Figure and Powerlifting Program Design: 4-Week Training Cycle

TAGS: dual sport competitors, hybrid program, female competitor, Alycia Israel, training cycle, figure, training program, powerlifting, strength training

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I've been asked a lot about what my training looks like as a figure competitor and a powerlifter, so I wanted to share an example of what a four-week cycle might look like for me in the off-season. During my off-season, I'm not specifically preparing for either competition in the short term. When I approach 12 weeks out, my training will most likely change a bit. I do hold figure as a higher priority and consider it my main sport, so that is reflected in my training. I'll discuss the differences below.

If figure is your primary sport:

  1. As seen below, you can absolutely (and should) train the big lifts on a weekly basis within the lower rep ranges. Not only does this keep you in the swing of things for the platform, but over time, it will build muscle density to your look.
  2. Like powerlifting, the second exercise in your training, after your main lift, should be a builder. The only difference is that the builder exercise focuses on your aesthetic weakness versus building your strength. For most competitors, what looks weak usually is, so this should kill two birds with one stone. For example, on my first lower body day, my main lift is the deadlift. This is followed by a secondary exercise to build my glutes and/or hamstrings. They are definitely an aesthetic weakness of mine, so including something like Romanian deadlifts or glute bridges is purposeful.
  3. The accessory exercises are more volume based and should be very pump driven in nature. Leave your ego with your first two exercises and bust out some high reps, even if it means dropping the weight a hair. You want the weight to be challenging but light enough to obtain a good squeeze so that you really “feel the muscle.”
  4. Personally, I do minimal cardio in the off-season. I don't recommend being a cardio queen or king when you're trying to put on size or build strength, but you shouldn’t avoid it all together either. Two sessions a week are solid for most.

If powerlifting is your primary sport:

  1. You can definitely set up your training as shown below. The main difference is that your secondary exercise should build upon a weakness in your main lift instead of having an aesthetic focus. This will be different for everyone, so you have to plug in whatever exercise works for you. For example, if I were getting ready for a meet, instead of Romanian deadlifts as a secondary exercise on my lower body day, I would probably do front squats or good mornings because my upper back strength needs work and is a weakness with my deadlift.
  2. You can pull some of the volume-based accessory exercises out or remove some drop sets if you wish. It really depends on your overall recovery and how quickly you adapt.
  3. I recommend the same cardio here as well. Although your focus is strength-based, maintaining a decent aerobic capacity is in your best interests for performing at your best. To still create aerobic adaptation, another option is to adjust the HIIT sessions to low intensity steady state (LISS) sessions for additional recovery.

RELATED 16-Week Powerlifting/Bodybuilding Hybrid Program


Some things to note:

  • Adding some variations such as chains, bands and boxes is a great way to mix things up and build your strength and aesthetics. Although I kept the program basic and to the point, there is definitely room to throw some variations in there as long as it is purposeful and relevant to your goals.
  • Rearranging the days is also an option. Just stick to two lower body days, one upper body push day and one upper body pull day. You really can organize it any way you want as long as you train everything evenly and leave yourself enough recovery time within the week. I don't recommend doing your lower body days back to back.
  • For this type of programming, I suggest deloading probably every eight weeks depending on how you feel, but you could do it every four weeks if you're just starting out.

Abbreviation Key:

SSW = Super set with

RDL = Romanian deadlift

HIIT = High intensity interval training

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I hope that this program example shed some light on the actual program design for a dual sport figure and powerlifting athlete. Again, this is just an example of how I personally train myself and clients (if they have similar goals). Everyone is different and changes should be made accordingly. At the very least, if you have a desire to compete in both sports but aren't sure where to start, this should be a good baseline for you. Feel free to leave me any questions in the comments below.

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