A Practical Guide for Implementing Block Periodization for Powerlifting

First published on Aug 6th, 2010
Gabe Naspinski

Introduction: Powerlifting is a sport that is tailor-made for Block Periodization. This is due to the small number of physical traits that must be trained for: maximal strength, absolute strength and technique. This article is directed toward the average lifter and not the physical preparation coach. The intent is not to discuss the hard science behind the system. The purpose is to outline the principles of the system and how to implement these principles in a practical sense.

How I learned of Block Periodization

I first became aware of Block Periodization while interning under Buddy Morris and James Smith at the University of Pittsburgh. James presented some information on the Block system to me, and while I found it interesting, I was skeptical as it seemed to be different from what I was doing. I also didn’t have a full understanding on the terminology and how to implement it. During this time, I was still using a Westside Barbell-style system of programming. I was reluctant to change, as this system had given me gains in the past. I continued to use a lot of the principles of Westside, but had a lot of injuries. I also was very inconsistent because I was rarely performing the competition lifts. After a string of injuries and bomb outs, I took some time away from powerlifting. After moving to the Washington, DC area, I met Carlos Osegueda that runs Central Virginia Athletic and Barbell Club. He had been training with the Block Periodization system and making progress. At this time, I decided to research by reading Issurin’s Block Periodization: A Breakthrough in Sports Training and Principles and Basics of Advanced Athletic Training. These books gave me a better understanding and for the next year, I used trial and error along with the knowledge I gained to fine tune the programming to fit my needs. Using this system, I set a 190 pound total PR and gained my first Elite at 242.

What is Block Periodization?

The technical definition as Issurin states, “The general approach to the compilation of Block Periodized training assumes the sequencing of three different-type mesocycle-blocks that form a single training stage ending in some competition.” In practical terms, it's a system of focusing on general abilities further out from a meet and becoming more directed as the competition draws near. That being said, it's necessary to know how to classify movements as general, general specific, or specific. From here, a lifter can lay out the blocks based on movements that fit into each category and target the weaknesses of each lifter. Because of this, two lifters using a Block system may have training sessions that look completely different. The only absolute is that the programming fits within the guidelines of the three blocks: accumulation, transmutation and realization.

Accumulation:

To give an example of the accumulation block, it would be like building a foundation for a house. The intensity is reduced, but there are higher volumes of work. The work during this block will also have a greater amount of general and general specific. It will have less specific movements. In the sport of powerlifting, the purpose of a block like this would be to promote hypertrophy and increase work capacity. The percentages for this block depends on the lifter, but generally range from 50 - 70 percent. When I calculated volume for this block, I used Prilepin's chart as a guideline, but it's not set in stone. The duration of this block can range from two to six weeks. Again, a lot of this depends on the lifter and their level of preparation. The less qualified, the longer the block can be. The length can vary depending on where this block falls in the annual plan. A restoration/deload isn't necessary after this block, but may be included depending on the individual.

Transmutation:

The basis of the transmutation block is to take the general abilities and transfer them to specific abilities. During this phase, the intensity increases and the volume is reduced, but still is considered moderate. The movements in this block start to include the specific/competition lifts, but also has a large volume dedicated towards general specific lifts that build the competition movements. General exercises won't be prioritized, but may be included at a reduced volume. The goal of this block is to develop the abilities that are specific for the competition lifts. Percentages used during this block generally fall between the 75 - 90 percent range. Again, I based this off of Prilepin’s chart, but sometimes the workload can be higher or lower. The duration of this block is somewhere in the two to four week range. The length is determined on the qualification of the lifter and where the block falls in the annual plan. The further out, the longer this block can be used. Another aspect of this block is that it's designed to induce fatigue. There won't be full recoveries between training sessions. In layman’s terms, it's normal to feel like shit during this block, but you should still be able to hit all of the numbers you planned to hit. This is by far the most difficult block of all. Pay attention to volume and intensity because it's very easy to become overtrained. This block needs to be followed by a restoration/deload.

