Originally posted at www.t-nation.com
There are two types of powerlifters in the world:
1) Powerlifters who powerlift
2) Strength athletes who powerlift
A powerlifter is someone who’s focused solely on increasing the bottom line: their total. This could be via strength gains, technical improvements, or simply getting more out of their gear.
A strength athlete who powerlifts doesn’t care as much about his competitive total as he does about getting stronger week in and week out. Also, he probably doesn’t emphasize the pure powerlifts as much as other movements.
For a long time, I associated myself with group number two. Being an athlete my entire life, I thrived on getting stronger in a ton of different movements. However, there was a period of time where my only focus was on bringing up the competitive lifts. I figured if I was going to continue doing meets, I might as well sell out and try to get as strong as possible.
After what amounted to five years of dedicated powerlifting training, I needed a change. My lifts were still going up, but I needed something different: physically, mentally, and most importantly, psychologically.
The resulting program is this random, hodge-podge mix of influences — Alwyn Cosgrove, Bill Hartman, Eric Cressey, Mike Boyle, and Geoff Neupert all come to mind. Each of these guys influenced how I brought all this together.
General Thoughts on the Program
When I developed the routine below, I had several goals for myself:
1. Start training in all planes of movement again. I’d seriously neglected overhead pressing and pulling in my powerlifting-specific days.
2. Maintain my strength as best as possible, maybe even improve it.
3. Improve my GPP (general physical preparedness) and “wind.”
4. Decrease my body fat which had gone up slightly due to increased work demands and a decrease in training time.
5. Most importantly, I wanted to feel like an athlete and have some fun with training again.
The program I describe below isn’t for the weak of heart. If you push yourself, it’s brutally hard and each workout should test you, both mentally and physically.
A Few Disclaimers
If you don’t have an adequate strength base, you probably won’t get as much out of this program as someone who does. You need to be able to push some serious weights while minimizing the rest to get maximal benefits.
As well, if you’ve been doing periods of higher rep work, this program isn’t the one for you. This is better suited to someone who’s transitioning from lower volume work and wants to stay strong while improving work capacity.
|1) Squat||1||5||120 seconds|
|2A) Conventional Deadlift||2-3||5||90-120 seconds|
|2B) Pull-ups||2-3||AMRAP||90-120 seconds|
|3A) Glute-Ham Raise||3||6-8||90 seconds|
|3B) Weighted Push-ups||3||6-8||90 seconds|
|4) Reverse Crunch||3||10||60 seconds|
|5) Finisher||8-10 minutes total|
You can front squat, back squat, or box squat; the choice is yours. Just make sure to work up to a 5RM and try to add pounds each and every week. This alone should get you breathing heavy.
The first superset (conventional deads and pull-ups) is a real killer, especially after squatting heavy. If you’re not used to pulling on the same day you squat, start off intentionally light on the deads in week one.
Pull-ups should still be performed in the 6-8 rep range. If you can do more than this with bodyweight, add external resistance or make it more challenging (towels, mixed grip variations, etc.).
The same thing goes for the push-ups. This isn’t high-rep endurance training! Whether you use bands, chains, an X-Vest, or whatever else, keep the reps in the 6-8 range. For variations, check out this article.
The finisher is what seals the deal. You can choose whatever medium you want (kettlebells, bodyweight, sled dragging, etc.), just make sure you work your ass off for 8-10 minutes before you call it a day.
Optional treadmill interval work, 1:3 work-to-rest ratio. No more than 20 minutes in the gym!
For those who want to get really lean, throw at least one (if not two) treadmill interval sessions into your training program.
|1A) RDL||2-3||8-10||90 seconds|
|1B) Military Press||2-3||8-10||90 seconds|
|2A) Walking Lunge||2-3||8-10||90 seconds|
|2B) Low Cable Row||2-3||8-10||90 seconds|
|3A) Pull-throughs||2-3||8-10||90 seconds|
|3B) Face Pulls||2-3||10-12||90 seconds|
|4A) Dead Bugs||2||10||None|
|4B) Low Trap Raise||2||10||None|
|4C) Direct Cuff Work||2||10||60 seconds|
This day is generally harder for those with low work capacity as it minimizes the rest periods and generally has more reps per set. Be wary of this and start lighter than you think you should!
The last series of the day is a prehab circuit. You get some “dead bugs” in and then follow them immediately with low trap raises and some direct rotator cuff work. Rest 60 seconds and then go through this circuit one more time.
Dead Bug 1
Dead Bug 2 (arm movement with legs)
Dead Bug 3 (knees/feet start in air at 90 degrees)
Dead Bug 4 (same as 3, arms move with legs)
|1) Max Effort Deadlift Variation||1||1||120 seconds|
|2A) Bench Press||2-3||6-8||90-120 seconds|
|2B) Step-ups||2-3||6-8||90-120 seconds|
|3A) Inverted Row||2-3||AMRAP||90 seconds|
|3B) Single-Leg RDL or Ball Leg Curl||2-3||6-8||90 seconds|
|4) Front and Side Pillars||1||Max time||60 seconds|
|5) Finisher||8-10 minutes total|
If you thought the Tuesday workout was hard, this one isn’t much better! You’re going to be using a lot of muscle in this workout.
For the max effort deadlift, I like to rotate my exercises from week to week. I used reverse band deadlifts, deadlifts against mini-bands, etc.
Max time on front and side pillars doesn’t mean to use sloppy form! Keep things tight and in line throughout. When quality breaks, you’re done.
The finisher is back on the list today as well. The same rules apply, although I like to use a different medium on this workout than I did in the previous one (e.g. if I use kettlebells Tuesday, I’ll use a sled today).
Optional treadmill interval work, 1:3 work to rest ratio
Optional arm isolation work
No more than 20 minutes of total training time!
Again, throw at least one or two treadmill interval sessions into your training program if you’re trying to get really lean.
I typically allow some time for direct arm work on this day, even if it’s just skull crushers supersetted with dumbbell curls. Just be smart and don’t stay in the gym too long today!
General Program Notes
• If you’re smart, there’s a ton of different ways to progress on this program. Maybe you only do the minimum number of sets on the first week, and then add a set the next week. Or you add weight one week and then add a set the next. Or, finally, you could do all the sets and reps but work to shorten the rest periods. I leave a lot open to interpretation so you can customize the program into something you’ll “enjoy.”
• To get maximum benefit, you must push the loading! If you’re doing sets of 8 but you could be doing 12, you’re not going to get the most out of the program.
• If you’re really pushing your training, you better be smart about your recovery. Get plenty of rest, hop on the foam roller a couple of times a week, and be sure your diet is dialed in. Just remember that the harder you train, the harder you have to recover!
• Here’s what I’d recommend with regards to supplementation, depending on what your goals of the program are:
For those looking to increase work capacity
• Surge/Power Drive post-workout
• Low-Carb Metabolic Drive
For those looking to decrease body fat
• Low-Carb Metabolic Drive or BCAA’s post workout
• Low Carb Metabolic Drive/BCAA’s throughout the day
• I do a combination of Magnificent Mobility and Inside-Out movements prior to all training sessions. Some additional mobility work on off-days is fine as well, as it’ll help flush metabolic waste and get you feeling better overall.
• Watch out for all the posterior chain loading in this program as it can catch up to you. Start intentionally light on the first week until you see how your body responds.
• The most important thing with this program (and any other), is to train your ass off and enjoy yourself. There’s a definite satisfaction in pushing your limits and achieving success. Put the work in!