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

SquatBenchDeadlift
Max210135225
97.50%205132.5220
95.00%200127.5215
92.50%195125207.5
90.00%190122.5202.5
87.50%185117.5197.5
85.00%177.5115192.5
82.50%172.5112.5185
80.00%167.5107.5180
77.50%162.5105175
75.00%157.5102.5170
72.50%152.597.5162.5
70.00%147.595157.5
67.50%142.590152.5
65.00%137.587.5147.5
62.50%132.585140
60.00%12580135
57.50%12077.5130
55.00%11575125
52.50%11070117.5
50.00%10567.5112.5

 

Table 2 – goal maxes and training goals  

SquatBenchDeadlift
Max220140240
97.50%215137.5235
95.00%210132.5227.5
92.50%202.5130222.5
90.00%197.5125215
87.50%192.5122.5210
85.00%187.5120205
82.50%182.5115197.5
80.00%175112.5192.5
77.50%170107.5185
75.00%165105180
72.50%160102.5175
70.00%15597.5167.5
67.50%147.595162.5
65.00%142.590155
62.50%137.587.5150
60.00%132.585145
57.50%127.580137.5
55.00%12077.5132.5
52.50%11572.5125
50.00%11070120

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 Max220
WeekTarget RPETarget IntensityGoal weightGoal reps
1765%142.510
2870%15510
3975%16510
4772.50%1606
5877.50%1706
6982.50%182.56
7777.50%1704
8882.50%182.54
9987.50%192.54
10785%187.52
11890%197.52
12995%2102

Bench Targets

Target Bench Max140
WeekTarget RPETarget IntensityGoal weightGoal reps
1765%9010
2870%97.510
3975%10510
4772.50%102.56
5877.50%107.56
6982.50%1156
7777.50%107.54
8882.50%1154
9987.50%122.54
10785%1202
11890%1252
12995%132.52

Deadlift Targets

Target Deadlift Max240
WeekTarget RPETarget IntensityGoal weightGoal reps
1765%15510
2870%167.510
3975%18010
4772.50%1756
5877.50%1856
6982.50%197.56
7777.50%1854
8882.50%197.54
9987.50%2104
10785%2052
11890%2152
12995%227.52

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

Session123456
Exercise
Main Squat Lift (follow program)Main Bench Press lift (follow program)RestMain Deadlift Lift (follow program)Core workTechnique Variation on Squat
Upperback Assistance liftUpper back assistance liftRestUpperback Assistance liftShouldersTechnique Variation on Bench
Hip assistance liftBench Weakness specific workRestQuad assistance liftArmsTechnique Variation on Deadlift

Squat Progressions

Target Squat Max220
WeekTarget RPETarget IntensityGoal weightGoal repsSets
1765%142.5103
2870%155104
3975%165102
4772.50%16064
5877.50%17065
6982.50%182.563
7777.50%17044
8882.50%182.545
9987.50%192.543
10785%187.523
11890%197.524
12995%21022

Bench Progressions

Target Bench Max140
WeekTarget RPETarget IntensityGoal weightGoal repsSets
1765%90103
2870%97.5104
3975%105102
4772.50%102.564
5877.50%107.565
6982.50%11563
7777.50%107.544
8882.50%11545
9987.50%122.543
10785%12023
11890%12524
12995%132.522

Deadlift Progressions

Target Deadlift Max240
WeekTarget RPETarget IntensityGoal weightGoal repsSets
1765%155103
2870%167.5104
3975%180102
4772.50%17564
5877.50%18565
6982.50%197.563
7777.50%18544
8882.50%197.545
9987.50%21043
10785%20523
11890%21524
12995%227.522

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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