The Straight Shooting Approach to Powerlifting

June 10, 2004 10:20 AM

There are many methods and training systems in PL today. A few of them are very successful, like the WSB, the Smolov, the RSR, the Sheyko, the Korte, the 5x5, and even the old pyramid system. Every system works for a beginner, but once he advances more strength gains are difficult to achieve.

Why? After a lifter has reached the advanced state his body has adapted to his current training, not his genetic limit (I've often heard this excuse). Change is in order and just changing the weights is not enough. If you take a closer look at the WSB, the Smolov, and the Sheyko you can see there is more to it than just a weight increase. These programs vary the intensity, the volume, the speed of the reps, and assistance exercises. Not two workouts in a row with the same set/rep scheme. The body always gets a new stimulus. Let us review one way to manipulate these variables.


But what is "low", "high", "med", and "max"?

Volume. The total number of times the weight has been lifted. Sets multiplied by reps. Expressed as the number of reps.

15 reps or lessLow
20 repsMed
25 repsHigh
30 and more repsMax

INTENSITY is expressed as a percentage of one's max.

70%1RM and lessLow

TRAINING LOAD. It is the combination of INTENSITY and VOLUME. The TRAINING LOAD is what determines how much fatigue you will experience after training, and how long it will persist.

In a well-organised training program, sessions with high intensity and high volume will not often occur. Regular training with high loads that induce fatigue for several days may lead to overtraining indicated by soreness, stiffness, reduction in eagerness to train, and injury.

On the other side loads which do not result in any appreciable fatigue do not provide any stimulus to the body to adapt. However light training does have value -recuperation after heavy loading.

By varying the amount of loading in training, the PLer can force adaptation by the body and allow for recuperation.



Much has been written about training the weak points. My experience taught me to concentrate on my weaknesses. I usually start a cycle with 75% strength training dedicated to the weak points and 25% to technical training on the competition lifts. Eventually I work up to 25% strength training and 75% technical training. Strength training loads are 70-90% for 5 sets of 3 reps. The loads for the competition powerlifts are 70-95% for 5 sets of 1 rep.

My weak points are typical: the lower back, hams, and abs for the SQ and the DL; the triceps and front deltoid for the BP. My drills I find helpful in fixing my weaknesses are GMs, stiff-legged DLs, DLs standing on blocks, one-arm DLs, side bends, floor presses and lockouts, MPs, snatches and swings with KB's.


Here is an example (modified Sheyko). It is not carved in stone.

2 5x70%, 5x72,5%, 5x75%, 5x72,5%, 5x70%
45x70%, 75%, 80%, 75%, 70%

Week Sets/Reps/Intensity
6 4x3x75 4x2x85
7 3x4x75 6x4x80
8 4x3x75 3x2x90
9 3x4x75 6x4x80
10 2x3x75 2x2x95
11 Competition/one rep max test


A lot of PLers wonder why they make no progress, no matter how hard they train. The explanation -too much HIT or other bodybuilding nonsense. These methods are a fast way to overtraining, bad form or even injuries.

Most training should be done with 65-85% of your current max. More will affect the nervous system negatively. Test the lifts or enter a meet every 10 to 12 weeks.

In the powerlifts sets with more than five reps are not necessary. Often too many reps only lead to soreness and bad form. SQUEEZING OUT EXTRA REPS HAS NO TRANSFER TO THE MAX SINGLE.

There is no excuse for bad technique. The best way is to train technique is first in the training session. Start with light weights to get into the right groove. Then go up but only as long as you can maintain good form. If you have some problems with your form do some extra training with 50-70% weights.

Start with the basics and add stuff further on. Go from simple stuff to more demanding as your technique improves. When strength levels go up, more volume can be added to each workout. If you get bored mentally, bring in new assistance exercises.

Train less per workout but train more often. Many beginners and advanced lifters pick up routines from a world class lifter. Using Anthony Clark?s bench program does not give you an 800 bench. Many times it does not add any pounds to your bench at all.

The squat and deadlift can be trained easily 2-3 times a week. The bench even more, if necessary. The most important thing is: don't try to do a lot in one training session. A basic 4 times per week plan works nicely. Add some training for technique and weak muscle groups and progress will follows. Powerlifting does not require big sacrifices or a lot of money but patience is a must.