Realization:

The realization block is the final stage of training before a meet. The volume is low and the intensity is high. Because of this, it's often referred to as a taper. During this block, the training is directed to the competition lifts. The general specific lifts are phased out and if any general exercises are included, they're for the purpose of injury prevention or light flushing/pumping work. The percentages used are 90 percent or greater. Lifts should be performed to the standards that are needed in competition. There should be full recoveries between sessions. The frequency of training is also decreased during this block. The duration is shorter, and usually is around two weeks. This should be followed by a restoration/deload that can last one to two weeks depending on personal preference.

Putting it all Together

Ok, so if you made it this far, you’ve read all of my inane rambling and are still with me. You might be thinking, “All I give a shit about is getting a big total. How do I set this up so I can do that?” I have some bad news - I can’t give an exact answer. I don’t know your particular weaknesses, technical errors, levels of preparation, how many days a week you can train, etc. What I can do is give you examples of a few different ways to set this up, and then you can tailor the principles to fit your needs. I'll use some examples of what I've done and what has worked for me. I'll also offer some alternatives. Again, this is to provide an example. Don't think this should be taken literally. I also didn't include warm-ups, restoration work, prehab/rehab, and so on, because this differs for everyone.

Accumulation

Keeping with the definition of the block, I provided an example to aid in planning. The reason I used total reps on both the general specific movements and the general movements is because some people like certain rep schemes better, or have different needs.

Maybe Lifter A needs more hypertrophy, so he may elect to do his Close Grip or Box Squat at the upper limits of Prilepin’s chart, or even decide to exceed it and attempt to get all of his reps in as few sets as possible. Lifter B might have a hard time accelerating a load and decide to use a traditional “DE” style approach and go with 10 sets of two on his box squats. Same goes for the general work such as DB Presses, Rows, Glute Hams, etc.

These exercises are just examples and all can be substituted as long as they fit the classifications. I've used bands and chains during this block, but the extra tension or weight may need to be accounted for.

As far as percentages go, you can go in a linear progression over the duration of the block. It can also be flat-loaded, meaning maybe you stay at 12 - 15 total reps at 70 percent for the whole block, but week one is 3 x 5, week two is 5 x 3, and week three is 7 x 2.

As far as equipment, it can be used during this block. In the past, I've done this raw for the fact that as far away from a meet as it is; I don't feel the need to use gear. I also think if you're trying to promote hypertrophy and work capacity, the less gear the better.

Day 1: Bench

Close Grip Floor Press

  • 55 - 70%
  • 12 – 30 reps

DB Incline Press

  • 30 – 50 total reps

Seated Rows

  • 36 – 60 total reps

Face Pulls

  • 36 – 60 total reps

Triceps Pushdowns

  • 3 sets for as many reps as possible

Day 2: Deadlift

Deficit Deadlift (Conventional)

  • 55 - 65%
  • 18 – 30 reps

Good Morning (Barbell)

  • 4 – 5 sets
  • 6 – 10 reps

GHR

  • 50 – 75 total

Shrugs

  • 2 – 3 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Abs

Day 3: Bench

Ultra Wide Bench Press

  • 55 - 70%
  • 12 – 30 reps

DB Triceps Extensions

  • 30 – 60 total reps

Lat Pulldowns

  • 36 – 60 total

L-Lateral DB Raise

  • 30 – 45 total

Day 4: Squat

Box Squat

  • 55 - 70%
  • 12 – 30 total

DB Split Squat

  • 24 – 40 total each leg

Reverse Hyper

  • 24 – 40 total

Optional Upper Back (usually a shrug variation)

  • 2 – 3 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Abs

Transmutation

This block can cause a lot confusion as far as planning is concerned. Due to this, I included numerous templates that can be used.

In reference to the percents, they're a guideline to use, but may need to be adjusted. A variable that skewers the numbers can be the addition of gear. It's very important to base the numbers off of a realistic training max. During the specific movements, technique should be observed to determine the optimal number of reps/set. Also, make sure you're basing the percents off of the actual exercise you're performing. Don't be the moron who attempts to base a special exercise off of a competition squat and then wonders why they got stapled.

Now, you might be thing, “Alright, smart ass. You made your point, but there's a problem. I don’t know my actual maxes on special exercises. Now what?” This is where RPE comes into play. The abbreviation RPE stands for Rate of Perceived Exertion. This is nothing more than a fancy way of saying “training by feel.” On these sets, you should be working, but you should be able to finish the sets. During a transmutation block, most of the sets in the specific and general specific exercises should fall somewhere between the scale of 7 - 10 on the chart. Again, this is a guideline and the police will not issue a warrant if you venture out of this range.

