“A.S. Prilepin’s Scientific – Practical Contribution to the Intensification of the Modern Training of Weightlifter

“A.S. Prilepin’s Scientific – Practical Contribution to the Intensification of the Modern Training of Weightlifter

(On the 20th Anniversary of His Death)”

Petr Poletayev

Olymp:3 – 4:21-24:2005

Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr.

Sportivny Press©

The name of merited coach of the USSR Alexander Sergeyevitch Prilepin is connected with a 10 year history of Soviet weightlifting (1975 – 1985). He was head coach of the national junior team from 1975 – 1980 and head coach of the national senior team from 1980 – 1985. The USSR earned 24 gold, 19 silver and 4 bronze medals in the total at the junior world championships and 20 gold, 15 silver and 3 bronze medals at the world senior championships, including 5 gold and 3 silver medals at the 1980 Olympics.

Prilepin’s principal achievements were his training of distinguished junior athletes who became junior world champions or medalists; some of whom went on to become senior world and Olympic champions or medalists after his death. Of these athletes, 12 were “apostles” of Alexander Sergeyevitch Prilepin; pupils of his who became powerhouses of the weightlifting world are Olympic champions Yurik Vardanyan, Yuri Zakharevitch, Leonid Taranenko, Oksen Mirzoyan, Israel Arsamakov; Olympic silver medalists Yurik Sarkisyan and Alexander Pervy; world champions Anatoli Pisarenko, Viktor Sots, Pavel Syrchin, Sergei Arakelov, Vyacheslav Klokov.

Even more distinguished athletes were under Prilepin’s tutorage in  the final stage of his coaching career. These were Olympic champions Kanybek Osmanaliyev, Viktor Mazin, Sultan Rakhmanov, Pavel Kuznyetsov; Olympic silver medalist Igor Nikitin; world champions Valeri Kravchuk and Anatoli Khrapaty.

Seven of the aforementioned athletes are Russians; they are Yuri Zakharevitch, Israel Arsamakov, Pavel Syrchin, Sergei Arakelov, Vyacheslav Kloko, and Igor Nikitin.

In order to avoid a statistical overload in this article, it is sufficient to note that numerous medals and records were achieved over the course of many international competitions such as the European, Junior Friendship, and the 1984 “ideological alternative” Olympic games in Varna. Furthermore, it was at these final competitions for Prilepin as head coach that the Soviet weightlifters reached their greatest success by establishing an unprecedented 27 world records.

A.S. Prilepin was a weightlifting specialist distinguished not only as a coach but as a teacher, researcher, and organizer. He introduced significant, unorthodox ideas to improve the training of the national select teams. For example, he brought together a collective of like minded coaches to work independently from the personal coaches. They were  E. M. Ektov and O. G. Oisarevsky (Russia), A.L. Lobachev (Byelorussia), A.V. Rykov (Ukraine), R.A. Arutunyan (Armenia). He assembled a scientific team headed by S.I. Lelikov who brought with him M.S. Gisin, V.S. Kopysov, S.V. Stapanova; these authors were working then as coaches of the Olympic reserves. The state trainer was Y.A. Sandalov. The organization of the team’s training was structured along a unified planning of the workouts with respect to the exercises and a loading range, which took into account individual differences and potential.

It would be difficult to cover all of the aspects of the distinguished A.S. Prilepin’s activities with respect to the 120 year history of Russian weightlifting and the 20 years (b. 1941 – d. 1985) since his passing within the scope of this article. We would need to write a book to accomplish that. The task of this article is enormous as it is  a brief discussion of Prilepin’s scientific and  methodological contribution to the theory and practice of weightlifting to which he devoted his entire life.

The Current State of the Debate About the Parameters of Near Limit and Limit Loading

V. M. Zatsiorsky {9} noted, as far back as 1961, that weightlifters should work with near  maximum weights. Sport physiologist G. B. Chikvaidze (1961) {22} and D. Mateyev (1961) {11} produced scientific substantiation for this viewpoint by confirming that the maximum effect in training for strength was to be obtained with individually determined, for each athlete, near limit and limit weights. A.S. Prilepin deserves credit for his enormous contribution to the successful inculcation of this approach into the modern training of the best weightlifters. In order to get into the specifics of this approach, we must  consider briefly its basic stages.

