Zatsiorsky explained that maximal MU recruitment is possible in small muscles with loads as low as 50% of Fmm and as low as 80% Fmm in large proximal muscles.
This is why sub-max loading works and I went into depth discussing this in my lecture at South Alabama a couple months ago (will be for sale before too long)
Beyond max recruitment threshold exists rate coding/firing rate and in extreme intensities- synchronization. When weight training is the means, and not the ends, it is even more justified to train sub-max and leave the highest intensity training to the primary objective.
He also said the lower intensity weight would have to be moved either explosively (which he stated would result in little strength improvement) or to failure. In other words, according to Zatsiorsky, if you don’t lift with high intensity, you must lift to failure for maximal MU recruitment if you are training for strength.
Yes. Thanks for your reply. I was just thinking today of another way someone could go up in weight faster than they are actually gaining strength. Say if you are working up to a 3-5 rep max in the squat. You may work with weights like this:
135x5, 225x5, 275x5, 315x5, 350x5
then the next week you come in and want to get 360x5 on your final set, but the set of 315x5 is too tiring today and you only complete 3 reps. Then on your set with 360 you complete all 5 reps as planned. The question becomes, Why weren’t you able to do 315x5 like last week? If all variables (pre workout and speed/lifts prior to squats) are the same. AND, like i said, you are able to do 360x5 as planned.
I think it could be because you are just adding weight to the bar quicker than you are actually gaining strength. Most of the time there is some leeway in what your actual workout max is, too.
To put precise percentages on a ‘range’ it’s somewhat stereotypical and dependent upon the structure of the activity; however, in my experience, maximal weights in the power lifts may be viewed as those in excess of 80% and in the Olympic lifts closer to 90%.
The reality is that the greater the force component, the lower the percentage need be to qualify has maximal and the greater the velocity component the greater the percentage must be to qualify as maximal. It is for this reason why maximal sprint training/maxV is +95%, also high for the throws and jumps in T&F, down to 90% or so for Olympic lifts and further on down for powerlifts
The development of maximal strength in the squat, bench, deadlift, for example, is optimally done with sub-max weights and a relatively small volume of maximal percentage lifting is required to provide the stimulus to realize the true maximum of strength. In this way, the lifts made in the maximal zone serve to develop the coordination necessary to handle maximal attempts with efficiency.
The maximum is irrelevant for athletes other than powerlifters, weightlifters, and strongman, however. All other athletes only need varying degrees of strength development and strength is developed with sub-maximal loading. Leave the realization of maximal strength to those whose sport is characterized by overcoming maximal external overload.
If the bench press, for example, was 315x5 then became 315x7 we know that strength has improved and there’s no need to test the 1RM.
There’s more leeway for certain lifts that do not interfere with the competition exercises. This is why Charlie would be more liberal with bench press. Note, however, that the squat weights, while ‘heavy’ were clearly no where near the sprinters 1RM potential and were, in fact, kept sub-max by design and the bench (regarding it’s use as a re-stim a few days before the meet), while performed closer to the maximum, would have been irrelevant if the sprinter wasn’t strong enough to generate a sufficient enough output on the exercise in the first place.
Clearly sub-maximal in the squat, and as I stated, closer to the maximum in the bench. Keep in mind, however, that the use of the heavy bench training, relative to the squat, during max strength blocks as well as just prior to big meets was as a stimulus for the competition exercise; not as a means unto itself (remember the stir that Ben’s huge bench press before Seoul created due to the misloaded barbell) and in the training of Charlie’s athletes who used the bench as a primary general strength exercise we cannot exclude the rest of the high intensity components from this discussion; as each one facilitated the other.
Even in Ben’s case, in which the pool of primary high intensity stimuli was smaller (ergo sprints, bench, incline, and squat), his outputs were so high on all of them that he didn’t need anything else to add to the list.
The room for leeway regarding performing heavier bench loading in comparison to the other lifts for a sprinter is due to it’s non-specific character from a peripheral standpoint; yet it’s central benefits (of which its strategic use is just one example of Charlie’s genius)
The take home here is that the entire complex of high intensity elements in the training load is what must be accounted for when considering the improvement in any one of them or the other; and in the case of a super high output sprinter (who is as strong as he/she is fast) there will come a time when it only makes sense to perform lower volume/higher intensity loading for a general organism strength exercise such as the bench press (assuming it is used as such in the program) because the purpose is to stimulate the sprint- not to see how much he/she can bench press and the CNS stimulus won’t be as pronounced if the lift is performed with sub-maximal load.
James, I have two questions…
Although maxing is unnecessary and in competition for resources required for improvement on the track, would maxing out prior to beginning a weight training program not be beneficial to a track and field athlete so that they could more precisely select the appropriate weights?
Throughout my high school and collegiate track career lifted heavily and intensely year round. Could this have kept me from being as fast as i could have been on the track due to the weight stimulus remaining at too high a level…never letting me fully reap the benefits of the increased power? I ask because all the guys who could ever beat me in a 100 could never beat me in a standing broad jump, shot toss, hill sprints, and almost never in a sprint of 30m or less. I was more explosive and flexible than almost all of them yet they could all beat me in a 100. I ask because I am wondering if training with lighter loads via Prilepin’s table in the squat would be a valuable an asset to me in speed training? BTW my typical squat workouts recently BY FAR exceed Prilepin’s recommendations. here is what i was doing for 12 weeks earlier this year 5x5 program (up to 430,460,490,520,550 for my sets by week 12 with just a belt, i’m sure all would have passed at a power lifting meet for depth…in same period i talked about the lighter bench training)
I would agree with you that Ben did lift closer to maximal. Charlie discussed Ben’s extremely well developed strength endurance. He believed Ben probably could not squat more than 700, which would mean he worked up to and in excess of 85%. I consider 85% and above ‘near-maximal’, not sub-maximal. And it is also quite evident in videos that he was approaching failure, with maybe one rep, no more than two, left in the tank. I am not a fan of submaximal (50-70% intensity) loads lifted unexplosively for submaximal reps. IMHO, that leads only to submaximal strength gains.
