FAQ: Reading the Group Programming

What’s with all these percentages?

Since it’s impossible to program everyone’s individual weights in a group program, the prescribed weights for most major strength exercises are written as percentages of your 1-rep-maximum (1RM) in that lift. In the weightlifting program, accessory exercises are written as a percentage of your best in the corresponding main lift (e.g., snatch balances @ 60% would mean 60% of your best snatch).

But what if I don’t know my 1RM in a lift?

You can estimate your 1RM with this handy calculator. It’s worth pointing out that hitting a true 1RM requires a lot of skill and practice in a given movement, but that’s okay—using the given percentages of your best lifts will just mean you’ll be able to progress in weight more quickly as you master the movement.

This percentage feels too heavy/light for the prescribed reps

The percentages are, like the Pirate Code, really just guidelines. Besides, even if you know your 1RM, it literally changes on a daily basis. Research shows it can vary by as much as 36%! You should be taking into account your energy levels, soreness, injuries, and performance during the workout and adjusting the loads accordingly.

Can I just skip the percentages and do my best for the prescribed rep range?

You can, but the purpose of using percentages is to vary the load and intensity—often the goal is to avoid failure in the prescribed rep range, not hit it. For example, 75% of your 1RM is roughly equivalent to your 10RM. If the workout calls for 4 sets of 6 reps at 75%, the goal may be to generate speed and power, develop technique, or mitigate fatigue rather than grind out reps.

The program says to use a percentage of the weight I used last week. What if I’m new or I can’t remember what I lifted?

Always write down your workouts! Always! You cannot measure your progress if you’re not recording what you do! If you’re new to the program, just post in the forum or email mike@styrkagym.com and we’ll assign you a percentage.

What is "RPE"?

RPE means "rate of perceived exertion." In the context of Styrka's programming, we use it for ancillary exercises in which you probably won't ever truly "max out." Think of RPE as how much effort you need to complete the prescribed reps, where “RPE 10” is maximum effort. So for example, "Barbell Rows, 4 sets 8 reps @ RPE 8" means you're doing sets of 8 at a weight where—at least on the first set—you still have a couple of reps in the tank. “4 sets 4 reps @ RPE 5” means a moderate weight.

What’s a “ladder”? Like, “Ladder 10 to 1, thrusters and pullups”?

That means you superset (alternate) the two exercises, starting at 10 reps each and knocking a rep off each superset. So in the above example you’d do 10 thrusters, then 10 pullups; then 9 thrusters and 9 pullups; 8 of each, 7 of each, and so on all the way down to 1. There should be little or no rest during the entire ladder.

Just like physical ladders used for rescuing cats out of trees, you can use ladders to go up or down in repetitions. Some speak of a workout long ago in which a trainer forced a client to go up and down a ladder, but of course it’s just an urban legend. Trainers are nice!

What weights should I use for the bodybuilding exercises?

On any exercise without a prescribed percentage, pick a weight that allows you to just finish the prescribed reps with perfect form unless the instructions specify otherwise.

I’m really having trouble with technique on an exercise

You have a couple of options. You can post a video in the closed forum and let the trainers and other members offer suggestions. If that’s not enough, contact one of our trainers to help you personally. Sometimes investing even in just a few sessions can pay dividends for months.

Any resources that you might recommend for technique development?

  1. The Squat Bible
  2. Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes and Coaches
  3. The Juggernaut Strength YouTube channel
  4. Becoming a Supple Leopard
  5. Starting Strength