Today's Table Talk video isn't a new question. In fact, Dave has already answered it many times throughout the years of elitefts. What is new for the video is the answer, which continually changes. The question:
"What advice would you have for someone who wants to start competing in powerlifting?"
Dave begins his answer by pointing out that, though it goes unnoticed by many, the sport of powerlifting evolves and changes every single year. This is why the first time that Dave was asked this question, the answer was very different than the answer now. Back then, the answer was to just enter the meet and go do it. 10 years ago, the "beginners" in the sport of powerlifting had seven or eight years of gym experience outside of powerlifting, so they could easily go in and do the meet. Several years later, the answer morphed and Dave told people to spend a little time fixing their technique and getting everything locked in, and then entering a meet.
Now, the answer has changed again. In the current climate of the sport of powerlifting, Dave's opinion is that too many people enter meets on a whim for foolish reasons like having a buddy in the meet. Dave calls these people Laser Tag Lifters because they just show up the same way they would for laser tag on a weekend, and the result is that they don't have a very good experience and aren't exposed to what powerlifting can truly offer.
Dave's advice is to first pick the meet and give yourself 16 or 20 weeks. Commit to the meet so you're locked in and then starting training by testing your strength. Regardless of your technique (unless it's an injury risk), try to get some type of baseline max at the start. Don't use a rep calculator or an estimate. Get real one-rep maxes for three lifts so you have a good idea of where your strength is. Treat this number as your starting point and deduct five to 10% from it. This deduction is an important step, because it allows you to account for normal variance in strength and teaches you that competition maxes and training maxes are not the same.
Then you can set goals for the meet. Look to break your training maxes by 10% — and don't plan to exceed that. Maybe you will or maybe you won't, but that should not be part of your expectation. If it is, you're headed down a bad path. Throughout the training cycle, make it a goal to not miss any training sessions. Most beginner lifters will complete close to 75% of their training sessions, but your goal should be to make as many of them as possible for the entire 16 or 20 weeks of preparation.
With these parameters set, you have a few other decisions to make and many options. You can hire a coach or you can set a simple linear periodization working backward from your goal at the meet. If you do set up your own linear periodization program, make it very simple. Take your training max and plan to lift that weight two weeks out from the meet, preferably for a triple. The previous weeks will be designed to build up to that weight, with five to 10% less weight each week (remember these weeks are in reverse!). As general guidelines, in reverse order from the meet, Dave says you should do something alone the lines of:
- Four weeks of sets of three
- Four weeks of sets of five
- Sets of eight for the remaining beginning weeks
Everything else about your program is really up to you and will matter less than the percentages Dave just recommended. You can do the lifts as many or as few times a week as you want, though Dave prefers fewer times. You do need technique work, but that's going to be individual and will be with weights under 40%. Your accessory work should be based on your torso moving out: start with your abs, back, glutes, and hips, and then work outward.
For a fully designed training program, you can search elitefts.com and find a program for almost any lifter for almost any purpose. There are great templates available that you can use, but remember that you do not need anything elaborate to start. Use a simple program and you will get stronger.