Powerlfiting, Powerlifting, Programme

Training to Build Strength not Display it.


If you want to be strong you have to lift heavy all of the time right?  You need to provide constant overload in the form of one more rep or one more kilogramme week in and week out…

If you want to blunt your training response or realise a suboptimal adaptation to your weight training then this sort of philosophy should be the cornerstone of your programming as it will achieve both of these goals with ease.  Strength is multifactorial it’s not just about the PB you set or the fact that you have taken your 100 x 6 bench press up to 100 x 7 this week.

This training will lead to progress but it is a a very difficult way of getting slower progress that can be made by following a programme that allows you to develop your technique, training habits and strength.

Strength gains feed off volume.

Every gain in intensity in a programme must be proceeded by a gain in volume if you aren’t a beginner or on steroids then you need to put some ground work into your lift before you can realise a gain in weight.

Volume v intensity

On the left we have a programme that will work only for beginners or people using exogenous means of strength gain (steroids, massive gains in body weight) where the volume remains the same (5×5) yet the weight continues to climb.  On the right you will see a programme that will work for pretty much everyone and will work cyclically where the load starts light and the volumes are high, over time the volume decreases and the load increases.

Every programme worth it’s salt holds this principle close to heart.  But there is no need to follow the above which is in essence a peaking cycle the sort of which would be used by a powerlifter in the build up to a competition.  There is no reason why you can’t cyclically increase volume and build strength block on block without the need to every display it or realise your training.

Here is a basic programme that could be ran by pretty much any lifter to get stronger over a prolonged period of time.

Week 1 – 5 sets 5 @ 65% RM

Week 2 – 5 sets 5 @ 70% RM

Week 3 – 3 sets 5 @ 75% RM

Week 4 – 4 sets 6 @ 60% RM

All you would need to progress the programme is add an arbitrary amount of load (10 kg for lower body lifts and 5 kg for upper body lifts) the loading pattern will of course run a ground at some point but probably not for a good few cycles.

With enough time and patience you will be doing sets and reps with what used to be your old 1 rep max on a lift.  There is merit to neigh there is necessity in periods of intensification but without doing the boring rep work then those periods of intensification are far less fruitful than the should be.


Sometimes lifting submaximal loads and paying attention to the minute detail of the lift, adding in some tempo or paused work can be a far better way of building your limit strength than just lifting more weight or more reps.

Never build strength on Disfunction – Duncan French.

Duncan French won’t be a well known name to those of you who aren’t involved with strength and conditioning but he gave a keynote speech at this year’s Unitedkingdom strength and conditioning association conference.  One of his key messages was that movement is king a statement as a strength and powerlifting coach I couldn’t agree with more.

There is a correct way and incorrect way to move in almost every exercise, sure you might use a different stance than me because of your structure but there are key points we all need to move through to make the lift as efficient as possible.  Individualisation receives a lot of attention but let me assure you, you are not a beautiful flower; you are not a unique snowflake; you are in no way special.  The load on your back, on the floor or in your hands doesn’t care a jot for who you are.  Gravity doesn’t give a fuck about your feelings.

If you don’t spend a lot of attention on how you’re moving the load then you can expect to not reach anywhere close to your potential as a lifter.  When was the last time you did a workout consisting of 7-12 sets with a light load and dissected how you moved the bar looking to improve on your skill.


The “off season” as it has been referred to by a number of top powerlifters has been named as a time to work on different exercises and build strength in those movements (ed coan) and as a time to sit at 70% and cruise (Bill Kazmier).  You can take a lot of stock from both of these bits of advise if you don’t have a competition on the near horizon you should be looking to build you foundations.  The key foundations with in any strength sports are your movements skill and your base volume.  Don’t look to programmes like 5/3/1 where you look to shoot for rep PBs week in and week out, don’t look at programmes like starting strength where you look to keep the volume stagnant and try to increase the load.

Look at boring programmes like Shieko’s novice routine, or the russian squat routine where you accumulate volume as the programme goes on.  Cyclical programmes that use submaximal load should make up the majority of your training, they will allow you to work on building a bigger foundation

  • Skill work (squat to depth, bench with a pause, deadlift smooth)
  • Training Capacity
  • Intention
  • Repetition of psychological preparation
  • Allow tendons and muscles time to adapt to training stressors

Once you work on developing these abilities for a prolonged period of time the next time you look to intensify your programme or peak for a meet you will be blown away by your progress.


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