It is all in the numbers – Ashley Jones

Author Ashley Jones

Hey there guys would love your thoughts and ideas on the following, cheers, ash

Being a former mathematics teacher, numbers have been a part of my life for a number of years. I do love playing with number patterns, sets and reps, loading, calculations of intensities and volumes have been a constant for over 30 years of my working life. In high school I loved differential calculus. In fact, if I had my time over I would probably do a first degree with a double major in applied mathematics and physics, and then a Masters degree based in Biomechanics. I may yet just do a course or 2 part time at Canterbury University in mathematics just to satisfy my needs.

Where is this going? Well I have read a lot of different author’s permutations on what you should be lifting if you lift this amount on Power Clean then you should be able to Dead Lift this amount, probably Poliquin was the most prolific and researched in this area. I know Verkoshansky and Siff touch on it in Super Training as well. I have been asked recently to give my advice on what a certain player should be expected to lift, and I declined with the reason that there are just too many variables to give and accurate number. Also how many times have you been asked what weight should I start on? My reply is always start low and work up but be dependant on form and technique before increasing loading.

So my question to you is, have you found any specific relationships between loads lifted on various exercises, have you found that your athletes can power clean 70% of what they can Dead Lift, or is the Front Squat around 80% of the Back Squat, and how about Standing Military Press relationship to Bench Press, or have you found that the weight you use for push press is very close to the weight you use for your power snatch. Also the big question, that I have often been asked in the gym, if I can do Incline DB Bench Press with 50kg DB’s, then what should my Incline with a bar be for the same number of reps is it double + 10% (110kg).

I remember reading Iron Man magazine, growing up in the 70’s, they had numerous comparison articles on loadings for various major exercises. So if you have any old copies around your homes have a look and see what they had written back then.

Some of the correlations that I have read of or seen in the past are:

Power Clean 70% of Dead Lift

Dead Lift 140% of Power Clean

Good Morning 40% of Back Squat

Power Snatch 70 – 80% of Power Clean

Military Press 60% of Bench Press

Incline Bench Press 80% of Bench Press

Front Squat 70 – 80% of Back Squat

Over Head Snatch Squat 50 – 60% of Back Squat

Push Press equal to Incline Bench Press

Power Snatch equal to Push Press

2.54 cms of depth in the Back Squat equals 5 – 10 kg in loading

Also are the percentages that we have taken as a given for so many years standing the test, if you have an athlete do a true 1RM, can you with all certainty program sets of 6 reps at 80% of that loading. Have you found that different exercises produce different rep counts for different percentages, I have worked off of the following for a long time, but I have not specifically seen a change in relation to upper versus lower body or pulling versus pushing exercises:

95% 1 – 3 reps

90% 2 – 4 reps

85% 3 – 6 reps

80% 5 – 8 reps

75% 7 – 10 reps

70% 8 – 12 reps

So please post your ideas and let us see if we can come up with definitive loading parameters to assist us all in bringing balance into our training sessions and loading or in finding out that there is complete randomness to the numbers for each lift and each individual. If you can confirm some of the one’s I have listed or if you can debunk them that is great as well. Ash


hey Ash

the elegance of numbers – I can see your attraction.

Like you in more modern times it appears Siff and Poliquin are the main proponents in offering proportions.

I have always been interested to see how it all maps onto da vincis Vitruvian man! What happens to my lift proportions if my legs are long and my trunk short!

What about fibre typing? Neural capacity etc?
In sprinters who have a predominance of explosive speed which often is slightly disportionate to their absolute strength I have always observed a real disproportion between explosive lift ability and slower lifts – example deadlifts dont relate well to power clean – bench press doesnt relate well to jerk ..
but they are extremes of the model I am guessing

Interestingly, but probably not unexpectedely given normal population spread in all othe rphysical attributes, fast twtich fibre distribution doesnt have to be even across the body – some athletes have faster legs than arms and vice versa – wonder how that affects it as well

I would love to see how all of this fits into a mathematical model – Ash how about you make this one of your quests for us!!! I guess its going to be a complex one and I am afraid my maths stops at the linear and doesnt stretch to complex alinear models!

