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In school, the student who knew all the answers was the second smartest kid in the class. The student who asked all the questions was THE smartest.
So when it comes to designing a weight training program, please, ask questions.
Question yourself why you are doing what you are doing. Don’t read a book and think if Usain Bolt does 8 reps of Leg Press, then that will be good for you. If Jack Lalanne works out to failure, good for him. But he doesn’t want to run 10.20 for 100 meters either.
For a primer, there are some older articles on weight lifting on this blog. From recommended weight ratios for power clean, bench press and squats in terms of your bodyweight, my old weight training program, a discussion on how to determine 1 rep max (1 RM) and another sample weight training program from another coach.
Below is a chart with estimates on percentages of 1RM (one rep max or one repetition maximum) and the benefits associated with the reps and intensities. The chart may be off by one rep either way, but you can get an idea of the big picture.
You can look at this chart and it will explain why I do 4×5 reps or 8-6-4-2-2 or three-by-threes or why I do doubles and triples but never a single 1RM. Also, genetically I get very big lifting weights (most men would die for this problem) but I don’t want to get too big as 400 meters is a long way around the track carrying an elephant, grizzly bear and piano.
With September around the corner, it’s time to hit the weight room. I know I will. As a guideline, I never want to be in the weight room more than 45 minutes and the number of sets for a particular exercise should be limited to 3 or 4. If you are coming straight from the track (my personal recommendation, though several world class athletes prefer a 9am weight session) then you are already warmed up. Jump right in.
Just put on a fresh T-shirt please, and bring a small towel to wipe off the sweat on the bench!
What does this chart tell us?
- 1-3 reps: Max and Relative strength
- 3-5 reps: Max strength and low end hypertrophy
- 5-8 reps: Best combo of max strength and hypertrophy
- 6-10 reps: Good strength, better hypertrophy
- 10-15 reps: Excellent hypertrophy (for bodybuilders), average strength, lots of fatigue
- 15-20 reps: some hypertrophy, lots of endurance, tons of fatigue