Christian Thibaudeau Log 3


This is the moment I always hate!!! I have to start a new log because the previous one is full and now my log looks empty and it looks like there aren’t many visits (yes, I’m that vain!!!).

So I’ll do my best to remedy the situation by posting some more cool stuff, but you gotta help me out and visit often!


For those who don’t know I’ll actually be traveling to Carson, California to coach at the Crossfit Games in 2 weeks. I have two athletes competing and they are both progressing very well and seems to be peaking at the proper time.

Here are some highlights.

Alex Vigneault with a 370lbs clean PR established Saturday.

And a 350lbs jerk

What is more impressive is that even though Alex is strong, “strength” wasn’t his greatest asset as a crossfit competitor. He is known more for his extreme tolerance for pain and high lactate threshold. He excels in events testing your mental toughness and work capacity.

Now he has the strength to be able to compete with the top lifters at the Games so I’m eager to see what he can do.


Carol-Ann Reason-Thibault’s lifting is also getting pretty good. She is more of a high motor athlete, former boxer with a cardio that is hard to beat. She is strong on the big basics but needed to work on her explosiveness and Olympic lifts. So I was pleased with this unexpected PR of 225lbs on the jerk, a 10lbs PR that was 2 years old. I say unexpected because it was a technical session but she was solid so I decided to take it up a notch.


This is from a book that Paul Carter and I are working on.


I could also say demonstrating strength vs. building strength. A competitive strength athlete involved in a 1RM sport (powerlifter, (Olympic weightlifter) has for goal being able to lift a maximal amount of weight on a few select movements (squat, bench, deadlift for the powerlifter, snatch and clean & jerk for the weightlifter). While they need to build strength, it’s only their foundation. In reality maximizing efficiency in the competitive lifts as well as developing the capacity to turn everything one for one single effort are even more important than getting stronger overall. Look at elite weightlifters (especially those of the Bulgarian school of thought) who spend most of their time only doing snatches, clean & jerks, front squats and back squats. And in powerlifting, while the Westside approach and the adaptations it spawned are still popular and focus on building strength using a lot of assistance exercises, the most dominant lifters in the IPF (less equipped, stricter, federation), the Russians, Ukrainian, Norwegians, etc. are now training very similar to weightlifters: doing most of their volume on the competition lifts.

Coaching legend Ivan Abadjiev believed in extreme specificity of training. Which means training as close as possible to your actual competitive event. In weightlifting they compete in an all-out effort for 1 repetition in the snatch and clean & jerk. So in training as often as possible they do the snatch and clean & jerk very heavy for only 1 repetition. If you want to be good at displaying maximal results in one all-out effort, you must train in that matter. What I personally noticed is that non-competitive lifters, those who are strong but don’t train for competitive performance tend to be stronger on their 2nd or even 3rd repetition in a heavy set. This is mostly a neural phenomenon: they have the muscle strength to move weight, but it takes a rep or two for their nervous system to be optimally turned on. Competitive lifters have to be good at doing maximum efforts and that needs to be trained.

On the other hand, those who use strength training as a tool to build more muscle don’t need to have the capacity to demonstrate strength in a 1 rep max effort. Training mostly with 1 rep sets will not build a lot of muscle. It will make you efficient at utilising the muscle you already have.

Note: That’s why Paul and I believe that competitive powerlifters do need to do a good part of their training focused on building more muscle. Muscle moves weight. There is only so much that you can accomplish through neural efficiency. While a powerlifter who already has plenty of muscle can afford to focus only on very low reps on the competition exercises, a powerlifter who still needs more muscle to perform optimally will need to include some form of hypertrophy work to reach peak performance. To some extent the same holds true for weightlifters but their requirement for overall size is lower since they don’t require the same upper body strength, their lifts are also more technique and speed-based.

If you main goal is to build muscle, strength training should be seen as a tool to improve muscle density, size and also neural efficiency to make subsequent training more effective. And for those purposes it is not necessary to perform sets of 1 or 2 reps, or more specifically it’s not necessary to specialize (do a lot of work) on those rep numbers.


And if you feel like testing how functional your shoulders are… try this little test…

To give you an idea, Catherine worked up to 85lbs on her heaviest set… can you beat that?


[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:
And if you feel like testing how functional your shoulders are… try this little test…

To give you an idea, Catherine worked up to 85lbs on her heaviest set… can you beat that?