First Example: Transmutation (4-day)

Day 1: Bench

Shirted Bench

  • 75 - 90%
  • 4 – 12 total

Board Press (shirted or raw)

  • 75 - 85% or by RPE
  • 6 – 15 total

Seated Rows

  • 30 – 40 total

Band Pull Apart

  • 30 – 40 total

Day 2: Deadlift

Competition Stance Deadlift

  • 75 - 90%
  • 4 – 12 total

SSB Low Box Squat

  • 75% - 85% or by RPE
  • 6 – 15 total

Snatch Grip RDL

  • 3 – 4 sets
  • 6 – 10 reps *determined by RPE

Abs, Upper Back, Hamstrings

  • 2 - 3 sets each
  • 12 – 20 reps

Day 3: Bench

Shirted Bench

  • 75 - 90%
  • 4 – 12 total

Close Grip Incline

  • 3 – 5 sets
  • 6 – 10 reps * determined by RPE

Lat Pulldowns

  • 30 – 40 total

Front Raises

  • 30 – 40 total

Day 4: Squat

Free Squat in briefs, suit bottoms, or briefs and suit bottoms

  • 75 - 90%
  • 4 – 12 total

Rack Pulls

  • 75 - 85% or by RPE
  • 6 – 15 total

Close Stance Olympic Squat

  • 3 – 4 sets
  • 6 – 10 reps *determined by RPE

Abs, Upper Back, Lower Back

  • 2- 3 sets each
  • 12 – 20 reps

This is a basic four day split for a transmutation block. The information is for a lifter that is competing geared. If competing raw, disregard the gear suggestions, but still use the percentages and rep schemes.

The work becomes more directed as the movements are the competition lifts or their variants. On the bench days, rowing and pulling is kept in, but the volume is reduced from the accumulation block. On squat days, the main movement is the competition squat followed by a general specific movement for the deadlift, followed by another general specific movement for the squat with reduced intensities. The deadlift day follows the same template, except with as DL-SQ-DL setup. Both days have general work done in a circuit at the end to maintain GPP. This may or may not need to be cut depending on feel. The intensity of this work should be low.

There are pros and cons to this set up. The pros are the amount of specific and general specific work will have a higher transference to the competition lifts. These lifts also stress training economy as they give a lot of bang for your buck. The cons of a set up like this are that it's very time consuming. Using big, compound lifts requires more attention to technique. Because of this, more rest is needed between sets. Also, the four day split may not work for everyone because of the time it may take. For some lifters, this split may be too much to recover from. For others, they may need more general work for a particular area due to injury history, particular weakness, etc.

Here's a variation of the four day split above. The bench days are the same, but the squat and deadlift days have been altered.

Second Example: Transmutation (4-day)

Day 1: Bench

Shirted Bench

  • 75 - 90%
  • 4 – 12 total

Board Press (shirted or raw)

  • 75 - 85% or by RPE
  • 6 – 15 total

Seated Rows

  • 30 – 40 total

Band Pull Apart

  • 30 – 40 total

Day 2: Deadlift

Competition Stance Deadlift

  • 75 - 90%
  • 4 – 12 total

SSB Low Box Squat

  • 75 - 85% or by RPE
  • 6 – 15 total

Glute Ham Raise (weighted or with bands)

  • 32 - 50 total

Optional Upper Back

Abs

Day 3: Bench

Shirted Bench

  • 75 - 90%
  • 4 – 12 total

Close Grip Incline

  • 3 – 5 sets
  • 6 – 10 reps *determined by RPE

Lat Pulldowns

  • 30 – 40 total

Front Raises

  • 30 – 40 total

Day 4: Squat

Free Squat in briefs, suit bottoms, or briefs and suit bottoms

  • 75 - 90%
  • 4 – 12 total

Rack Pulls

  • 75 - 85% or by RPE
  • 6 – 15 total

Reverse Hyper

  • 3 – 5 sets
  • 8 – 12 reps

Abs

As you can see, there is less general specific work in this template. It's less time consuming for those who let that nagging problem called "real life" get in the way and is easier to recover from for some who have a propensity for overtraining or injuries. You can also plug in more general work for particular weak areas.

