You snort an ammonia capsule, cringing at the synapse stinging; you clap your chalked palms, forming a storm cloud; your buddy swats your back, hard, and again, harder; you shout, loud, and again, louder; you stomp to the bar loaded with more than you’ve ever moved before; and. . . . Almost every bodybuilder has a powerlifting fantasy. After all, most of us don’t want to just look strong. We want it all. That’s why this month’s lesson is all about upping your numbers in the three powerlifts — bench press, squat and deadlift — as we break down the top five power-training blunders.
Class is in session.
MISTAKE #1: NOT CYCLING
Periodization is a fancy word for segmenting your training into progressive cycles, typically lasting 8 to 12 weeks. For power gains, it’s virtually mandatory.
- Set an attainable but challenging goal for an eight-week power cycle. Those with less experience (and strength) can shoot higher, but generally a 5% strength improvement is the sweet spot. So, if you can deadlift 400, aim for 420.
- Do one workout per powerlift per week over those eight weeks, and pyramid
- Starting with eight, decrease the reps of your pyramid’s apex set by one per week and increase the weight of that set. In this way, you’ll hit a max single in
- Plot out your cycle. Consult an online one-rep calculator so that you can go from previously attainable marks in week one to your new target in week eight. For example, going from 315 for eight (projecting a 390 single) in week one to 375 for four in week five (projecting a 410 single) has you on target for a 420 single in week eight.
- If you’re missing marks week to week, reassess your targets.
MISTAKE #2: OVERRELIANCE ON VERY LOW REPS
Many trainers assume that if they want to up their one-rep lifts, they should stick to the “singles scene,” focusing on max singles — and, perhaps, doubles and triples. With this mindset, a “high rep” set goes to six. The problem is that the fewer reps you do, the harder it is to eke out another one, and, physically, as well as psychologically, it’s important to consistently improve.
- Cycle your workouts in the manner previously prescribed, because this way you will do a max single only once per powerlift over eight weeks.
- Pyramiding your powerlifts allows you to work them through a full-rep range. Although the lighter sets of a pyramid should not reach failure, strive to use progressively more weight in these sets. A sample pyramid might go like this: 225 pounds x 12 reps, 275 x 10, 315 x 8, 375 x 5.
- Keep reps for other exercises in the 6-10 range.
- Always employ the helping hands of at least one experienced spotter on maximum sets of bench presses and squats.
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