Relative Intensity Rubric

originally Posted on Thursday, February 19, 2015 1:28 PM

When I was a student at Delaware, Tony Decker, the Strength Coach while I was at UD, explained to me that he determined on a scale of 1-5 if an athlete was good enough to add weight to the bar for an exercise.  He also explained to me that the athlete had to be 3 or better for technique AND strength to go up.  he then explained to me what a 1 looked like, a two, etc.About 15 years later, I read Mike Tuscherer's book   Reactive Training Methods, in which Mike discussed RPE and its use to determine if the lifter was using an appropriate weight for the desired stimulus.  In between these extraordinary moments of insight, Many coaches told me that sometimes, 90% looks like 80%; if it does, put more weight on the bar; it's a good day for a PR.  


Since I've started teaching courses, clinics, and coaching education, many times I've shared my own development about viewing lifts, and when the athlete can put more weight on the bar.  I always used a 1-5 scale of strength, technique, and speed (for the Olympic lifts).  In these last six years, I've been asked many times to explain what those numbers look like, and I have never really sat down and codified what I meant.  This morning, however, I finally wrote down the rubric. 


I intend this rubric to be used when access to a tendo unit, barsense, or other quantifiable tool isn't available.  Furthermore, like all rubrics, this should be used by knowledgeable parties who understand tehcnique and weightlifting.  Finally,this rubric is intended as a guide for newer coaches to know when an athlete can add weight to the bar.  In my experience, an athlete needs to be 4 or above on all three phases to certainly add weight, and in at least two of the phases to possibly add weight.  But that's where the art of coaching is, knowing when and what to do.  Here's a blog friendly summary of the rubric:



0=Lift was not completed

1=The lift is slow off the ground  with noticeable slowing of the bar before and during the explosive phase

2=The lift starts too quickly from the ground and the bar noticeably slows past the knee and during the explosive phase

3=Bar speed is appropriate from the floor, but appears to  maintain the same speed throughout the explosive phase

4=Bar speed is appropriate from the floor, and accelerates into the explosive phase, but the rhythm of the lift appears off/ or the acceleration is less than adequate for ideal bar height to enable an easy recovery

5=Bar Speed is appropriate from the floor, the bar powerfully accelerates in the explosive phase, that explosion contributes to the final height of the bar and enables recovery


0=Lift was not completed

1=Obvious technical errors present severe risk of injury to the athlete; the lift is completed only because it is extremely light compared to the athletes ideal capacity

2=Technical errors prevent risk of injury and/or risk of a failed lift; the lift was saved due to its light weight or the extraordinary athletic accomplishment of the athlete

3=Multiple minor technical errors in the lift, but none to the safety detriment of the athlete; the lift was made because the technique was good, not solely because the athlete is strong and fast and lifting light weight

4=One minor technical error in the lift occurs which causes the athlete to make a correction during one of the phases of the lift; without this correction, the lift would be missed, but the athlete saved the lift

5=No obvious technical errors, the lift is made with confidence and no instability in the catch or recovery portion


0=Lift was not completed

1=Pulling the weight from the floor is a struggle, the athlete cannot maintain positions in each phase of the lift

2=The athlete cannot maintain position in one or two phases of the lift, and there is a struggle to pull from the floor and to recover from the squat position

3=The athlete maintains positions throughout the lift, but cannot attain ideal positions due to systemic weaknesses

4=The athlete maintains positions throughout the lift with only slight variations which cause an adjustment in the athlete’s technique; athlete clearly has an excess of strength which could produce more bar speed at this intensity

5=The athlete maintains all positions ideally throughout the lift, and an excess of strength capacity clearly exists for an increased in weight with little to no detriment to technique or speed


Michael McKennaComment