Some of you may have even more obligations that mean you can only train three days a week. Since quitting your job and leaving your family might not be an option, you may want to use a set up like this. This would work if the powers that be (work, family, etc.) allow you three days to train and time isn't an issue on those three days. This would also be good if you feel you recover well and want to use specific and general specific work. An added bonus is that it will prepare you for a meet due to the three lifts being trained either specifically or with a general specific variant.

Third Example: Transmutation (3-day)

Day 1: Bench – Deadlift – Squat Day

Shirted Bench

  • 75 - 90%
  • 4 – 12 total

Rack Pulls

  • 75 - 85% or by RPE
  • 6 – 15 total

Close Stance Olympic Squat

  • 3 – 4 sets
  • 6 – 10 reps *determined by RPE

Few sets of lats, abs, or whatever you may have time for.

Day 2: Deadlift – Squat – Bench Day

Competition Stance Deadlift

  • 75 - 90%
  • 4 – 12 total

SSB Low Box Squat

  • 75 - 85% or by RPE
  • 6 – 15 total

Close Grip Incline

  • 3 – 5 sets
  • 6 – 10 reps *determined by RPE

Few sets of hamstrings, abs, or whatever you may have time for.

Day 3: Squat – Bench – Deadlift Day

Free Squat in briefs, suit bottoms, or briefs and suit bottoms

  • 75 - 90%
  • 4 – 12 total

Board Press (shirted or raw)

  • 75 - 85% or by RPE
  • 6 – 15 total

Snatch Grip RDL

  • 3 – 4 sets
  • 6 – 10 reps *determined by RPE

Few sets of lower back, abs, or whatever you may have time for.

If you only have three days and have limited time, the following setup may be best. This won’t have all of the general specific work, but will follow a similar set up as is outlined above.

Fourth Example: Transmutation (3-day)

Day 1: Bench – Deadlift Day

Shirted Bench

  • 75 - 90%
  • 4 – 12 total

Rack Pulls

  • 75 - 85% or by RPE
  • 6 – 15 total

Seated Row

  • 3 sets
  • 10 - 15 reps

Reverse Hyper

  • 3 sets
  • 10 - 15 reps

Day 2: Deadlift – Squat Day

Competition Stance Deadlift

  • 75 - 90%
  • 4 – 12 total

SSB Low Box Squat

  • 75 - 85% or by RPE
  • 6 – 15 total

GHR

  • 30 – 50 total

Abs

Day 3: Squat – Bench Day

Free Squat in briefs, suit bottoms, or briefs and suit bottoms

  • 75 - 90%
  • 4 – 12 total

Board Press

  • 75 - 85% or by RPE
  • 6 – 15 total

Band Goodmorning

  • 40 – 60 total

DB Press

  • 30 – 50 total

Now, one last template you may want to use. I know accommodating resistance is popular among a lot of powerlifters. This is especially true in multi-ply federations. I suggest you don't use bands on the specific exercises. The point of doing these lifts is to refine technique and the bands will alter the motor patterns. Chains are a gray area. They can be used on specific exercises, but in most cases it's better to use them on the general specific lifts. To give an example, this could work as a variation of a four-day variation using chains and bands on the general specific lifts. The reasons I used RPE is because it's hard to give a percentage because of fatigue from the main movement. When you add in the extra tension from bands or weight from chains, it can become even harder to pinpoint.

Fifth Example: Transmutation (4-day with accommodating resistance)

Day 1: Bench

Shirted Bench

  • 75 - 90%
  • 4 – 12 total

Board Press with band tension

  • By RPE
  • 6 – 15 total

Seated Rows

  • 30 – 40 total

Band Pull Apart

  • 30 – 40 total

Day 2: Deadlift

Competition Stance Deadlift

  • 75 - 90%
  • 4 – 12 total

Box Squat with Blue Band and 120 Pounds of Chains

  • By RPE
  • 6 – 15 total

Glute Ham Raise (weighted or with bands)

