One of the frequently neglected parameters in training program design of weightlifters is the number of reps per set.  While all of the physiological factors affected by program planning are affected to varying degrees by the number of reps per set, some are more effectively and some less effectively by the number prescribed.

To be more specific each of the following factors is modified, affected or enhanced by the training program design:

·       Muscular development

·       Neural remodeling

·       Hormonal secretion profile

·       Anaerobic endurance

For example two repetitions per set (depending on the intensity) can affect each of the preceding factors to varying degrees.  If the intensity is low the effects on muscular development, hormonal secretion and anaerobic endurance is minimal but can greatly enhance neural remodeling.  On the other hand four repetitions per set at a higher intensity will be more effective at modifying muscular development, hormonal secretion and anaerobic endurance.

Since all of these factors are involved in the long term development of the weightlifting athlete, they must each be addressed and not ignored in program design. 

Moving Forward

Before implementing even the best designed training program, two factors must be considered in order for the program to have the greatest impact.

1)      The athlete’s technique in the snatch and clean & jerk must be biomechanically proficient.  That’s not to say perfect or near perfect, but reasonably efficient.  This means not placing undue stress on muscles that are not strong enough to bear the required the load.

2)      The 100% figures for the snatch and clean & jerk must be reasonably accurate.  If these figures are not accurate, the effects of the lower intensities will not provide the desired results. 

Some Examples

60%/1 reinforces motor pathways and enables greater speed development.  This intensity level and rep prescription does little to affect muscular development, hormone profile or anaerobic endurance.

80%/4 is at the other end of the spectrum.  It affects muscular development, hormone profile and anaerobic endurance.  It has less effect on neurological remodeling, however, but may stimulate involvement of smaller muscles that are not affected at lower intensities. 

Program Design

Depending on the nature of the current training phase and the level of achievement of the individual athlete, the best training effects will be achieved by a proper distribution of the training volume within the various intensity zones.  That is the number of repetitions prescribed in each percentage zone must be adjusted to suit the specific situation.  Advanced lifters will not need as much load in the lower intensities, but still need some to maintain speed and reinforce technique.  Novice lifters must be limited in their load at higher intensities as they will fatigue sooner and thus affect technical development. 

And so….

Proper programming can be quite complex as so many variables are involved.  Strength development can be achieved through performing a large load within the classic movements for advanced, talented athletes.  Less talented, less proficient athletes may have to achieve strength development through supplemental movements in order to avoid excessive trauma to the joints.  Optimal results will not be achieved my simply increasing a single parameter such as total repetitions, repetitions per set, total repetitions in a given intensity zone or higher average relative intensities.