I took a pretty long hiatus from blogging to help recenter my own goals and find what I am truly passionate about. It’s been over four years now and I still love the idea of pushing the human body to be stronger. And I have a few people to thank for helping me to be become a better coach and lifter for others as I continue to find order in something so chaotic in nature. My time with Kevin Cann at Precision Powerlifting Systems has opened my eyes to the disorder to training and how effort, consistency, and grit are still incredibly important markers to keep in mind when training.
When I started powerlifting…i.e. squatting, bench pressing, and dead lifting as the centerpiece to my day to day training, I started out the same how many young, broke college kids start out training.
Scouring the internet for free programs and templates.
I honestly think this is a terrible way to start out a potential competitive career in power lifting. But being out of the free program game for awhile I am able to reflect on some cool findings from my time working on them.
I am pretty sure anyone who is ANYONE at least dabbled with the Wendler 5-3-1.https://www.t-nation.com/workouts/531-how-to-build-pure-strength
Basically it’s linear periodization that has you increasing weights every week as the reps go down. Then on the last hard week of the block you do an AMRAP. I made huge strides on this program and this ignited my interest in the sport of powerlifting. I stopped using the program because I wanted to have something that I could train a little more frequently. This program was three training days per week. And for a college kid with way too much time on his hands, three days a week was unacceptable. I brought my squat up into the high 3s, my bench just around 290 (touch and go), and my deadlift at a sub 500. I ran one or two more cycles of it and then moved on. I did not keep good records back then so all of these estimated 1RM are solid guesses.
From there I then moved onto “Boris Sheiko’s” free templates online. Anyone who is also a member of my team, Precision Powerlifting Systems should know why I quoted “Boris Sheiko” there.
Boris Sheiko is a Russian powerlifting coach whose style has been famously seen as high volume and high frequency. Me being coached by someone who was coached by Sheiko himself, I can tell you these programs were actually bastardized and grossly misinterpreted methods of the Sheiko system. But the premise of my training this time was trading low volume, high intensity, for lower intensity, high volume. Needless to say, I found myself repping outs weights I was hitting for singles at the start date on the Sheiko program after three months. The program worked very well. Although I saw some results on it, I was following it to the T, but I felt like it was not giving me enough intensity. So another reason why “free programs” tend to falter is because they are a set of black/white rules and take the human elements of coaching out of it. Plus, I began a job that demanded more hours from me. So I was unable to fulfill the time demands needed by one of his programs. So I changed courses there too.
Then like most young powerlifters who had limited money and connections I moved onto my last and final free program. I went BACK to an intensity driven program. The Johnnie Candito Linear Program. The name explained it all. Each week the volume was dropped in favor of more weight on the bar. I used this program to peak myself for my first meet in October 2014. My meet results as a junior 198.
So I went from low volume, high intensity. To high volume, low intensity. Then back to high intensity, low volume. What was it about this that helped me make progress? I made pretty constant progress throughout the 8-10 months of flip flopping back and forth.
- Was it the program that allowed this to happen?
- Was it the higher frequency?
- Was it the lower intensity and emphasis on better technique?
- Or was it just the fact that I was in my early 20s and had a good work ethic so everything produced a better end product regardless of what is was?
I think it was a combo of the 4 major points…like many things. But this truly begs the question, what program is right for powerlifting? The answer is unfortunately broad in nature.
Every Program Works!
Whether you are a West Sider, or under the tutelage of something completely different. You will see results as long as your program fits BASIC requirements and your lifestyle is conducive with adequate recovery.
- The program should include squatting, bench pressing, and deadlifting to some extent with sets between 60-90%.
- There should be a progression of some kind. Progression in this case can be weight lifted, # of sets performed, or reps completed.
- You should be eating something that resembles adequate protein levels ~6.1.2 grams of protein/lb of body weight. And enough calories so that you do not see any large spikes in one’s body weight either which way.
- Averaging 6-9 hours of sleep per night.
There is not one universal way to train. A model of training should be used for the individual with a specific set of rules based on what the individual aims to improve at in that period of time. This is why different people have success on different programs. As long the principle of overload and specificity are at least somewhat addressed (as in not having your powerlifting athlete train for cycling races) the COACHING aspect will determine a big piece of your athlete’s performance.
Periodization & Specificity Or Something Bigger?
The process of what makes people strong is unpredictable in nature. What allows us build muscle and strength is still something that involves a lot of trial and error. Often times periodization is seen as the solution to organization someone’s prep into competition.
Periodization is a form or resistance training that may be defined as strategic implementation of specific training phases. These training phases are based upon increasing and decreasing both volume (which is reps times sets) and intensity (which is the load or percentage of 1RM) when designing a training program.
The basis of periodization as a whole is a flawed model. Because it does not take the individual into enough consideration. Most periodiziation models use individuals with low baseline fitness & it only tends to track a short period of time (ie ~24 weeks).
- A person of low fitness following any strength program will make progress on just about anything.
- And a period of ~24 weeks is not enough data to truly find what is an effective model for athletes. Because last time I checked most people train for far more than 24 weeks. If we are constructing general workout plans for large groups of people, these guesses into the realms of periodization can start to be scratched. But on the basis of person to person, there are too many variables.
A program planned out far in advance is not well thought out. The program will not be tailored to the unpredictable nature of the coming weeks as this person trains while also being a human in an unpredictable world. We must have a program that respects this fact. Programming should be considered for these below facts just as much (if not more) than the basis on training different rep ranges and intensities at different times of the year.
- Experience level
- Type of job they work (underrated)
- Stress of that job
- Day to day stresses (breakups, moving, etc)
This is why one way to train maybe ideal for one person but not ideal for the other. Both will probably make progress on it to some extent because anything that is put in with effort will yield results. But finding a program that trains the athlete in ways they struggle, but in the same time can be trained in conjunction with their strengths will be a good tool to deliver the best results for the athlete long term.