Monday, April 29, 2013

How I've Changed My Training for Powerlifting

So as you may or may not know, I'm preparing for USPA's Powerlifting National Competition in July right now.  I've been getting kinda frustrated with my numbers; I don't seem to be improving much.  And while yes, I realize that even a small increase can take quite a bit of time, and that as I am a very small person, my increases would be even smaller than most, it's still frustrating for me, because, quite frankly:

Yep.  I'm impatient (and I will use any excuse to include a Queen song in my day).

So in my quest for bigger numbers, I've tweaked my workouts quite a bit.  If you want to follow my training plan, I post it here:

I read a bunch of Westside Barbell routines as well as the training logs of other powerlifters, and I started training with a powerlifting coach once a week (I really want to do more, but my schedule won't allow it.  Boo.)   Based on all this, here's what I've changed:

-I had been training 5-6 times a week.  As of last week, I've cut it down to 4.  I think I have not been resting enough, and this is a problem.

-I am concentrating pretty much exclusively on my three lifts (bench, deadlift, squat) and on their assistance exercises.

-My four-day split consists of two days of "speed training," where I lift 50-60% of my desired max about 3 reps for 10 sets, concentrating on explosiveness.  The other two days are heavy days, and I will often do ladders on those days.

- I have started doing exercises that I have not done, literally, in over a decade.  Hamstring curls.  Hyperextensions.  Tricep presses.  Bicep curls.  It's weird to be doing this stuff again, but if it's good enough for champion powerlifters, it's good enough for me. 

-I am doing a lot less kettlebell work than I have done over the last several years, but I am continuing to do heavy double swings once or twice a week.  I love doing them, and I find that they do help my deadlift a lot. 

So that's where I'm at right now with my training.  It's very new, so it'll be interesting to see what kind of gains I make.  Keeping my fingers crossed for bigger numbers at Nationals...


How's your training going?  Have you made any changes to what you've been doing to help your goals?  Inquiring minds need to know-- post below!


  1. Very interesting to see what people do to train for powerlifting meets. Thanks for the insights.

    I am tomorrow finishing up week 3 of Stronglifts. (A - 5x5 squats, bench, Pendlay row; B - Squat, OHP, DL -- and I have added light barbell front squats after my backsquats) I don't anticipate I will ever train to compete -- right now, just working to build a foundation of strength and maintain muscle mass as I deficit for fatburning. So far so good. My numbers are increasing every time, and I am getting a better feel for form, slowly but surely.

    1. Nice job, Derrick!! I know you'll kick butt. :)

  2. Dropping from 6-4 days was a good call.

    Your methods seem solid (Westside method, 5-3-1, etc. ). You may want to up the percentage on the speed days if you are lifting raw. 50-60% seems low unless your 1rm represents lifting in gear - squat suit, bench shirt etc.

    Diet seems the next vector. Powerlifting veganism seems a bit conflicting to me, but power to you. I made some substantial gains doing the "GOMAD" (Gallon of milk a day) diet (+a lot of animal protein) a few years back keeping my daily caloric load around 4-5k, training doubles 3-4 days a week. I didn't get fat, but it does produce substantial systemic inflammation. Good for Hypertrophy, bad for health. Milk, Meat, etc. not being vegan this may be of no value :( It did help me to put 65# on my squat in 3 months and PR everything, including body weight movements.

    I respond to Creatine, but i don't think that is Vegan either.

    Mark Bell ( has had some success with "Carb Backloading". It may be worth some exploration.

    Also, "becoming a supple leopard" by Kelly Starrett may hold some keys for you to unlock some potential. He has helped me tremendously. He was on the same Super Human podcast as Brad.

    Excited to follow your progress!

    Stay Strong!

    -Travis Janeway

    1. Since I'm a moral vegan, nothing will get me to change my plant-eating ways, but the good news is, studies show that a properly-planned vegan diet does not affect strength negatively. :) I actually do take creatine; they make a vegan variety! Good call on the supple leopard podcast-- I'll check it out. Thanks for the tips, Travis! You rock!

    2. The addition of assistance/isolation work still feels somewhat "dirty" to me. Too many years in the fanatical functional movement community, but if the strongest people in the world roll that way...

      I respect your moral veganism. I am fortunate to live an an area where I can, and do, see exactly where my food comes from and what the environment is like.

      Your "Steel, Stone & Sugar Workshop" looks epic! I would love to train with all of you! I don't know if I could handle LA though...

      Keep up the awesome!

    3. Yeah, it took me a while to accept the assistance work, but my coach insists on it, and it's in most of the programs I've checked out, so I do it. Can't hurt, anyway!

      Thanks (re: workshop)! It is going to be a really good one. LA isn't as bad as you think-- come on down! :)

  3. Hey Melody,

    I'll cross my fingers too for you at the Nationals!
    As you know, my training is going fantastic in the moment ;-)
    Time for something new....perhabs you remember?

    I changed a lot in the last few weeks, after beeing down, followed by a little "experimental time", at this time I tried a lot, but what ever I tried, I did not continue.
    And after a few weeks of trying every day the next new idea and trying the next idea...I went back to my basics!

    This includes hard kettlebell work (by the way, heavy double swings are great for deadlifting!!!), some bodyweight exercises, some of them loaded, 2 barbell-exercises (deadlift und squat), grip-work, a serious training-journal, a lot of disciplin and much listening to my own body feeling.

    I don't care about the common opinions of "overtraining", the 2 things that counts: my PR and my own body feeling.

    My goals are: staying fit, get a "real" fitness, endurance and be REALLY strong, all that what I can convert and use in the real world. And I'm getting stronger and better every day :-)

    I'll reach my goals in the moment and I will keep this as long as possible!
    You will reach your goals too, I am really shure!

    Greetings from germany, Torsten :-)

    1. Great job, Torsten! You're such a strong guy already, I can only see great things for you in the future. :)