[/quote] this looks like a great test!! looks easy, but I bet it's really tough.


Subbed, I love it already. Im really hoping this gets more of an Thib’s thoughts archive instead of an Q&A.


I am excited about the book and I would like to suggest that you do a “short question and answer”-thread in your forum? For short questions?


[quote]Akidara wrote:
I am excited about the book and I would like to suggest that you do a “short question and answer”-thread in your forum? For short questions?[/quote]

And answers?


A quick one of one of my Crossfit competitor… could give many figure/bodybuilding girls a run for their money!

For those who like traps … and muscles I can’t even name!


A lot of us have been waiting for log #3 to start I reckon. I know I have. Great to have you back here CT.


[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

[quote]Akidara wrote:
I am excited about the book and I would like to suggest that you do a “short question and answer”-thread in your forum? For short questions?[/quote]

And answers?[/quote]

Exactly! It would be a good idea to keep this log a high quality CT Log and in your coaching forum the simple and short questions could be answered in the Q&A thread by you.
More complex/important questions/ discussions could be new threads in your forum.


[quote]Akidara wrote:

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

[quote]Akidara wrote:
I am excited about the book and I would like to suggest that you do a “short question and answer”-thread in your forum? For short questions?[/quote]

And answers?[/quote]

Exactly! It would be a good idea to keep this log a high quality CT Log and in your coaching forum the simple and short questions could be answered in the Q&A thread by you.
More complex/important questions/ discussions could be new threads in your forum.[/quote]

Yeah, Q&A also keep the log alive when I don’t have anything to say :wink:


This afternoon I will post my interpretations, pros and cons of the Prilepin table. Stay tuned!


Thanks CT I really think you underestimate how important your content is to many people. Your log and training forum are the 2 places I check religiously every hour. So this makes me happy!


Hi CT, which routine do you recommend for increase strength in squat?? Maybe Russian squat, Smolov, or simply Ramping up…?? Thx


[quote]MVN wrote:
Hi CT, which routine do you recommend for increase strength in squat?? Maybe Russian squat, Smolov, or simply Ramping up…?? Thx[/quote]

I’m honestly no fond of these routines. They seem to be hit and miss and they work mostly because they have you do a lot of work in the 70-85% range, with a high frequency. Nothing special about them.

I think they “work” because they use a high frequency of squatting, doing plenty of work in the proper intensity zone and because people get all motivated by doing a “Soviet/Russian program”… if you are motivated you train harder and with more focus and you get better results.


From this morning. I have a feeling that we might see some log lifting at the Crossfit Games so Alx practiced it this morning. He started by ramping to his 1RM then we did a good old drop set… started with strict presses, then push presses, lowered the weight and continued.


What the Prilepin Table can teach us about training for strength
By Christian Thibaudeau

One thing that made the former Soviet lifters great was their meticulousness about logging every variable of every training session performed by every athlete regardless of their qualification. This allowed their coaches and sport scientists to analyze in great depth the various relationships between all the main training variable and how they affected training results.

The main training variables when it comes to strength training are the intensity of the load, the volume in terms of total repetitions performed for an exercise and the volume in terms of repetitions per set.

The intensity of the load is the factor that has the greatest impact on the physical quality that is being trained. Will the training have a more profound effect on strength, hypertrophy/muscle gain, power or resistance is mostly dependant on the relative intensity of the load. And in strength circles intensity is expressed as a percentage of your maximum on a lift. For example if your best bench press is 315lbs then a weight of 225lbs represents an intensity level of 70%.

The actual magnitude of the gains will be determined mostly by the volume of mechanical work performed. If you perform too little work, even at the correct intensity level, you will not stimulate a positive adaptation (gains) unless you are a beginner. If you perform too much work you can actually have a negative impact on your performance and gains (more on that later).

The former Soviet coaches saw things this way: the exercise selected determined what was strengthened (either a specific muscle/group of muscle, a movement pattern or a weak part in the range of motion). So selecting the proper exercise to fix a strength (or size) issue was kind of like picking the right medicine to cure an illness. They only selected exercises that would have a positive effect on their performance as lifters.

When the exercise was selected the proper intensity of load was chosen to target the type of gain desired. An athlete who was seen as lacking muscle mass (either overall or in certain specific muscle groups) would use a different intensity of load as an athlete with sufficient muscle mass but who lacked functional strength.