Thanks mate – I love the interesting thoughts


Thanks onspeed as usual you take the mere human ramblings of an old strength coach and elevate them to the holy grail of mathematical modelling, it would be quite a project though and very mentally stimulating which is what we all need, perhaps if John Nash or someone of him brilliance would apply themselves to our task at hand then we may have some definitive information, cheers, ash


haha my friend

lets take “mere human ramblings of an old”

and replace with

experienced insights of a youthful !!! ::>>>>

stay well stay strong

if you dont tilt at windmills they only rust up!!



just found this in latest issue –

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 22(6):1947-1949, November 2008.
Ebben, William P; Feldmann, Christina R; Dayne, Andrea; Mitsche, Diana; Chmielewski, Lauren M; Alexander, Paul; Knetgzer, Kenneth J
Ebben, WP, Feldmann, CR, Dayne, A, Mitsche, D, Chmielewski, LM, Alexander, P, and Knetgzer, KJ. Using squat testing to predict training loads for the deadlift, lunge, step-up, and leg extension exercises (squat regression study). J Strength Cond Res 22(6): 1947-1949, 2008-The purpose of this study was to determine whether there is a linear relationship between the squat and a variety of quadriceps resistance training exercises for the purpose of creating prediction equations for the determination of quadriceps exercise loads based on the squat load. Six-repetition maximums (RMs) of the squat, as well as four common resistance training exercises that activate the quadriceps including the deadlift, lunge, step-up, and leg extension, were determined for each subject. Subjects included 21 college students. Data were evaluated using linear regression analysis to predict quadriceps exercise loads from 6RM squat data and were cross-validated with the prediction of sum of squares statistic. Analysis of the data revealed that the squat is a significant predictor of loads for the dead lift (R2 = 0.81, standard error of the estimate [SEE] = 12.50 kg), lunge (R2 = 0.62, SEE = 12.57 kg), step-up (R2 = 0.71, SEE = 9.58 kg), and leg extension (R2 =0.67, SEE = 10.26 kg) exercises. Based on the analysis of the data, the following 6RM prediction equations were devised for each exercise: (a) deadlift load = squat load (0.83) + 14.92 kg, (b) lunge load = squat load (0.52) + 14.82 kg, (c) step-up load = squat load (0.50) + 3.32 kg, and (d) leg extension load = squat load (0.48) + 9.58 kg. Results from testing core exercises such as the squat can provide useful data for the assignment of loads for other exercises.


That is great onspeed I will get all my back copies of journals when I finally get home from Japan on Monday afternoon should be me occupied on catching up till Christmas, thanks for posting up those details,a sh


Great topic/thoughts. I have NO idea about any correlation between any percentages etc.. to your questions Ash, however would love to know if there is any.

I have often wondered how Poliquin came up with his %’s and numbers and how they became “Poliquin Standard”? While they may look good on paper I’ve always thought there is too much variables to have this standardized.

Sorry that I don’t offer any “real life data” with the %’s or numbers but real keen to read more about what you both find in your search.

My personal opionon hearing/learning from Poliquin was that he had %’s for everything from max reps that corralated to other lifts that corralated to %’s in food to %’s to supplements taken. That I wondered how much was “real life” to “personal conviction”. I Don’t want to sound like a Poliquin hater I’m just expressing “my opinion” from “my experiences” from “my set of eyes/beliefs/perceptions/interpretations etc..” at that point and time 

Anyway, Look forward to reading more from you both, Spida


Structural Ballance? Poliquin
Achieving Structural Balance
By Charles Poliquin

Throughout my years in the strength and performance business, I’ve often observed that an athlete’s plateau in strength development is caused by a lack of structural balance. Let’s say, for instance, that you can bench 250 pounds, but unfortunately, you’ve been stuck at that particular weight since the year Donna Summer’s hit “Love to Love You Babe” soared to the top of the disco charts. That wouldn’t be good.

Believe it or not, I meet lots of athletes who are in the same situation. The first thing that I do is look for the aforementioned disproportionate ratios between different exercises. For instance, if a particular athlete’s personal best on the close-grip bench press is 225, but he has to ask the bag boy at the local Piggly-Wiggly to heft the one-gallon jugs of milk into his trunk, something is terribly, terribly wrong. In other words, more than often enough, if you’re failing to make progress in a given lift, the body is protecting itself from injury by neurally inhibiting strength gains.

