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Creating the RGA-calculator

Background

Back in 2012, we noticed a lack of strength competitions that could compare athletes of different size, gender and age. We initiated a project to fill this void.

To do this we had to establish a reliable method for measuring relative strength. We also had to identify the appropriate exercises. This lead to a few years of research and statistical analysis within strength athletics.

The result; a barbell weight calculator that calculate a barbell load based on body weight, gender and age.

Why the name, Raw Gym Athletics?

RGA stands for the foundation of our concept; raw strength athletics based on classic barbell training.

The Calculator

The RGA Barbell Weight Calculator is developed to compare athletes of different size, gender and age in the squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press and bench row. These exercises were selected for several reasons, but mainly because they’re a great combination for overall strength.

Performance standards (1) within competitive and amateur strength athletics show a relationship between strength, gender and body weight. We assembled the results to allow for an overview of this relationship.

The results were then compared to Wilks (2) where a lot of discrepancies were found. Wilks corresponds best with the equipped bench press, but for raw lifting the deviations are substantial when compared to actual powerlifting records. Due to this marked discrepancy, the RGA barbell weight curves could not use Wilks for more than a reference.

Secondly, Wilks doesn’t make any distinction between exercises. This is a damning flaw, since the relationship between strength development and body weight is not identical for all movements.

Thirdly, Wilks does not take into account, anatomical differences between male and female athletes. Gender has considerable influence on some movements.

After the RGA weight curves were individually defined for each exercise, formulas used for “one-rep max calculators” (e.g. Brzycki, Baechle etc.) were reviewed to get an idea of suitable RGA weight levels.

The below graphs shows how RGA’s barbell weights compare to powerlifting records, a linear growth factor and Wilks. Note that the powerlifting records are proportionally lowered to create a better overview.

(1) Powerlifting competitions etc.
(2) Wilks: Used to compare strength between athletes in powerlifting.

Squat, male:

Squat, female:

Heavy Challenge for men and women:


Update, 2018-01-03:

After just over three years of competition (2014-2017) we went through all results to see if there were any significant deviations or “flaws” in our system.

The first and most significant discrepancy was seen for older and very light lifters, where the two coefficients lowered the weights so much it basically removed “strength” from the equation altogether (especially when combining the two). The conclusion was that the age coefficient for repetitive strength performance on low weights are significantly lower than in power- and weightlifting (1RM) and that the weight curves were too beneficial for very light lifters.

The second and last, but very important deviation was noticed when comparing the results of taller vs shorter competitors. Taller lifters that would get a higher 1RM score than much shorter lifters didn’t stand a fair chance when competing for reps. This fact together with the previous problems resulted in a few adjustments, including a height coefficient.

Introducing RGA Weightlift Challenge

In the same way we created the calculator for Barbell Challenge, we also made one for a what we call Weightlift Challenge. This discipline was launched for the first time December 3’rd 2017 at #fitnessfestivalen, in Stockholm, Sweden. Check out the rules and weights for WL Challenge here: Weightlift Challenge.

References

http://www.powerliftingwatch.com/records

http://www.powerlifting-ipf.com/championships/records.html

http://iof3.idrottonline.se/SvenskaStyrkelyftforbundet/TavlingResultat/Svenskarekord/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilks_Coefficient

http://www.exrx.net/Testing/WeightLifting/StrengthStandards.html

http://www.exrx.net/Calculators/OneRepMax.htm

http://www.strengtheory.com/whos-the-most-impressive-powerlifter

http://www.strengtheory.com/objective-strength-standards