Hitting Your Numbers


‘Hey, what happens if I’m not hitting what I expect to hit for my percentages during a strength cycle?’

It’s a pretty common question, so I’m going to do my best to tackle it in a way that is hopefully helpful to you all!

First of all, doing any sort of percentage-based strength template is an educated guessing game, and there are many factors that can cause your performance to deviate from the expectations of a pre-written plan. With that said, the important thing to keep in mind is not to let it ruin your training! Program designs are written to elicit an adaptation in an athlete, and everyone needs slightly different stimuli in order to get those adaptations, therefore there is no such thing as a group program design that is perfectly dialed in for everyone!

Athlete A may be able to do 12 reps of a back squat at 70%, rest 2 minutes, and repeat it 5 times.

Athlete B may get 10 reps @ 70%, need 5 minutes rest and is only able to do that 3 times.

Athlete C may not back squat safely enough to do that much volume or to even hit depth on a single rep, so a different approach must be taken entirely in order to give the individual a response that is most appropriate for them and to allow them to progress to a balanced, functional state of fitness over time—single leg work or tempo goblet squats, to name a few possibilities.

An athlete’s training age, how true or recent of a previous test they are basing percentages off of, neuromuscular efficiency, mechanical issues, and structural limitations all play a huge part in what someone might be able to expect to hit. Plus, layer on top of that more day-by-day factors like what your sleep, rest, recovery, hydration, and fueling protocols prior to the training session look like, and you start to realize what a vast difference all of these factors make by themselves, let alone in combination with one another.

So, here’s some advice moving forward, not only for this specific phase of our periodization but for training in general:

1. Pay attention to the aforementioned factors as best you can; they all play a part, and we can cut out the guesswork by utilizing the data that is available to us rather than being oblivious to it.
2. When things are dialed in and feeling great, go for it! Capitalize on those days where things feel lighter, you feel faster, etc. and maximize your training session. While you’re at it, see if you can pinpoint just what factor or factors made you feel particularly dialed-in for this training session.
3. When things are off and you’re just not 100%, do the best you can and make adjustments. Put some thought in figuring out why the session wasn’t as ‘on’ as you would have hoped it to be, and then let it go. It’s not worth ruining your mood or setting a tone for the rest of the week; hit it as best you can and leave it in the past.
4. Remember that everything is what you make of it. The hour is yours to train as hard as you can, paying attention to every detail, or to simply have fun with it and exert a moderate effort. You’re free to train as you want in this regard so long as you are safe and doing what is appropriate for you!

I hope that explanation helps, and I hope that it sheds some light on the fact that logical progressions—be it strength, aerobic, or anaerobic—are always going to have many factors that will play major roles in an individual’s progress. Pay attention and control as much of these factors as you can, and adjust as you need to. Most importantly, stay safe and enjoy the process. This is the beauty of doing a progression of sorts in your program design—it allows you to start learning more about your capacity and paying attention to the different variables. Just doing something random day after day doesn’t allow you to have the same opportunity to really figure things out.

You will always go through phases of focus, commitment, and interests that will ebb and flow. It’s completely normal and acceptable as a recreational CrossFitter to do just that. Just remember to enjoy your training, as it is written for your success and to keep you on your path to our collective goals we value:  being healthy, functional, mobile, and safe. You aren’t able to enjoy the things you like if you’re hurt doing a bad training plan.

Keep up the great work!


—Coach Phil