Powerlifting, Programme

An easy way to set personal bests in all your lifts in 12 weeks

Lots of people like to think that getting stronger or programming is some kind of dark art or super difficult problem to overcome.  That is a load of horse shit, getting stronger is simple you need to

  • Set a realistic target
  • Set smaller target and time frames
  • Start light
  • Keep the momentum going
  • Get out when the going is good

What I am going to do in this article is show you how to set out a basic 12-week program that will end in personal bests for pretty much everyone reading this article.  Sure it will not work for everyone but it will work for the majority.

Setting a realistic target.

Before you get on and look at the program or how that is going to be put together the first thing you need to do is decide where you want to end up and then work backward.  This is always the best way to go about reaching a training goal.  You need to look at where you are currently and then using some common sense lay out a time frame and then with that time frame and an end goal that is achievable.

This is not a case of aiming high and hitting the moon or some other kind of nonsense you want to layout a task or goal that can be achieved not some pie in the sky nonsense.

Normally I will look to set a 10-20kg increase for squat or deadlift depending on the training experience or strength of the athlete/lifter and a 5-10kg increase on a bench press or overhead lifts.  Once you have set this out you need to set out 2 tables

Table 1 – current maxes and training loads

Squat Bench Deadlift
Max 210 135 225
97.50% 205 132.5 220
95.00% 200 127.5 215
92.50% 195 125 207.5
90.00% 190 122.5 202.5
87.50% 185 117.5 197.5
85.00% 177.5 115 192.5
82.50% 172.5 112.5 185
80.00% 167.5 107.5 180
77.50% 162.5 105 175
75.00% 157.5 102.5 170
72.50% 152.5 97.5 162.5
70.00% 147.5 95 157.5
67.50% 142.5 90 152.5
65.00% 137.5 87.5 147.5
62.50% 132.5 85 140
60.00% 125 80 135
57.50% 120 77.5 130
55.00% 115 75 125
52.50% 110 70 117.5
50.00% 105 67.5 112.5

 

Table 2 – goal maxes and training goals  

Squat Bench Deadlift
Max 220 140 240
97.50% 215 137.5 235
95.00% 210 132.5 227.5
92.50% 202.5 130 222.5
90.00% 197.5 125 215
87.50% 192.5 122.5 210
85.00% 187.5 120 205
82.50% 182.5 115 197.5
80.00% 175 112.5 192.5
77.50% 170 107.5 185
75.00% 165 105 180
72.50% 160 102.5 175
70.00% 155 97.5 167.5
67.50% 147.5 95 162.5
65.00% 142.5 90 155
62.50% 137.5 87.5 150
60.00% 132.5 85 145
57.50% 127.5 80 137.5
55.00% 120 77.5 132.5
52.50% 115 72.5 125
50.00% 110 70 120

You can see based off these two tables we are looking for a net gain of +10kg on squat, +5kg on bench press and +15kg on deadlift.

Set smaller targets and timeframes

Well, you can probably tell from the start of the article or the title that we are going to be looking at a 12-week time frame to try and bring these changes about.  What we are going to do is subdivide the 3 months of training into 4 x 3-week mini block of training where we are going to be doing some simple linear progressions.  The layout of each block will follow this pattern

  • Week 1 – introduction to the new training load/volume and a mini deload from the top week from the previous block.
  • Week 2 – volume load looking to set a small volume overload to keep the momentum of the training/block moving forward.
  • Week 3 – Realisation / Goal set.  Where we will be looking to achieve a landmark set to make sure we are on target for those end of program goals.

Here are our goals and time frames

Squat Targets

Target Squat Max 220
Week Target RPE Target Intensity Goal weight Goal reps
1 7 65% 142.5 10
2 8 70% 155 10
3 9 75% 165 10
4 7 72.50% 160 6
5 8 77.50% 170 6
6 9 82.50% 182.5 6
7 7 77.50% 170 4
8 8 82.50% 182.5 4
9 9 87.50% 192.5 4
10 7 85% 187.5 2
11 8 90% 197.5 2
12 9 95% 210 2

Bench Targets

Target Bench Max 140
Week Target RPE Target Intensity Goal weight Goal reps
1 7 65% 90 10
2 8 70% 97.5 10
3 9 75% 105 10
4 7 72.50% 102.5 6
5 8 77.50% 107.5 6
6 9 82.50% 115 6
7 7 77.50% 107.5 4
8 8 82.50% 115 4
9 9 87.50% 122.5 4
10 7 85% 120 2
11 8 90% 125 2
12 9 95% 132.5 2

Deadlift Targets

Target Deadlift Max 240
Week Target RPE Target Intensity Goal weight Goal reps
1 7 65% 155 10
2 8 70% 167.5 10
3 9 75% 180 10
4 7 72.50% 175 6
5 8 77.50% 185 6
6 9 82.50% 197.5 6
7 7 77.50% 185 4
8 8 82.50% 197.5 4
9 9 87.50% 210 4
10 7 85% 205 2
11 8 90% 215 2
12 9 95% 227.5 2

Here is how the block will be laid out.

We will follow a linear theme for each training block we will start with a period of higher volume/reps and then as each 3-week block completes and we start the next one we will look to start a focus on lower reps bringing us closer towards the target.  This allows us to gain the fitness/muscle mass nescicary for our new target in the first 6 weeks of the program and allows us to take a graduated increase in intensity and get used to handling heavier loads and using technique needed to shift the new heavier sets and reps.