  • 32-50 total

Optional Upper Back

Abs

Day 3: Bench

Shirted Bench

  • 75 - 90%
  • 4 – 12 total

Close Grip Incline

  • 3 – 5 sets
  • 6 – 10 reps *determined by RPE

Lat Pulldowns

  • 30 – 40 total

Front Raises

  • 30 – 40 total

Day 4: Squat

Free Squat in briefs, suit bottoms, or briefs and suit bottoms

  • 75 - 90%
  • 4 – 12 total

Rack Pulls with bands

  • By RPE
  • 6 – 15 total

Reverse Hyper

  • 3 – 5 sets
  • 8 – 12 reps

Abs

Realization

Realization is the final piece of the puzzle. This block will have low volume, high intensity and full recoveries between workouts. It generally runs two weeks. During this block, some lifters may choose to dedicate a separate day for each lift. Some may decide to only have two main days, with one for the bench and one for the squat/deadlift. After the specific movement, some light general accessory work can be performed. The volume and intensity of this work should be low. I'll demonstrate a basic realization block using each setup.

With this set up, each lift has a dedicated day with some light accessory work after. The purpose of the accessory work is to flush some blood and act as light GPP. It should not be heavy or taxing.

First Example: Realization (3-day)

Day 1: Deadlift

Competition stance, same gear as used in a meet

  • 90% or more
  • 1 – 4 reps

Reverse Hyper

  • 2 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Shrug variation

  • 2 sets
  • 15 – 20 reps

Abs

  • 2 sets
  • 15 – 25 reps

Day 2: Bench

Bench Press, competition gear

  • 90% or more
  • 1 – 4 reps

Band Pushdowns

  • 2 – 3 sets
  • 15 – 20 reps

Rows (light)

  • 2 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Band Front/Side/Rear Delt Raise

  • 2 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Day 3: Squat

Free Squat, same gear as used in a meet

  • 90% or more
  • 1 – 4 reps

Band Pull Through (light)

  • 2 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Band Leg Curls

  • 2 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Abs

  • 2 sets
  • 15 – 25 reps

Some lifters may opt for only having two main training days during this block. If this is the case, they'll have one bench day and a day for the squat and deadlift. Here's one way to set this up:

Second Example: Realization (2-day)

Day 1: Bench

Bench Press, competition gear

  • 90% or more
  • 1 – 4 reps

Band Pushdowns

  • 2 – 3 sets
  • 15 – 20 reps

Rows (light)

  • 2 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Band Front/Side/Rear Delt Raise

  • 2 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Day 2: Squat and DL

Free Squat, same gear as used in a meet

  • 9o% or more
  • 1 – 4 reps

Deadlift, competition stance, same gear as used in a meet

  • 90% or more
  • 1 – 4 reps

Reverse Hyper

  • 2 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Band Pull Through (light)

  • 2 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Abs

  • 2 sets
  • 15 – 25 reps

Another way that may be used to set this up would be doing the general accessory work on a separate day. Remember, the extra workouts are light and used to enhance recovery.

Third Example: Realization (2-day)

Day 1: Bench

Bench Press, competition gear

  • 90% or more
  • 1 – 4 reps

Rows (light)

  • 2 – 3 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Day 2: Bench extra workout

Band Flies

  • 2 – 4 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Band Pushdowns

  • 2 – 4 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Band Front/Side/Rear Delt Raise

  • 2 – 4 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Band Pull Apart

  • 2 – 4 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Day 3: Squat and Deadlift

Free Squat, same gear as used in a meet

  • 90% or more
  • 1 – 4 reps

Deadlift, competition stance, same gear as used in a meet

  • 90% or more
  • 1 – 4 reps

Day 4: Squat and Deadlift extra workout

Reverse Hyper

  • 2 - 4 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Band Pull Thrus (light)

  • 2 - 4 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Band Leg Curls

  • 2 - 4 sets
  • 10 – 20 reps

Abs

  • 2 - 4 sets
  • 15 – 25 reps

Setting up a training cycle:

When using Block Periodization leading up to a contest, it's important for a lifter to know how many weeks total they have. It may be best to work backwards from the meet. This will allow the lifter to have a guideline of how long each block should run, when equipment should be added, when to take restoration/deload weeks, and how to adjust if changes need to be made. Below is an 18 week training cycle. The blocks are designated, as well as when certain gear will be used. These are merely suggestions and will depend on the lifter’s skill in the gear as well as training needs. It 's written working backwards from the meet.