By working with hundreds and hundreds of elite athletes over the course of two decades, I’ve been able to collect some normative data about how much an athlete should be able to lift, relative to his other lifts. The athletes who achieved those ratios tended to perform better on the international scene and had the lowest incidence of injuries.

For the purpose of this article, I’m only going to discuss the upper extremities. I use the 14-inch grip bench-press test as the reference value for other upper extremity exercises. Even though I acknowledge that this area needs further study, this was the first time that the strength and conditioning coaching community was presented with simple tests to assess the athlete’s optimal strength ratios. This data is presented below in Table 1. You don’t need to spend too much time looking at it right now, because I’ll be coming back to it

I suggest that you figure out your 1RM in all of the described movements and make training adjustments accordingly. For instance, if you test your close-grip bench press 1RM and it’s 225 pounds, you know that you should be able to do eight reps of single-arm external rotations with 20 pounds (225 x 0.09 = 20.25 pounds). Similarly, you should be able to do 187 pounds on the incline barbell press (225 x 0.83 = 186.75 pounds), 182 pounds on supinated chin-ups, 144 pounds on behind-the-neck presses, 104 pounds on Scott barbell curls, and 68 pounds on standing reverse curls.

? All lifts are done on a 40X0 tempo (that’s four seconds to lower the bar, no rest, and an explosive concentric rep).

? Lifts are to be tested after six to eight sets of low-rep (one to three) warm-ups.

? Form, of course, has to be perfect on all lifts.

? Except for the reverse curls, in which I use an Ivanko bar, I use competition Eleiko plates and bars. The Eleiko weights allow me to adjust the weight to the nearest 0.5 kg.

? Not all lifts are tested on the same day. Instead, I prefer to use different ones at various sections of the training process.

Table 1

Optimal strength ratios in the male elite athletes involved in upper body dominated sports as they related to a 1RM, 160 kg performance in the 36 cm close-grip bench press (Poliquin, 1997)

Optimal Strength Ratios

Close Grip Bench Press
Absolute score: 160 kg (352 pounds)
Relative score: 100%

The method:
14-Inch Close-Grip Bench Presses

Incline Barbell Press
Absolute score: 133 kg (293 pounds)
Relative score: 83%

The method:

? The width of the grip should be slightly wider than the bi-acromial width (the distance between the two points of the shoulders), and the elbow angle should be 45 degrees between the forearm and the upper arm in the bottom position.

? The bench is inclined at 45 degrees

Supinated Chin-Ups
Absolute score: 130 kg (286 pounds)
Relative score: 81%

The method:
? The weight recorded is equal to the weight of the athlete, plus whatever additional weight that he or she can pull.

? The chin must clear the bar, and the elbow flexors must make contact with the forearms in the top position.

Behind-the-Neck Presses
Absolute score: 102 kg (224 pounds)
Relative score: 64%

The method:
? The shoulder, when healthy, is designed to do the press behind the neck without any problems. If you can’t do it, you have, as my good friend Gary Roberts of the Hurricanes would say, “some issues.” These issues can range from a tight subscapularis to a weak infraspinatus. Before testing it, fix these problems.

? The bar is pressed from the meaty area of the traps to 99% of elbow extension.

? The grip is as narrow as your present level of hypertrophy will allow

Scott Barbell Curls
Absolute score: 74 kg (163 pounds)
Relative score: 46%

The method:
The grip is slightly narrower than bi-acromial width

Standing Reverse Curls
Absolute score: 48 kg (107 pounds)
Relative score: 30%

The method:
? I use an Ivanko bar for the reverse curls.

? The grip is the mid-grip pronated spacing on the EZ-Bar.

? The back is supported by a Swiss ball to prevent cheating and minimize the stress on the lower back.

External Rotation SA*
Absolute score: 15 kg (33 pounds)
Relative score: 9%
*Done for eight reps

The method:

? A dumbbell is used as the means of resistance.

