Ever think about what percentage of a World Record lift you can achieve right now?
The current ‘raw’ Bench Press record is about 740 lbs. So if you can bench 148 lbs it means you’re at 20% of the record. (Many of us reading this can do that.)
And out of the 8 billion people on this planet there’s only one who can press 740, so it’s safe to say that none of us reading this will ever get to 100% of the record.
So what percentage of a World Record could we ever expect to achieve at our lifetime-prime peak physical strength?
60%? (444 lbs?) I doubt it, for over 95% of us.
50%? (370 lbs?) That would be impressive.
How Many Workouts to Get There?
So if a guy could bench 148 lbs today (20% of record) and had a goal of 370 lbs (50% of record) how many workouts would he need to perform to get there?
The number of workouts required would depend on how much he could improve on each workout. What if he improves a trifling 2% per workout? Or 3%? Or 4%?
I created a chart to calculate improvement of Bench Presses and Deadlift relative to World Records.
You can see that very modest improvements, like starting out by adding 3, 4, and 5 lbs to your Bench Press (2% of 160) or 5, 6, or 7 lbs to your Deadlift (2% of 260) gets a trainee to within 50% of the World Records within 44 and 38 workouts.
Hey, if a person really could make progress every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday he’d be at 50% of world records in about nine and a half months!
If he could manage 3% improvement he’d be there in six and a half months.
And if he could get 4% improvement he’s be hoist half the World Record in under five months.
When you’re looking at those workout numbers, keep in mind that a person who lifts three days a week is doing 156 workouts a year. Even at an improvement below a measly 2% he would be beyond World Records on every lift he does after just six months of his training.
Of course, we all know that nobody does this. So — if there is no measurable improvement from week to week — why do all those workouts?
Over a Century of False Premises
Flexibility fitness is improved and maintained by frequent stretching near the limits of our frequency tolerance.
Cardiovascular fitness is improved and maintained by frequent training near the limits of our frequency tolerance.
But it appears that Strength fitness is not improved or maintained by frequent training anywhere near our limits of tolerance.
I think it’s time our view of intelligent strength training is changed dramatically.
A New Paradigm for the 21st Century
First of all, a one-rep maximum is only one way to measure our peak power output.
And depending on a variety of our physiological variables, we all have slightly different ideal conditions for reaching our peak power output. For some it could be one rep. For others it could be a 15-second burst of power, or 30 seconds, or 4 minutes. Or two hours.
But whatever time frame we are best at, there is a practical and finite limit to what we can achieve. (For perhaps 95% of us it might be 30% to 70% of what the strongest person in the world can do in that same time frame.)
And at what point in our lives is this peak power likely to occur? Well, let’s say when we’re between 25 and 35 years of age. That seems like a big enough ballpark.
So what if we spent a few months in our mid to late 20’s systematically determining where our peak strength is in terms of time frame, and then exercised sufficiently to reach our peak?
I think we’d all have a very high-probability indication of our peak power after 30 to 50 workouts that objectively measured our progress and adjusted training frequency accordingly in order to keep progress occurring. Those 50 workouts might take six months or they might take three years. But at the end of the program there would be important benchmarks.
Perhaps at the age of 28 a young man would know his best peak power output on Close and Wide Grip Bench Presses, Deadlifts, Leg Presses, Barbell Curls, and Lat Pulldowns. Six exercises with six exact scores of his peak power output over a specific time interval.
For the rest of his life he would only need to duplicate those numbers to know that he was still at (or near) his youthful best.
And how often would he need to lift weights to verify his benchmarks?
That would vary.
Perhaps some people would need to do it every month or they’d begin to slip backwards. Perhaps some would only need to do it every six months. Perhaps less often that that.
But 156 times per year??? No.
Zero percent of people would need to do that. Zero percent could do it.
For most of us reading this it’s too late to get benchmarks in our 20’s. But it’s quite literally ‘never too late’ to know them — it’s still crucial to have some benchmarks today.
How high is ‘up’ right now? How far could you progress today with intelligently engineered workouts? For how many years could you maintain your benchmarks?