N.I. Shatov (1958) {23} in his role as the USSR national coach recommended 5 – 6 sets of 2 – 3 repetitions per set with 80 – 85% weights to develop technique.

In 1964, A.N. Vorobeyev {5}, the future UISSR national coach actively encouraged maintaining the intensity and inculcating this method into the training of the national team. He believed that strength increases are greatest when one trains with limit weights. He recommended that one lift 2 – 3 limit weights for one repetition each in a workout as this, at the time, was most common. He considered 2 – 3 repetitions per set the best and recommended training frequently with 5 – 6 sets of 3 – 4 repetitions. Vorobeyev said that the sportsman should add 2.5 – 5 kg to the barbell if he was able to perform the aforementioned loading easily.

F. F. Bogdanovsky (1962) {3} recommended training with (95 – 97%), after which a near limit weight of 90%, that he considered the optimum, could be lifted easily for two repetitions.

Y. P. Vlasov (1963) {4} recommended training with big weights, 6 – 9 sets of 1 – 2 repetitions per set (including warm-ups) which was  based on his experiences.  If one takes into account 3 – 4 of the sets were warm-ups, then there were 3 – 5 sets with big weights.

Beginning with the 70s, the methodical weightlifting literature was predominantly concerned with the initial use of artificial stimulants and anabolics; lower intensity training loads were also recommended.

A.S. Medvedyev (1965) {12}, who took over as head coach of the national team after the Tokyo Olympiad and returned to this role before the Seoul Olympics, warned of the danger of  lifting weights in excess of 90%, especially before important competitions. Based on his analysis of the training of the national team, he recommended no more than 13 lifts with the aforementioned weights in the snatch during the competition month, even though certain lifters, himself included, did 15 – 22 of these lifts {12}. Later on Medvedyev (1986) {13} conceded that the intensity of training reaches the highest level at the high sport mastery stage in the preparation of the national team. Nevertheless, he was opposed to this and, consequently, planned the fewest number of lifts in the near limit and limit intensity zones in comparison with the program for the lesser qualified lifters (table 1).

Table 1. The distribution of the yearly volume of loading (number of lifts) in the last three zones of intensity depending on the lifter’s qualification in the piecemeal training programs. A.S. Medvedyev (1986) {13}


Qualification 80 – 85% 90 – 95% 100%
Class II 29 11
Class I 28 8 1
CMS 25 4
Stage of High SportMastery 19 2

The figures put forth by Medvedyev contradict those of R.A. Roman (1969) {18} at the end of the 60s and other specialists, according to whom the greatest training effect is obtained with the 90 – 100% weights; however, lower class lifters should perform fewer lifts with near limit and limit weights. By way of comparison we analyzed the actual training obtained later by R.A. Roman (1986) {19} from the lifters’ diaries (table 2).

Table 2. Mean monthly loading of 90 – 100% lifts in the snatch exercises depending on the sportsman’s qualification and weight class in the preparatory (PP) and competition (CP) periods. R.A. Roman (1986) {19}


Qualification Wt. class NL/PP NL/% NL/CP NL/%
Classes III – II 52,56,60,67.5 kg 13 5% 24 13%
75 and 82.5 kg 10 5% 20 11%
90 and 90+ kg 7 3% 17 9%
Master of Sport 52,56,60,67.5 kg 32 8% 34 11%
75 and 82.5 kg 28 7% 28 9%
90,100 and 110 kg 24 6% 25 8%
Ov. 110 kg 13 3% 15 5%

A.S. Prilepin resolved this contradiction and verified the effectiveness of training with 90% weights in the volumes he recommended, which were significantly greater than that of the other specialists’ optimum parameters for sportsmen of different qualification and age. He first conducted a scientific pedagogical experiment with class II junior lifters (1974) {16, 17}; then he utilized the training model he obtained for a “natural pedagogical experiment” with members of the national junior teams (1975 – 1980). He showed that the results of all of the sportsmen confirmed the effectiveness of his parameters of loading with near limit weights.

We examined in detail these parameters from the beginning of the end of the review on the recommendations of his predecessors, which was independent of the fact that when they drifted away from this argument of training with near limit and limit weights, up until his experiment and after.

We further analyzed A.S. Medvedyev’s piecemeal programs {15} dissecting the parameters of his planned loading for the high sport mastery group with respect to individual workouts in the snatch with 85 – 100% (table 3).

