Prilepin’s Chart is a table of optimal Olympic weight lifting rep ranges to be used for training. It was created by A.S. Prilepin, a Soviet era sports scientist. The chart was created by reviewing the training journals of thousands of weightlifting athletes. It is meant to portray the optimal number of reps per set, and total rep count for power training required for the Olympic lifts (the Snatch, and Clean and Jerk). The chart, as defined by Prilepin, is as follows:
NOTE: We find the original labeling of the columns a bit more difficult to grasp than is necessary, and therefore have relabeled them for clarity.
Before you attempt to apply these values to your training, you need to understand how this chart was developed.
Prilepin’s Chart Derived From Olympic Weightlifting
The information contained within the chart was derived through the study of Olympic weightlifting athletes. Olympic weightlifting uses power movements, not pure strength, and not hypertrophy. The Olympic lifts are defined as the snatch and clean and jerk. These so called “quick lifts” rely on power – strength delivered with the utmost in speed. There’s no way to do a slow snatch, or slow clean and jerk. As such, be cautious when trying to apply this chart to pure strength development with other exercises, and certainly with the goal of hypertrophy.
With that explanation out of the way, let’s dissect the chart.
How to Interpret the Chart
Percent of 1RM column represents intensity as a percentage of your 1 Rep Max (1RM) strength. We know there’s a bit of a gap in the chart … what do we do for 66%? I don’t know – I guess you should ask Prilepin. But it’s probably reasonable to assume the 65% range covers up through 69.99%.
The Reps per Set column purports to be the optimal number of repetitions per set of an exercise.
The Optimal column is the most efficient total number of reps to perform.
Total Range is the minimum and the maximum number of total reps observed during the creation of the chart.
What does this all mean? Let’s look at an example. If you are lifting a weight that is 60% of your 1RM, you should be using sets containing somewhere between 3 and 6 repetitions, and for a number of sets that totals 24 reps. Whether you do 8 sets of 3 reps, or 4 sets of 6 reps, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you total up to the optimal number of reps. You shouldn’t lift less than 18 reps (not enough stimulus), and not more than 30 either (too much stimulus).
Another example – if you are lifting 95% of your 1RM – use sets of 1-2 reps, for a total of 4 reps, and not more than 10 total.
How Accurate Is It?
There’s some conjecture about the applicability of this chart outside of Olympic Weightlifting, and whether it applies to other exercises or not. Here’s another concern. If it’s optimal to lift 4 repetitions total of 90% of your 1RM, should you really do the same (4 reps) with 95% of your 1RM or 98% of your 1RM. Probably not. The really high percentages of a 1RM are very taxing on your CNS (Central Nervous System) and ability to recover.
Beyond that, the general advice given by the chart aligns well with our observations in the gym though. Overall, the chart serves as a general guide to plan your sets and reps, but don’t treat it as though it’s written in stone.