? I look for 8RM performance. If the athlete does, let’s say, only five reps with a given weight instead of eight reps, I deduct 2% per rep off the 8RM target. For example, if the athlete did six reps with 20 pounds, he is two reps (two reps = 4%) off the 8RM target. Therefore, he would have done 19.2 pounds for eight reps (20 x 0.96 = 19.2 pounds).*

? The elbow is supported on the ipsilateral vastus medialis (on top of the thigh) and should be about two inches lower than the tip of the shoulder.

? It is extremely important that maximal range is achieved in the eccentric range.

*The 0.96 is derived by taking 100 and subtracting 4%. Similarly, if he had only done five reps with 20 pounds, he’d have missed his rep target by three. I would then multiply three reps by 2% to get 6%. If I subtract 0.06 from 1.00, I get 0.94. Therefore, 20 pounds x 0.94 = 18.8 pounds.

You may consider all of this testing to be too much trouble. Fine. At the very least, test your close-grip bench press and your single-arm external rotation. If you’re like the majority of athletes, you’ll find that your rotator cuffs are woefully underdeveloped, and simply including this movement into your routines will dramatically increase your bench press performance.


I think Ash’s numbers are pretty good as an overall guide.

However I think though there are far too many variables in my opinion to properly or accurately determine single percentages for all lifts across all genders in all sports.

I also sincerely doubt some peoples claims to have conducted so much research.

To have covered such a topic or area in sufficient detail across all backgrounds and races would be an incredible project and over an inordinate amount of time…
If this is so they would have to look at the race and heritage of the athlete to be able to distinguish the influence of such. Perhaps in a research setting but I am not aware of such a project.

Perhaps you may be able to determine BANDS into which it should fall – but even then I am not certain it is possible.

The reasons for this are numerous
– Biomechanics – different limb lengths and differing muscle attachments mean that everyone has different leverages
– Different races have different muscle types and different leverages
– There are many different bone shapes and joint constructions which also influence the weight lifted
– Explosive lifts vs slow lifts??

The one of most interest to me is the influence of the actual sport on the balance of muscles.
Even within that the actual influence of position on the muscle balance …

Also in my opinion for athletes the more important thing is muscle tone (which is influenced by many things including strength – but not alone).

I also ask the question why?
Is it for injury prevention?

I think a ratio of lifts is probably useful – but NOT universally applicable.

Also one last point … the ratios between small muscles such as the rotator cuff and bench press is completely misleading and nonsensical.

Now … I better go … have a ‘small meeting’ with some of Ash’s finely tuned athletes tomorrow and I better have our guys structurally balanced for that one!



go well Fergus, always interesting to hear your ideas, and I am sure all our readers welcome your inputs, may the best team win Saturday night, always bet on Black, ash


Great stuff Bris, thanks for posting that article should bring a wealth of interest and comment, cheers, ash


I am with Fergus on this one

Human and athletic and sport related specifci training over years mean that human variation is too great to allow the one model predicts all.

Even in a reasonably homeogenous athletic group like short distance sprinters there are vast differences in exercise performance and ability but a uniform manifestation in a single athletic movement – run like hell to the 100m line!

That said there may be looser correlators that help identify imbalance and injury risk – for me bench press versus prone pull with bodyweight (or added chains) is a good one example that can hlep prevent BP related injuries.

You may be interested (or not – but I will tell you anyway) that in Europe there is now a big research effort going into mapping the human athlete at all levels – from genes to biochemistry to structural arrangements (limb lengths, joint angles, muscle insertions etc) to actual performance outcome …. I suppose its similar to the human genome project. Maybe that will reveal some interesting things? Like Ash I have a fascination with the linkage between different datasets and would love to see a multi-level predictive model that could wide ranging effects not least help in injury prevention.

Until then like most others on here I wont and dont subsecibe to any one doctrine like Poliquin instead treat each of my athletes as the individuals they are.

Ash they say mimicry is a form of compliment – so allow me to compliment you – I would bet on black anyday as well!



Ashley Jones

Ashley Jones specialist in the physical preparation of rugby athletes. He has worked with professional sports teams that include Sydney Kings, Newcastle Knights, Parramatta Eels, Northern Eagles, Crusaders, New Zealand All Blacks, and Australian Wallabies. Irish by Ancestry, Australian by Birth, Japanese by Accident and a Kiwi by Choice.

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