Week 1: Meet week

Week 2: Restoration/Deload

Week 3: Realization (full gear)

Week 4: Realization (full gear)

Week 5: Restoration/Deload

Week 6: Transmutation (bench shirt, briefs, suit, or both at lifter discretion)

Week 7: Transmutation (bench shirt, briefs, suit, or both at lifter discretion)

Week 8: Restoration

Week 9: Accumulation (Raw)

Week 10: Accumulation (Raw)

Week 11: Accumulation (Raw)

Week 12: Restoration/Deload

Week 13: Transmutation (Raw or limited/loose gear)

Week 14: Transmutation (Raw or limited/loose gear)

Week 15: Restoration/Deload

Week 16: Accumulation (Raw)

Week 17: Accumulation (Raw)

Week 18: Accumulation (Raw)

 

Conclusion: Block Periodization is not a one-size-fits-all training system. It is not a matter of sets x reps, exact exercises and personal beliefs. It"s an organizational outline that classifies means of preparation from general to specific. To successfully implement this system, a lifter must be able to thoughtfully place particular exercises into blocks that correspond with the principles of general preparation, general specific preparation, and specific preparation. By having an understanding of this style of programming, a lifter will be able to take advantage of the general qualities gained from the early stages of training by promoting transference to the competition squat, bench and deadlift. I hope this article has stimulated some thought and cleared up the misconceptions on Block Periodization.

References:

Issurin, V. (2008) Principles and Basics of Advanced Athletic Training. Ultimate Athlete Concepts: Michigan.

Issurin, V. (2008) Block Periodization: A Breakthrough in Sports Training. Ultimate Athlete Concepts: Michigan.

Smith, J. Classification of the Means. https://www.elitefts.com/documents/classification_of_the_means.pdf

Kontos, T. Prilepin’s Chart. https://www.elitefts.com/documents/prilepins_chart.htm

Tuchscherer, M. Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). https://www.elitefts.com/documents/perceived_exertion.htm

An Issue of Transfer of Training and Frequency

It has been around two years since I first wrote A Practical Guide for Implementing Block Periodization for Powerlifting, which was recently posted again as an EFS Classic. In those two years, some things have changed. My total has kept improving (although not as much as I would like, but that is mostly due to meet day miscues more than anything), I was called a “Westside-bashing, American-hating, watered-down Russian” on an infamous powerlifting forum, and my thoughts on certain things I touched on in my first article have changed. The purpose of this article is to revisit that first article and revise some of the original thoughts I had of how to apply this system. The main point is to address the issue of transference of training and making the most of one's time, as well as to take a look at frequency.

Clearing the air

First off, I do not hate America, Westside, or lifters that use systems that are similar to the methodology used at that gym. I understand that the particular system has worked for many (myself included for a short amount of time), and I have never discredited what the lifters there have accomplished. Their results have been nothing short of amazing, and they have brought many innovations to the sport. However, this article will probably have some ideas that are in sharp contrast to that system. That does not mean that anything about that system or any other system is wrong.

Dynamic correspondence/transfer of training/stop wasting your time

Much has been said about dynamic correspondence. I could easily go into one of the articles The Thinker wrote and put the definition in here or pull out one of Verkhoshansky’s books and type it verbatim. But, rather than do that, I will give a simplified definition for everyone that is opposed to people speaking scientifically (since apparently it is a crime to do so). So, for everyone that is offended by technical vocabulary, dynamic correspondence basically means using movements that will help to improve your competition events. They should be similar in structure to the main movements. So let’s just do a quick quiz here and see if you know which has more carryover to the competition lifts.