When the means (exercise and intensity) were selected it was a matter of planning the proper volume of work to get the adaptation desired as rapidly as possible without exhausting the adaptation reserves of the athlete. And this is where the Prilepin table comes in an becomes interesting.

The Prilepin table was designed after analyzing the training logs of thousands of high level weightlifters to see what was the relationship between the volume (total reps per exercise and reps per set) of the lifters who had the best results.

It gave the following table. Note I took the liberty of making some minor changes to make it more user friendly. For example the original table have the following ranges 70-80%, 80-90%, 90% which can get confusing since 80% is then in 2 zones and both zones have ideal volume numbers.


  1. IT’S BASED ON STRENGTH DEVELOPMENT: The volume and intensity relationships are based on developing strength which is why the volume is somewhat lower and the sets aren’t to failure with the given rep per set number. I wouldn’t use the Prilepin table to plan an hypertrophy workout.

  2. STRENGTH IS NOT JUST ABOUT BIGGER NUMBERS, QUALITY COUNTS: The first time I saw the Prilepin table many years ago the first thought I had was “the sets will be too easy”. For example 3 reps at 80% isn’t exactly an all out set since most people can use 90-92% for 3 reps. That was before I understood the concept of strength-skill. The key isn’t just the numbers, but HOW you are lifting the barbell. On each repetition you should focus on technical perfection, controlling the barbell and being able to accelerate/dominate it on the way up. The rep numbers are selected so that the load is heavy enough to be challenging but not so demanding that you can’t be technically perfect and dominate each repetition. It’s one thing to be “strong”, it’s another to be strong on a perfect, fluid, movement.

  3. TOO FEW REPS PER SET WON’T LEAD TO ADAPTATIONS: I’m a low rep guy. I even once went on as far as to say that my favorite rep range is “1”. And I confess that in the past when I did (Olympic) lifting training I stuck to mostly sets of 1 or 2 reps. It worked for about 2 weeks. But after that my strength started to go down and I lost muscle mass. The reason is that I rarely did a set that forced the body to adapt. 1 or 2 reps per set, it it’s below 90% won’t lead to adaptations. So in a workout if I did 4 sets of 2 reps between 70-80%, 3 sets of 1 with 80-89% and 2 sets of 1 with 92% only two sets actually forced the body to adapt. At first I progressed simply due to technique and coordination improvements, but I never stimulated any actual gains. And after 2 weeks I started to actually lose adaptations/size because none of the sets provided the stimulation to help me maintain or add muscle. If you are training for strength you still need to stimulate the muscles, you canÃ??Ã?¢??t get strong on the nervous system alone. So you can either always stick to loads above 90% and do sets of 1-2, which can fry the nervous system, or do sets of 3 reps or more (closer to 5 with the low part of the range) between 70-89%.

  4. TOO MANY REPS PER SET WILL HURT YOUR GAINS: At 82% (for example) most people should be capable of doing 7-8 reps if they go all out. Yet with the Prilepin table if you use 82% you should not do more than 4 reps in a set. This is why my first reaction years ago was that training according to the Prilepin table was “too easy”. In reality what happens is that if you do reps that are too close to failure you lose speed and technique and the wrong recruitment/coordination pattern is developed. It will build muscle and if all you are interested in is getting bigger that’s fine. But if your goal is excelling in displaying strength on some movements, you want each repetition to target the optimal pattern and dynamics. Doing too many reps in a set will hurt that. Plus, you can actually do more total volume in the training zone by reducing the reps. For example if you use 82% and go to complete failure on your first set, let’s say 7 reps and you hit failure. Then it’s likely that you will have a rapid drop in performance on the exercise. But if you do sets of 4 you’d be able to do many sets without losing any quality and end up doing more volume overall with less negative effect on the nervous system.

  5. TOO LITTLE MECHANICAL WORK WILL NOT LEAD TO LASTING GAINS: To stimulate gains you need a certain volume of overall work. Too few “work repetitions” and you won’t develop the capacity of the nervous system to recruit muscle fibers in an optimal pattern and you won’t stimulate the muscles to get stronger. The table provides an effective range, and ideal number of reps to perform on one exercise for that movement to stimulate a positive adaptations. If you go below that number of reps it is mostly effective as a deload or as “practice”, but it won’t have a strong stimulatory effect.

