Percentage Lifting Refresher

We have been using the percentage based lifting protocol for a while now at CrossFit Edmonton and have some really great success. With many new people in our program these days I thought I’d give us all a refresher of why we do it and also when we do it.

The particular template we have adopted was developed by Micheal Rutherford out of Shawnee Mission, Kansas where he runs a successful gym and CrossFit affiliate. Coach Rutherford has been in the strength and conditioning industry for many years and is highly accredited by his peers including Robb Wolf (NorCal Strength and conditioning) and Greg Evert (Catalyst Athletics). Coach Rut (as he is referred too) along with some of the other mentioned coaches also spoke at the first Black Box Summit, which was a CrossFit affiliate-run event that Chad got a chance to attend and spoke very highly of on his return.

The reasoning for adopting his strength template was to give our clients a more focused and planned approach to strength training.  For each workout there is a specific amount of weight assigned by way of a percentage of your 1Rep Max to each set. This allows you to map out a targeted plan for that session. It gives you a training goal and removes the subjective tinkering we’ve all done to the ladder approach “just lift as heavy as you can, every time”. A successfully executed workout is one that lets you know your heading towards your goals and a unsuccessful execution allows you to dial in more closely a goal that is appropriate for you.

Now this is all fine and dandy for someone who has a solid idea of what their 1 Rep Max is for the various lifts, but what about the beginner, someone who doesn’t know their 1 rep max value? The beginner will approach the work out similar to how we used to, in that, over the assigned amount of sets the individual will lift up to a weight that feels close to a max in 1, 3 or 5 reps . Then a coach will help estimate a 1 rep value for you.  For example if the work out was a Back Squat with 5 sets of 3 reps prescribed to it, a beginner will lift their first set based on what a coach may suggest and then increase the weight each set until the weight feels substantial. With the help of a coach you will be lifting a weight that is appropriate for your level as your heaviest set.  If this all seems complicated, don’t worry, the details of the design is not important to you coming in and doing the work out, as always a coach will be there to guide you through each step.

With the benefits and the logistics laid out loosely we can now discuss how to maximise your strength gains. The percentage based strength program is threaded into our monthly planning in a particular way. To maximize the results of this method, it is important that you attend the specific classes in which the strength thread is prescribed. The following is an example of a 3 week cycle in which the target is to lift a previous 1 Rep max or set a new 1 Rep max.

Percentage based strength program- 3 week cycle

Week 1 Monday
Movement #1
5×5
Tuesday

Wednesday
Movement #2
5×5

Thursday Friday
Movement #3
5×5
Saturday Sunday
Week 2 Monday Tuesday
Movement #1 5×3
Wednesday Thursday
Movement #2 5×3
Friday Saturday
Movement #3
5×3
Sunday
Week 3 Monday Movement #1 6×1 Tuesday Wednesday
Movement #2
6×1
Thursday Friday
Movement #3
6×1
Saturday Sunday

Percentages for 5,3 and 1 rep work outs are:

WEEK 1 Week  2 Week 3
5@55% 3@63% 1@70%
5@63% 3@70% 1@77%
5@70% 3@77% 1@85%
5@77% 3@85% 1@93%
5@85% 3@93% 1@100-101%

If your still with me at his point, the importance of knowing this is to allow you to see forward what days will be strength days and allow you to plan your attendance accordingly. This is important because to best obtain your strength goals you must complete the 5 and 3 rep workouts leading up to the 1 rep test day. But don’t worry, you will still see great results in your fitness by attending the classes that you can when you can. This system is for the individual who hasn’t seen the types of gains they once did and is interested in dialing in the strength training a little more. If this is you then feel free to ask Auty, Suzanne or Brian any questions.


Bill cranking out some weighted ring dips!