Select the movement that will have the most carryover to a bench press:

A) Close-Grip Bench Press
B) DB Incline
C) Rolling Triceps Extension

Select the movement that will have the most carryover to a squat:

A) Close Stance Pause Squat
B) Chain Suspended Good Morning
C) Reverse Hyper

Select the movement that will have the most carryover to a deadlift:

A) Chain Suspended Good Morning
B) Deficit Deadlift
C) Zercher Squat to an 11-inch box with band tension and chains

In case it isn't obvious or you didn't know, the answers are 1) A, 2) A, and 3) B. Basically, these movements share a higher level of similarity to the competition movements. So, this brings me to my next point of not wasting your time. For a powerlifter who is concerned with increasing his total in three specific events and not much else, do not waste time on minor bullshit like triceps extensions, reverse hypers, etc. at such a great volume that it takes away from your main lifts and supplemental work that has a transference. And yes, I understand the point that some lagging muscle groups can hold back progress. However, you can correct this through a few sets in your warm up or a few sets after your main work. Also, if you are so inclined, you can correct this in extra workouts either later in the day (if you train in the a.m.) or the next day (if you train in the p.m.) through low intensity accessory work. This will not impede your recovery if the volume and intensity are kept in check.

Frequency

When it comes to the subject of training frequency, this is probably where I have had the most significant change of thought. The first article I wrote featured a lot of upper/lower splits that are fairly typical of American lifters — with the bench being performed twice and the squat and deadlift being performed one to two times a week, with the appropriate special exercises after. While this method has produced results, and can continue to produce results, lately I have become more favorable to training the lifts more often in a week. This holds true in both the accumulation and transmutation blocks.

My reasoning behind this is the fact that the sport really boils down to how well you do in the squat, bench, and deadlift. A large part of any competitive event is based on how technically sound you are in the competitive events. By performing the competition lifts and closely related variants of them, you will become more technically sound. It also works on a principle known as synaptic facilitation. This basically means that the more times a movement is performed (with enough stimulation from proper intensity), the better you will become due to neural factors. This is the premise behind the high intensity, high frequency programs of the Bulgarians or the high frequency (albeit lower intensity) programs of the Russians and other Eastern Bloc countries.

Now, before I lead anyone on and have them thinking that they now need to find whatever the internet has led people to believe is the “Bulgarian” method, or that they should plug their numbers into some cookie cutter “Sheiko” spreadsheet, understand that those programs may or may not be appropriate. Understand that some of the programs that have made their way to the internet were designed for a specific lifter who may have a much higher level of qualification than yourself. Also, consider that some of these were designed for Elite athletes whose days were solely comprised of training, eating, and sleeping, so outside stressors were virtually eliminated. They also had access to a plethora of restorative measures that may not be available to you. If you are currently training once a day for three days a week, do not think you can jump straight to six or seven days of high intensity workouts for multiple sessions a day (and for most practical purposes this really won’t work for anyone with a job or responsibilities outside of training). This is something that must be gradually accumulated over time. Start slow and, as frequency is the key variable, increase it gradually.

Putting it together

Accumulation

Let’s now take a look at a couple programs side by side. The first example I show will be identical to the one in my original article for an accumulation block. Notice the upper/lower splits and the high amount of general work (Incline DB, GHR, Reverse Hyper, Triceps Pushdowns, and so on).

Day 1: Bench

  • Close-Grip Floor Press: 55–70% for 12 – 30 reps
  • DB Incline Press: 30–50 total reps
  • Seated Rows: 36–60 total reps
  • Face Pulls: 36–60 total reps
  • Triceps Pushdowns: 3 sets for as many reps as possible

Day 2: Deadlift

  • Deficit Deadlift (Conventional): 55–65% for 18–30 reps
  • Good Morning (Barbell): 4–5 sets for 6–10 reps
  • GHR: 50–75 total
  • Shrugs: 2–3 sets for 10–20 reps
  • Abs

Day 3: Bench

  • Ultra Wide Bench Press: 55–70% for 12–30 reps
  • DB Triceps Extensions: 30–60 total reps
  • Lat Pulldowns: 36–60 total
  • L-Lateral DB Raise: 30–45 total

Day 4: Squat

  • Box Squat: 55 –70% for 12–30 total
  • DB Split Squat: 24–40 total each leg
  • Reverse Hyper: 24–40 total
  • Optional Upper Back (usually a shrug variation): 2–3 sets for 10–20 reps
  • Abs

Now, let’s take a look at how this can be changed to have a higher frequency and a greater amount of dynamic correspondence. On paper, the volume will look lower, but it is lower in the general exercises. While these exercises may be of use to the novice lifter or to those who have a glaring issue they are trying to correct, these exercises become less important as a lifter’s qualification rises. Some general exercises are still included, but they are at the end of the workout after the two main movements of the day are finished. Also, note the frequency of the movements. The following template will be four days a week with squatting variations twice, deadlifting variations twice, and benching on all four days. However, note how the volume and frequency are altered to account for the increased frequency.