I understand all the premeet neural benefits of the bench press. My point is I don’t consider 3x5x80-85% submax - submax in my book would be 50-75% maybe 80% if the reps were 2-3. If you study the work of Dr. Stone you will see sets of 5’s done at 80-85% - I wouldn’t consider this work submax. I asked earlier for everyone to define submax weights/loads.
My verison of a athletic strength block - still submax
I wouldn’t presume to suggest, from my arm chair, that “this is why you didn’t run faster” because it’s almost always a multi-faceted reason rooted in programming in general.
That said, based upon what you’ve written only, I think you answered your own question.
There’s only so much tolerance for CNS intensive work and that capacity is unique to each individual. The higher your output potential for any particular CNS intensive component the more careful you must be when programming that component into the overall plan.
As for the weight training, what I see so many individuals fail to accept is that maximum strength is improved with sub-maximal loading; however, it is only realized to its utmost via the performance of near maximal loading. This is why only the actual strength athletes need perform, on the whole, the highest percentage of near maximal lifting because they won’t perform to their true maximum on contest day unless they perform the proper stimulatory sessions with higher intensities subsequent to the meet.
Now, there’s also the question as to whether you were even competing in the right event/sport relative to your morpho-biomechanical potential.
One of my biggest criticisms of the US sport system in general is the lack of sports physiology knowledge possessed by every profession encapsulated within the coaching industry. For example, if you’re strength/explosive strength, short accel were your strengths, and not your maxV, than perhaps your true potential lied in one of the throwing disciplines (I don’t know how tall you are/limb length though), bobsled brakeman, American football back, Rugby, and so on.
As I inferred on an earlier post, we can quickly drift into semantics by assigning specific parameters in general unless we specify individual and motor/mechanical activity
It’s not even enough to limit the discussion to percentages because, as you are suggesting here, there’s the question of volume.
From a maximal tension standpoint, Zatsiorsky explained the three mechanisms (RE, ME, DE) and SE then becomes intensities beneath the maximal zone in which the volume is kept short of reaching maximal tension.
My view is that sub-maximal intensities are the bread and butter for strength development, even for powerlifters; however, I have no objection against lifting a sub-maximal load for an amount of repetitions that elicits greater tension, than a single would provide, if it is justified in the program.
As for the definition of the various intensity zones, as I stated, we have to address a very specific context (ergo slow overload strength exercises) because the dynamics of the effort change everything.
I am 6 feet tall. In high school i weighed around 190 at about 5%…now I am 230 and maybe 8%. I was a hurdler in high school, and maybe this is why my maxV was never really developed…Because I only got 15 yards to accelarate before I had to get into a hurdle rhythm, and maybe that is why I never learned how to run efficiently at top speed. i ran 14.60 FAT, and that was my PR from my injury riddled senior season.
Would the concept of competing resources apply to sprint hurdle training vs. sprint training? For example…If too much energy is spent working over the hurdles in practice, would it not leave enough resources to develop speed on the flat? I ask because when I ran track I never ran sprints on the flat. Only flat running was 300’s in high school and in college practice besides warming up i only ran when i was going over hurdles
What is funny is I was going to be playing runningback this fall for my school until I had issues with my grades. And I’ve recently been considering taking up bobsledding.
You said that you gave a seminar in Mobile. Will you be giving anymore seminars in the southeast anytime soon?
To be fair, it is prudent to refer to any effort beneath 100% as sub-maximal. As to where we draw the line between different intensity zones, this is when the situation becomes context dependent due to differences in the biodynamic structure of various maneuvers.
In that case it’s a miracle I could even sprint as well as I did, because the volume of hurdle work I was doing was absurd back then. Leaving no resources for the speed work I wasn’t doing…haha.
Thanks for answering my questions. I am always trying to learn more about the science behind athletics and training
During the actual bread and butter max strength phases of his periodization plans, there is a lot (>15%) of all reps in the >85% range.
RB, your rep ranges are a little high for my taste, and the loads a little low, for what I like in a true max strength phase. I like the following sessions (talking about a pure max strength phase here without reference to competing CNS resources)…
5 x 5 @ 80% (about an 8RM load)
4 x 4 @ 85% (about a 6RM load)
3 x 3 @ 87.5-90% (about an 4-5RM load)
4 x 2 @ 90-92.5% (about a 3-4RM load)
? x 1 @ 95-100% (max)
I actually don’t believe in calculating a load, because every session in the gym is unique. I like to lift heavy with only a rep or two left in the tank whether its a hypertrophy set (6-10 reps) or a pure stength set (1-5 reps).
The boundaries are vague, but normally when I read/hear most people talking about near maximal, sub maximal etc., it seems to fall into the following broad, unofficial categories (the boundaries are fuzzy, I admit)…
<75% low load - (hypertrophy, explosive strength or strength endurance depending on rep range and tempo)
<75-85% - Sub-maximal (moderate intensity, hypertrophy and strength depending on rep range)
85-95% - Near-maximal high intensity (high intensity, strength and some hypertrophy)
>95% - Maximal (very high intensity, purely strength, little hypertrophy)
You may have seen some of Dr. Stone’ weightlifting/throwing cycles, his sprint cycles are more conservative. The example I gave above is a older block I used with a athlete in the past - it’s my version of submax work for the speed-power athlete. Your examples are too aggressive for my taste - aka too much for the speed-power athlete.