The Basics of Creating a Powerlifting Routine, Part 2

Benedikt Magnusson Deadlifintg 940lbs! Image credit: Egill Bjarki

This is a continuation of  The Basics of Creating a Powerlifting Routine Part 1

Putting the Power into Lifting

It’s commonly thought that everyone should use the light-to-moderate weights kept under control with each repetition performed slowly. A powerlifting routine requires an appreciably different approach. While maintaining control, powerlifters make a conscious effort to perform repetitions with heavy weight more quickly so that we can both (1) recruit more fast-twitch muscle fiber and (2) recruit all the motor units (a single nerve and the muscle fibers directly connected to it) in a muscle to contract at the same time.

Training Your Body and Your Mind

Picking up a grocery bag requires fewer motor units than picking up a refrigerator. While your body will try to recruit the number of motor units necessary to get the job done, your body and mind aren’t necessarily used to coordinating the recruitment of all motor units in big jobs, so your body and mind must be trained on how to make it happen on cue.

Lifting heavy weights requires not just strong muscles but a quick firing and responsive nervous system. This is what is meant when you hear the term “mind-muscle connection.” Your brain sends an impulse to all the appropriate motor nerves to act collectively. Like people, they are much more forceful when they work together although they need to be trained to work as a team.

Squatting, Bench Pressing, and Deadlifting

A low volume, 3-day-split workout routine is a good starting point for someone new to powerlifting. The routine is “split,” meaning that it is done when all three days are done. As such, the entire routine (3 days) should repeat after at least one day of rest.

Powerlifting routines are almost always built around the three lifts that full-meet powerlifters contest (i.e., squats, bench presses, and deadlifts) with other basic movements in support; this requires the use of free weights.

Powerlifting routines are almost always built around the three lifts -  squats, bench presses, and deadlifts

Squat Day

  • Sit-Ups – Two sets, simple progressive system
  • Bent-Knee Good Mornings – Two sets, simple progressive system
  • Weighted Hamstring Raises – Three sets, pyramid system
  • Barbell Squat – Seven sets, percentage system

Bench Day

  • Push-Up – Two sets, simple progressive system
  • Parallel Bar Dip Two sets, simple progressive system
  • Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press Three sets, pyramid system
  • Barbell Bench Press Seven sets, percentage system

Deadlift Day

  • Pull-Up – Two sets, simple progressive system
  • Parallel Bar Row – Two sets, simple progressive system
  • Dumbbell Shrugs – Three sets, pyramid system
  • Deadlift – Seven sets, percentage system

Changing one exercise variable – like reps – from one training day to the next is the simple progressive system; it is very sensible for calisthenics – like sit-ups – where additional resistance isn’t often used. Consider two sets of pull-ups on deadlift day: if 3 reps are done on a given deadlift day, one should strive for 4 or more reps on the next deadlift day. However, if the reps are a persistent challenge, the lifter may alter a different variable, such as adding sets.

A pyramid system involves increasing the resistance of a particular exercise while repetitions are decreased from one set to the next within the same training session. Alternatively, one could “pyramid down” by decreasing resistance while increasing reps.

A percentage system is a twist on the pyramid system. The percentage system expects, pyramiding up and then performing multiple sets using resistance at percentages of the one-rep max. For powerlifters, this percentage is typically 85 % or higher.

Training heavy is taxing on the body and mind, so allow yourself longer rest periods than the 2 minutes and don’t expect to train every day unless some days are light or aerobic.

This entry was posted in Strength Training. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.