velocity, and vice versa. When you are looking to improve maximum strength, a higher force would be desired (and thus a lower velocity). But, on the inverse, when looking for maximum speed, a high velocity would be desired, even though a lower force production would occur. This chart gives a good description of the relationship that Force and Velocity have with each other when it comes to lifting/exercise:

Training at different percentages has many different advantages. Using high percentages don’t always yield the highest results. Fred Hatfield, aka. Dr. Squat, did a study that found that an athlete’s highest power output is equal to 78 percent of their one rep max. This means that anything heavier than 78 percent would have a decreased velocity, while anything less than 78 percent would show an increased velocity. This would be the ideal percentage where you would see the most adaptation and/or stimulation for most athletes. What this study helps to prove is that you don’t have to always train heavy to see results in your training.


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