The Truth About Percentage Training

Louie Simmons Westside Barbell

The recent Hatfield vs. McCoys dust up in the Strength Training community has been an interesting, albeit disappointing one.   One of the things I have always enjoyed about strength athletes, powerlifters most specifically since that is the group I am most attached to, is the fact that knowledge is always shared.  Go to a powerlifting meet, and you will see the competitors cheering for one another.  Not only that, but strength athletes love to sit around and “talk shop”.  These roundtable discussions lead to great innovation in the sport, and it carries over to the strength community as a whole.

This is all great, so what's the problem you might ask?  Well the problem comes when people either decide for themselves, or have it decided for them, that they are experts.  Again, on it's face, this is not necessarily a problem.  However when your expertise is attached to a specific dogma of training, then when another expert comes along and challenges your system they are in essence challenging your authority   And when you throw some testosterone and some ego into the mix, it does not make for a very tasteful recipe.

mike tuchschererSo what started this latest drama?  An article by Mike Tuchscherer titled “Why Speed Work Doesn't Work“.  As you can infer from the title, one of the purposes of this article was obviously to be controversial, not that there's anything wrong with that.  In the article Mike points out that the percentages used for traditional speed programming are too low to produce optimal force.  He backed this up with the research he has done with his athletes, and force production as measured with a Tendo Unit.

So obviously this pissed off the Westside Barbell, Conjugate System constituents   Mike's article was seen as blasphemy, and was responded to with an impressive amount of vitriol.  What's even stranger is it suddenly turned into a Geared vs. Raw argument.  Chad Wesley Smith had his take on it in, “The Bench Shirt is Being Pulled Over Your Eyes”.

bear strongerThere are several problems as I see it with this whole situation.  First, why is there a Geared vs. Raw discussion EVER?!  It is completely pointless.  They are two different things, and should be treated as such.  Second, why must people constantly try in vain to compare individual strength in two different competitive environments?  It's interesting that it is much less common for you to see Olympic lifters arguing with Strongman competitors about “True Strength”.  Their competitive environment  and the tools they used to test their strength vary enough that the conversation doesn't happen as often.   I suppose in the case of raw vs geared powerlifting the two animals look so much alike that no one is willing to actually THINK for a moment and realize that they are different.

Why we are on the nauseating subject of geared vs raw let me first say this, GEARED LIFTING IS NOT CHEATING….If you compete in an event that allows gear.  And here is an even more important point, GEARED LIFTING IS NOT EASIER.  Yes powerlifting gear does inflate the numbers that are being put up, but you want to know the only Percentage that really matters in any of this?!



That's what people miss in this pathetic pissing contest.  When a person steps on the platform and attempts a PR, he is (or should be), giving 100% effort.  That is the only percentage that matters.  Whether he is wearing just a singlet, a belt, knee wraps, a super duper canvas squat suit, or even a funny hat….100% is 100%.  The problem with this is people have this need to compare.  Who's Vagina is Smaller?!  People need to know who the BEST is, apparently so they can brag, and get their fancy trophy that is super important.  What is missed is that as long as you trained your ass off, and gave 100% on the platform then who gives a shit what “the score” is at the end of the day.  If your 100% got you 1st place or 10th place it doesn't matter.  You did all you could do on that given day, and next time you will try to do more.  If people spent more time trying to better themselves and competing only with themselves then most of these arguments wouldn't even happen.

Brandon Lilly Cube Method

So who is right in all this?  There really is no way to answer that.  Even if you give athletes the same competitive environment  there is no one optimal way to train. There are too many variables from one person to the next to make a one size all training template.

“Every system sucks and every system is great, it just depends on who is doing it and who is coaching it.” -JL Holdsworth-

Obviously JL nailed it in his article “Why Every Training System Sucks, but Mine”.  Really what it all comes down to is having athletes buy into the training, and proper coaching.  Not to mention, training should be fluid.  It should evolve, and should not turn into dogma.  Once it is treated like a religion, then you have zealots and a whole lot of unnecessary drama.  The funny part to me about Mike's article is that when Louie first implemented dynamic training he used the very same tendo unit for his lifters, and had them at a higher percentage for dynamic work.  As the lifters increased their efficiency and muscle recruitment he reduced the dynamic percentages.  The end result, his athletes got stronger, just like  Mike‘s athletes are getting stronger with the percentages he is recommending.  Brandon Lilly's Cube Method trainees are killing it, as are Chad Wesley Smith's Juggernaut Method Users.  Aren't results all that matters?!


Most people trying to convince you that their way is best are trying to sell you something.  Either that or they want their ego stroked as being THE “Guru”.

The truth of the matter is the training that produces the best results have the same things in common.

  1. Julia LadewskiAthletes Buy Into the System
  2. A Coach That Individualizes Training
  3. A Coach That Knows How to Motivate
  4. A Kick Ass Training Enviroment
  5. 100% Effort

If your training program has all that, then you are headed in the right direction.  Who gives a shit if you use 65.5% ,73%, or 85% on your dynamic day.  Since your strength levels vary from day to day anyway, those percentages are never true.  In anything in life EFFORT is the only thing you can control.  Even results are sometimes beyond our control when we compete against other individuals.  Unfortunately these days many people seem to waste an exorbitant amount of effort arguing on the internet about shit that doesn't matter.  When they could be using that time and energy to get better at the things they brag about being awesome at.  So focus on giving 100% to your training, and compete with yourself.  At the end of the day you will be a lot less stressed out, won't waste time arguing about bullshit, and you will WIN no matter what the scoreboard says.

Stan Efferding




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