Strength Training for Football: Percentage Charts Work


Percentage charts work best when technique is great and consistent.

A big part of our coaching job is to teach high school football players what weight to use for each exercise.  Players will tell me they did 3 X 5 for bench press, but they can’t tell me why they chose their weight or what they did the week before on bench. They’ll tell me their bench goal is 315, however, there’s no well thought out plan on getting there.

As coaches, assuming our players will know an appropriate weight for a 5 X 5 workout on squat will guarantee a headache down the road. It’s haphazard and they’ll get haphazard results. We’re much better off using a safe, efficient and progressive system.

One of the best ways to do this is by using percentage charts based off of a predicted 1- rep max.

Over the years I’ve gone back and forth with using several different charts. They aren’t the solution to each situation, but they’re practical and logical for large groups. They work well for large movements like bench, squat, overhead press and trap-bar squat.

Most percentage charts are based on mathematical assumptions. Some research has shown that if we can complete 3 x 5 with the same weight on each set, it’s safe to assume that weight is 80% of your 1RM. That could turn into a chart of weights that are 80% of several different 1RM’s. If we can complete sets of 10/8/6 with the same weight, that weight is approximately 70% of our 1RM. That could be another useful chart.

The best percentage charts I’ve seen or used are ones that start at about 70% of an estimated 1RM and take 4-6 weeks to progress to 90-95% of the 1RM for a re-test.  Then it starts all over again with a new 1RM. These charts will say what weight to use for each set and how many reps to do for each set.

Charts like these will help you or your football players progress safely and efficiently towards their strength goals.

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