What is percentage work?
First let’s talk about what percentage lifting or work is. This is lifting weights that are lower than your 1 repetition max. So if you are doing 5 repetitions, you will most likely be using weight that is 70-80% of that 1 repetition max. So the weights are not the maximum, can be completed with good form but is still challenging. Now you may think I should push myself, so why shouldn’t I try to do the maximum weight every time? I’ll explain below.
Testing vs. Gaining Strength
When you are always trying to perform your 1 rep max, you are testing your strength. But when you decide to do lighter manageable weights (also called percentage work), you are building that strength. Disclaimer, I am not saying to never push your max. I am advocating for training with manageable weights, performed with good technique and strategically working up to the maximum weight. If you take the time to gain strength and then test it, you will be further ahead than just testing it every single week.
Engraining Good Technique
Using slightly lower weight than your max is essential because it will help you work on technique. Doing complex movements like the clean and snatch require a lot of technique. Using lower weights (percentage work) can help you build muscle memory of good technique. When you lift maximum weight, it is much easier for the body to break down. You want your body to remember the good technique, not the bad form.
As you continually train, your body will gradually get fatigued. I’m not talking about getting tired after doing 5 reps, I’m talking about training fatigue. This type of fatigue can occur after training consistently hard for multiple weeks. This can range anywhere from 2 weeks and up, depending on your level./ So during this times, it is even more important to stick to the percentage work. As you accumulate fatigue, it will be harder to push those maximum weights. Working with the lower weights will help still build strength and help you continue training for a long time, which is the name of the game!