In-Depth Insight Into An Advanced Powerlifter’s Programming

Patrick (@patrick_gpathletics) is getting back into the heavy work in preparation for the Arnold Raw Challenge in March. Currently Patrick is sitting about 10 1/2 weeks out, and we are in the second week of what has historically been the training block where we see the most progress. Due to the success the first time around with this block back in July, we took it as a template to build off of leading into Nationals, and again now leading into the Arnold. This does not mean we are just running the same block over and over again, but we are taking the skeleton of what worked and adjusting based off the progression of the previous training block and needs of this current prep. So what specific additions and adjustments did we make to the “skeleton” of this block?

1.) The previous training block we used to really push accessory volume. Historically I have had Patrick do significantly less pressing and lower body accessory volume than many of my other athletes. This was in large part due to his strength and experience levels in the sport, and needing high a level of stimulus from the competition movements to drive strength. With that though, leading into Nationals we started finding that “line” of maximum recoverable volume, as Patrick was hitting fatigue markers that we had not yet touched prior. So with that, I wanted to make it a focus to drive volume in other ways, so we set up a plan to really push belt squats and weighted dips. The goal was to use this past training block to adapt to this new stimulus while doing more self limiting variations on the competition movements. And then as we transitioned into this block, keep that accessory volume high while reintroducing more competition specificity and higher intensities. The hope and theory was that Patrick’s overall tolerance to this workload would adapt and be able to sustain these higher volumes, and so far so good. Through the first two weeks of this training block his fatigue is matched, if not lower, to that of our Nationals prep.

2.) The second addition was that of higher intensity singles on bench press. Patrick continually projects out with rep work well higher than what his competition max is, and it has boiled down to form breakdown that generally occurred at 390lbs. and up. In the past, we may only hit 2-3 singles in the entire prep at that weight and that was during the peaking block in the last 2-3 weeks before the meet. This just wasn’t enough practice to break the bad habit he has with overtaking his left arm once weights reach the 95% and above mark. So this time around we started 12 weeks out, and will be hitting these heavy singles weekly. I would not do this with most people, as there is a higher risk factor involved with hitting 8.5-9 RPE singles weekly, but Patrick has shown very little fatigue and/or aches and pains in the past from heavy benching.

3.) The massive change to this block is how we are approaching deadlifts. When talking about the success of this block, it was mainly based around squat and bench press. For deadlift I learned from mistakes during the Nationals prep on what we need to change. The final week of this block during Nationals prep, Patrick’s deadlift strength was at an all time high. We took a very low volume approach, and it worked great, but it was just too soon. Instead what needed to be done is shift that training block of deadlifts to the peaking block, and during this block push volume more to where we may actually see fatigue masking his strength and performance actually suffering a tad. Deadlift, especially conventional, is a different animal than squat and bench press. What I have found is many times regression in strength is common and not the worst thing, just due to the high fatigue caused by deadlifts. I made the mistake last prep in thinking the low volume approach was working really well, but the truth was is the higher volume block that preceded it is what pushed strength, and the low volume block was dissipating the fatigue so that we could actually see the full potential. And in the end, I extended that low volume for too long and actually detrained Patrick’s deadlift a bit. So what I am doing this training block, along with some other small changes, is shifting everything so that we are matching the skeleton of the higher volume block that seemed to drive Patrick’s strength, and then during the peaking block switch to lower volume to dissipate the fatigue accumulated during this block to then peak at the appropriate time.

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