  6. TOO MUCH MECHANICAL WORK WILL LEAD TO RAPID STAGNATION: Similarily you can kill your gains if you do too much work. I’ve been guilty of this; everybody who is passionate about training has too. Doing a VERY high volume of work on an exercise will “work” for a short period. A blitz approach. But if you keep up with it, it will lead to stagnation and even regression.

  7. THE TOTAL MECHANICAL WORK IN THE SELECTED INTENSITY ZONE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN USING A SPECIAL LOADING SCHEME: The key is doing the right dose of work in the selected intensity zone. “HOW” you are getting the work done isn’t that important as long as it fits the bill as far as reps per set and total reps. For example doing 4 x 6 @ 79%, 6 x 4 @ 79%, 12 x 2 @ 79%, 8 x 3 @ 79%, two 6/4/2 waves, etc. special loading schemes are mostly effective for psychological reasons. YES some special schemes (especially those using reps from many different intensity zones) can have a special effect over the short term, but to stimulate physiological adaptions it takes a backseat to doing the right amount of overall work in the selected intensity range.

  8. IT ONLY PROVIDE GUIDELINES PER EXERCISE NOT FOR OVERALL VOLUME IN A SESSION: That’s the thing: The table gives you a very solid starting point for each big movement in a session. But it doesn’t tell you how many exercises you should be doing. And obviously even if it’s good to know how much volume you should be doing for an exercise, if you don’t plan the proper number of exercises you might fall well outside the proper overall volume for your session. I personally find that when training for strength using mostly compound lifts, 3 or 4 lifts work well the Prilepin guidelines.

9: ITÃ??Ã?¢??S EASY TO USE WHEN YOU ONLY DO ONE INTENSITY RANGE PER EXERCISE. MUCH HARDER IF YOU USE 2 OR 3 (FOR EXAMPLE DOING SETS WITH 75, 85 AND 90% FOR AN EXERCISE): You don’t always use straight sets in a workout or even stick to one intensity range for one exercise. You could do sets at 75%, then at 85% and finish with 90-92%. Three different intensity zones. The table gives very precise guidelines, but only if you only use one training zone to do your work sets. So if you decide to use 2 or 3 it can be harder to use the table.

  1. IT CAN CONFUSE SOME PEOPLE INTO BELIEVING THAT ALL THE RANGES HAVE THE SAME EFFECT AS LONG AS YOU RESPECT THE CORRECT VOLUME RECOMMENDATIONS: From the look of the table it can easily be thought that as long as you do the recommended number of reps per set and total reps, you will get the same training effect. That’s not the case. We are training to get stronger, obviously sets using 60% of your max will not have the same impact as sets using 95%. So you have to understand the role of each intensity zone for a strength athlete. The first zone (less than 70%) is more for technique and speed work. The second one (70-79%) is a good zone to develop the muscular component of force production while also perfecting technique with a decent weight. The third zone (80-89%) is the one where the most volume should be done to DEVELOP strength and the last zone (90%+) is the zone you use to learn to display the strength you have built and to peak it.

  2. IT WORKS FOR BIG COMPOUND MOVEMENTS WITH A SKILL COMPONENT: From my experience the more skill an exercise requires, the more the Prilepin chart applies. This is not surprising since it was based om the study of the log of Olympic lifters. So snatch variations and clean & jerk variations were the biggest part of the volume studied. I find that it is also highly applicable to movements like squats, front squats, deadlifts, pulls (snatch pull, clean pull) and push presses. It is also useful but not as much as the preceding for exercises like the bench press, military press and rows which have a lower skill component and it is pretty much useless for isolation exercises and machine work. On these you can normally do a higher number of reps per set and total volume to no ill effect because of the low neural component.



I see you wouldn’t mind a Q&A here, and that’s cool. You just mentioned a while back a log loses his function (hope I got that right). I just hoped it would be what you wanted it to be.

If training for overall strength, would you recommend doing multiple excercises for one movement (pattern)? Like in Zombie-Apocalyps or Bulgarian Simplified.

And if so, what would yield better results: continous ramping, cycling excercises, shifting focus (3 weeks->main: deadlift, accesory:sumo, 3 weeks-> vice versa)?

Or am I just getting anal here and cycling every aproach would work best?