Day 1: Bench

  • Close-Grip Bench Press: 60–70% for 12–30 reps
  • Front Squat: 3–6 sets of 4–6 reps at RPE 6-7
  • DB Incline: 3–4 sets for 6–12 reps
  • Row variation: 30–50 total
  • Upper back or delts: 3 sets for 10–20 reps

Day 2: Deadlift

  • Deficit Deadlift (Conventional): 60 – 70% for 18–30 reps
  • Floor Press: 3–6 sets of 4–6 reps at RPE 6-7
  • Weighted 45 degree hyper: 3–5 sets for 8–12 reps
  • Lat Pulldowns: 3–4 sets of 10–15 reps
  • Abs

Day 3: Bench

  • Close-Grip Bench Press (legless): 60–70% for 12–30 reps
  • Romanian Deadlift: 3–6 sets of 4–6 reps at RPE 6-7
  • Weighted Pushups or dips: 36–60 total
  • Row variation: 30–50 total
  • Upper back or delts: 3 sets of 10–20 reps

Day 4: Squat

  • Box Squat: 60–70% for 12–30 total
  • Decline Bench: 3–6 sets of 4–6 reps at RPE 6-7
  • DB Split Squat: 3–5 x 6–12/leg
  • Pull-Ups: 30–60 total reps
  • Abs

This template gives an example of using more general specific exercises closer to the competition movements and eliminating the excessive volume of general accessory work. In addition, the RPEs are listed as six to seven. While six may seem light, I included it because when you are utilizing special exercises, it sometimes takes a few sets to get an accurate weight. So, maybe the first set or two is six, but then slight increases are made to make it RPE of seven. Also, while there is benching four days a week, the volume and intensity is tracked and a lifter should listen to his body on this. All of the sets, reps, and percentages/RPEs are just a guideline. Nothing is written in stone and all will need to be adjusted.

Transmutation

With this now covered, we will take a look at a transmutation block being revised. While I included a four-day split with upper and lower days separated, I have not favored this approach as of late. It is still a viable option, but for the transmutation block I am more partial to a three- or even four- day schedule that has more than one competition variant trained per session. There are a few different ways this can be set up. The first is a three-day split similar to what I had outlined in my first article. It would appear as the following:

These are the main training days which would be spaced out over the week. It could be Mon-Wed-Fri or Sun-Tue-Thur, or any variation of that. As far as the terms and exercise selection: Comp stands for competition movements (done with competition gear, grip, stance, etc.), Sup is for supplemental (special exercise closely related to the movement–such as competition stance or grip, but less gear and possibly adding bands, chains, or tempo changes), and Dev for developmental (special exercise still related to movement but done with different grip, stance, and tempo). RPE is listed, and for the competition movements, percentages are also a viable option. To give an example of this, let’s say Lifter A is a geared, wide stance squatter that pulls sumo. His three-day transmutation may look like this:

If a lifter wanted to have a four day/week transmutation block, I would suggest the following:

So, to give an example of our above lifter, let’s plug in these movements:

As far as general accessory work, it can be included on these days as a brief circuit at the end, or it can be done in extra workouts on off days. This would be light, easy flushing work and could be used to work some neglected areas (lats, upper back, injury prevention for knees and shoulders, mobility work, abs, etc.) Do not turn these into a bodybuilding workout on your off days.

Realization

In reference to the realization block, I would keep the same approach outlined in the original article. This is meant to be a taper and the decrease in frequency and volume will serve appropriately.

Conclusion

When it comes to a question of getting the most out of your training, a time comes when some of the general exercises are no longer a priority. It becomes important to decide when a shift needs to be made in favor of a means of training that will focus on the actual competitive events. To continue to reach new levels of performance, a lifter will need to prioritize the correct movements. Additionally, when volume and intensity can only be raised so much, frequency is another variable that can be manipulated. The key is for a lifter to make a gradual transition and know when the appropriate time has come to increase this. This is something that is individual to each lifter and will have to be monitored closely.

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