Table 3. The loading in the classic snatch (in one workout with near limit and limit weights and the distribution by weeks, periods, and stages of preparation in the piece meal programs for the high sport mastery group.) {15}


Prep period #week Snatch workout in one session #lifts
5 85 (5 x 2)* 10
6 90 (2 x 1), 100 (2 x 1 4
7 90 (5 x 1) 5
Comp. Period 8 90 (1 x 1) 2
9 90 (4 x 1) 4
12 90 (5 x 1) 5
13 90 (3 x 1) 3
15 90 (4 x 1) 4
18 85 (2 x 2), 90 (2 x 1), 95 (2 x 1) 8
19 90 (3 x 1) 3
Prep period 27 90 (4 x 2) 8
33 90 (5 x 1) 5
34 90 (5 x 1) 5
Comp. Period 40 90 (4 x 1) 4
43 85 (2 x 2), 90 (2 x 1), 95 (2 x 1) 8
44 90 (3 x 1) 4
48 90 (2 x 1), 100 (1 x 1) 3
49 90 (3 x 1) 3

* denotes the weight as a percentage of maximum followed by the number of sets then the number of repetitions.

Let’s turn our attention to the bigger picture of the maximum parameters of 10 lifts per workout with 5 sets of 2 repetitions per set with 85%; 8 lifts per workout in series of 2 repetitions per set with 85% and single lifts with 90% and 95%. The noticeable increase in the maximum intensity of individual workouts planned, only in four workouts a year, was inspired by the positive results obtained by A.S. Prilepin when he was the national coach. A.S. Medvedyev (1986) {13} referred to the aforementioned results when he observed that weightlifters executed 20 – 30 lifts with near limit and limit weights in the preparatory period and 40 – 60 lifts, and even more, in the competition period.

The aforementioned loading comprised 300 – 600 lifts of which approximately 2/3 or 200 – 400 lifts were in the snatch. Prior to this 200 – 400 lifts with near limit weights were done in all of the snatch and clean and jerk exercises.

In order to fully grasp Prilepin’s contribution to the intensification of the high class weightlifter’s training, we must go back to the prior stages of the preparation of the national teams.

According to Medvedyev’s data, when he was the national coach and the manager  (A.V. Chernyak 1973) {14}, the total number of lifts with 90 – 100% weights in the year cycle of training of the national team diminished by 15% for the 1969 – 1972 Olympic cycle, relative to the 1965 – 1968 cycle. The maximum number of the aforementioned lifts was 304 and occurred in 1966; however, this figure diminished to 191 lifts when R.A. Roman was the national coach in 1969 which was the minimum of this cycle. The number of near limit weights increased a bit to 250 lifts in 1970, but it fell to 216 lifts in 1972.

The relative portion of these lifts dropped by 7% in the general volume which was reached in 1968 and by 2% in 1972. I.S. Kudyukov (1976) {10}, the USSR national coach from 1974 – 1980, recommended that 90% weights in the snatch and the clean and jerk exercises make up 3 – 4% of the general volume of loading in these exercises.

So, the greatest effectiveness of the near limit loading in the training of the weightlifters up to the mid 70s was studied. L.N. Sokolov (1974) {20), a technique specialist, said that the use of large loading “diminishes the sportsman’s speed which has a negative effect on the improvement in the tempo exercises.” However, in our opinion the lower speed of movement in the lifting of big weights can be indicative of an optimization of the technique of the competition exercises, i.e., with maximum force.*

Nevertheless, some distinguished sportsmen have trained with a higher intensity. For example, Karl Utsar (110 kg) the world record holder in the snatch of 1970 (the world record then was 165 kg), according to V.P. Agudin (1973) {1}, employed large, near limi, and limit weights (over 80%) with significantly more lifts than was the norm for the national team of that era i.e., 38.5% of the general number of lifts, but +90% weights were 13% of his volume. A closer look at the article by Agudin (from Utsar’s training diary) revealed that this sportsman completed six attempts with near limit weights, including 4 lifts with 88%, and then one each with 94% and 97%. He did two repetitions per set with 85% weights.