By the end of each 3-week period we will know that we have achieved a landmark set bring us closer towards the end goal we have set.  We should be looking to always have a minimum of one rep in reserve or an RPE of 9 as our top intensity as well since this will help us to keep pushing forward and to not stall out.

Start light

The temptation will be once you have the goal in your crosshairs to push on and try to realise it as quickly as possible this is probably one of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to strength training.  If you want to get stronger you probably have to lift heavy weights, well no fucking shit sherlock but lets at least warm up the oven before we stick in the turkey.

A lot to do with lifting is down to building momentum and then to keep that momentum going, this is what all the good lifters and coaches do.  Pushing to your limit from day one makes building this momentum fucking impossible.  You will start letting your standards drop and using shit form just to get the weight from A to B this will not only slow your progress down to a crawl and in most instances a backwards crawl but it will also increase your chances of injury drastically.

It’s always best to start with a few gimmie workouts, to make your form look good and to have the bar moving snappy, then you can carry this through your training sessions, weeks and blocks and before you know it your doing your old 1 rep max for sets of 3 and making it look easy.

Keep the momentum going

Once you have strung together a few good workouts and a few good weeks you are going to feel great about your lifting.  Confidence will be high and there will be nothing you can’t achieve this is brilliant this is where you want to spend your time as a lifter.

What you need to not do is to have the confidence or momentum turn into overconfidence or arrogance.  You are probably going to have one or two shit workouts during each 3-week block.  The trick is to not let this trick you into doing something stupid.  Use the RPEs and if your having a bad workout then take action by making the weights lighter and concentrating on your technique and bar speed over the weight on the bar.

Always take a win or a positive away from every single fucking set.  If you take away negatives you are going to fuck it up.  This doesn’t mean don’t be critical of your performance.

  • Be a realist, accept flaws for what they are but don’t dwell on it fucking act on it.  Correct it next set.
  • Take away what you did well and concentrate on that.
  • Do not let your form take a back step or your bar speed take a back step this will kill your momentum.
  • Technique before speed before weight.

When it comes to achieving the goal set for one or two sets then you can have a bit of leeway and put the chips down.  But during the build-up weeks don’t get ahead of yourself keep the momentum building.

Putting it together.

The training week.

Monday – Squat and assistance work

Tuesday – Bench and assistance work

Wednesday – Rest

Thursday – Deadlift and assistance work

Friday – Core and assistance work

Saturday – Light technique work

Sunday – off

The workouts

Session 1 2 3 4 5 6
Exercise
Main Squat Lift (follow program) Main Bench Press lift (follow program) Rest Main Deadlift Lift (follow program) Core work Technique Variation on Squat
Upperback Assistance lift Upper back assistance lift Rest Upperback Assistance lift Shoulders Technique Variation on Bench
Hip assistance lift Bench Weakness specific work Rest Quad assistance lift Arms Technique Variation on Deadlift

Squat Progressions

Target Squat Max 220
Week Target RPE Target Intensity Goal weight Goal reps Sets
1 7 65% 142.5 10 3
2 8 70% 155 10 4
3 9 75% 165 10 2
4 7 72.50% 160 6 4
5 8 77.50% 170 6 5
6 9 82.50% 182.5 6 3
7 7 77.50% 170 4 4
8 8 82.50% 182.5 4 5
9 9 87.50% 192.5 4 3
10 7 85% 187.5 2 3
11 8 90% 197.5 2 4
12 9 95% 210 2 2

Bench Progressions

Target Bench Max 140
Week Target RPE Target Intensity Goal weight Goal reps Sets
1 7 65% 90 10 3
2 8 70% 97.5 10 4
3 9 75% 105 10 2
4 7 72.50% 102.5 6 4
5 8 77.50% 107.5 6 5
6 9 82.50% 115 6 3
7 7 77.50% 107.5 4 4
8 8 82.50% 115 4 5
9 9 87.50% 122.5 4 3
10 7 85% 120 2 3
11 8 90% 125 2 4
12 9 95% 132.5 2 2

Deadlift Progressions

Target Deadlift Max 240
Week Target RPE Target Intensity Goal weight Goal reps Sets
1 7 65% 155 10 3
2 8 70% 167.5 10 4
3 9 75% 180 10 2
4 7 72.50% 175 6 4
5 8 77.50% 185 6 5
6 9 82.50% 197.5 6 3
7 7 77.50% 185 4 4
8 8 82.50% 197.5 4 5
9 9 87.50% 210 4 3
10 7 85% 205 2 3
11 8 90% 215 2 4
12 9 95% 227.5 2 2

General notes

  • Keep assistance light and progressive looking to work at 40-70% of max with in the 6-12 rep range.
  • Make sure your technique is as close to perfect as you can manage when doing a technique or skill based variation like pause of tempo squat for instance.
  • Try and target your assistance and technique work on your major weak points or work ons.
  • Don’t forget to have a good warm up procedure in place and to get your core work and endurance work in a minimum of 1-2x per week.

Get out while the going is good

Finally what to do once you have achieved your target and made it look easy?  Well the best thing to do is to finish while your on top.  Another mistake lifters and coaches make is that after they have a good training block or competition they want to jump right back into the mixer and keep the gains alive.

After you have had a good block of training the best thing you can do is to change focus for 2-4 weeks.  Take some down time or get into some hypertrophy or work capacity based sessions so you aren’t flogging a dead horse use this time to get your head in the game for the next target, to enjoy your success and to get ready for more hard work.

Hopefully you have got some ideas from this article and some things you can use in your training going forward.

Marc

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