N.I. Zablotzsky (1973, 1974) published articles about the training of his top lifters. He indicated that the two week micro cycles of the preparatory and competition periods of master of sport international class Yuri Yablonovsky and Nikolai Varavy {7} were in conformity with those of Alexandr Kidyaev and Valentin Mikhailov {8}. His data obtained from Yablonovsky’s training diary showed that 8.5% of his lifts were with weights in excess of 90%. This volume was greater than that recommended by the national coaches of that period. The maximum loading of individual training sessions in the classic snatch with near limit weights varies from 87% – 94%; the basic design of which was 5 sets of one lift each. USSR record holder in the lightweight class Valentin Mikhailov did 3 sets of 2 lifts per set with 85% in the snatch.

According to V. I. Alexeyev (1976) {2}, the head coach of the USSR and CIS national teams (1990 – 1992, the optimum training in the snatch for him was 20 lifts with near limit weights (90% and higher) for a month cycle in the period leading up to 1969. The maximum number of lifts in a four week meso cycle was for him 43 lifts which he considered a wrong approach because of his lagging snatch results. The mean number of lifts per set was 2 in both the preparatory and competition periods.

Alexeyev changed his training methodology radically in the second stage (beginning in October 1969) of his training. He increased the average number of repetitions per set to 4 – 5 in the preparatory and 3 – 4 in the competition periods respectively. The portion of near limit lifts was reduced. This method was effective but to a lesser extent for the snatch. The experiences of this distinguished athlete were not useless, especially in the eyes of A.S. Prilepin, who believed they were of value to athletes of various qualification age groups and weight class.  

The Innovative Scientific Contributions of A.S. Prilepin

A.S. Prilepin showed that the 90% lifts employed as the fundamental weights for a training session were the most effective. According to his data {16}, one should do 7 – 10 lifts in the exercises in one workout. The training effect would be diminished if one did only 4 lifts. The optimum loading for the snatch was 10 lifts. Later on he increased the maximum loading in one workout to 12 lifts with 90% weights, for 2 repetitions per set, in his work with the national teams. {25} Contrast this program with that of A.S. Medvedyev’s (1965) {12} who planned only 12 lifts of 90% for the whole month. Prilepin planned 50 – 60 lifts with 90% weights in the snatch for the month. This loading comprised approximately 25% of all of the lifts with fundamental weights (70 – 90%). Furthermore, 14% of those lifts were with 90%+ weights.

Therefore, the total loading of limit and near limit weights in the individual exercises comprised about 40%.This was a higher level than previous recommendations {10,12,21}.

Subsequently, Prilepin demonstrated, scientifically {6,16,17} and in practical application (1975 – 1985), that workouts where a fundamental weight with the optimum number of lifts was more effective than a tiered distribution of increasing weights for 1 -3 lifts per set and an abrupt conculsion with the heaviest weight. However, variations of the loading within the ranges of 70 – 90% weights can be applied in individual workouts and exercises within a workout.

According to Prilepin’s data (1975) {6}, the optimum number of lifts with 70% was 15 – 20 and 15 lifts with 80%.

Prilepin’s training method was inculcated into the training (and further perfected) of the national teams. It was verified in actual practice throughout the entire range of planned fundamental weights including intensities of 75, 85 and 95%, with the optimum number of lifts planned for each intensity. The individual peculiarities of each sportsman were taken into account with respect to the applicability of the loading. A.S. Prilepin never overloaded an athlete and always trained each to his highest sport results. This was a great coach.


A.S. Prilepin was the first to research the optimum training load for each weightlifting exercise of the weightlifter’s workouts. His scientific and practical application experiments lead to his development of an effective training method for weightlifters of various qualifications, including juniors and senior members of the national teams. The features of this method are as follows:

1)    a significantly higher intensity of loading in which the most effective lifts are with near  limit weights;

2)    the application of the optimum number of sets and repetitions with a fundamental weight within a workout, varied in individual exercises, workouts, and periods of training.

The organizational methodological achievements of A.S. Prilepin, inculcated into the training of the national teams, are connected with a unified, scientifically substantiated method of planning. Prilepin also developed the creation of a cadre of coaches, independent of the athletes’ personal coaches,  and a selection of a varied group of sport scientists, all of whom were involved in perfecting the training process.

Of the nationals teams (1975 – 1985), Soviet weightlifters had their greatest success with A.S. Prilepin at the helm.

*See our article “A Comparative Pedagogical and Kinematic Analysis of the Structure of the Snatch.”