Starting off in Powerlifting can be confusing.
There are so many programmes out there to choose from, knowing how best to begin to increase your squat, bench & deadlift can be daunting.
This short article will hopefully show you that keeping it simple is probably a good way to start your journey to Powerlifting greatness!........
For those people that I train who want to increase their knowledge on squat, bench press and deadlift and want to develop their technique, I get them to squat, bench and deadlift every time they come to the gym (whether that's two, three or four times a week).
A lot of people might think that's quite a lot to do in one day. But what we have to remember is is that we're not going to be maxing out, we're not going to be doing a ton of volume. We're going to be doing enough sets and reps to really focus mentally on what you're doing and figuring out how best to perform that movement that's specific to you.
So you'll notice here that we are looking at reps between 2 and 4. Anything 5 and above for a set tends to incur technical fatigue - especially for beginners who aren't used to keeping strong and tight for multiple amount of reps. That tends to let them down quite quickly i.e. the tension in the back, tension in the core, tension in the glutes etc. Keeping that frame and set up whilst doing the movement is a lot harder usually when you start out than the movement itself.
So to mitigate that we tend to do less reps so that technical fatigue doesn't come into play as much. So you do a few reps, put the bar back on the rack, get your breath back, rest for 2 or 3 minutes and then hopefully put into play some technical elements that you knew that you didn't manage or that your coach shows you that you didn't do etc on the next sets.
And if you have multiple sets, you will have more times to practice this.
So using the above example, on day one you will make the squat the primary lift that you really want to practice, hence 6 sets. Bench press and deadlift will just be ticking over.
Ch, Cm and E are guides on how heavy the weights should be. Those that like numbers, I would never recommend lifting more than 75% if you're doing something that's technical. Keep it between 65% and 75%.
You're not necessarily going to know what that one rep max is as a beginner, and may not understand the percentage or RPE either. So what I tend to do is describe how the sets should feel...
Ch - challenging
Cm - comfortable
E - easy
So for Day one...
Squat (6x2) Ch. If you are focused mentally and really focused on what you're doing, the weight you're using should feel comfortable but it should be challenging for you to make that weight comfortable because you're really having to focus.
Benchpress (3x4) Cm. This should be lighter because it's in the comfortable range. So even if you're not quite focusing, the weight isn't going to crush you.
Deadlift (4x3) E. Really work on form and maybe even slow the deadlift down a little bit and make it a tempo deadlift. Really work on the form using a light weight just to make sure you're getting the movement pattern right.
And at the end, you have your accessory work. What people tend to do when they are starting out is do a lot of accessories because they feel like they haven't worked hard enough and feel like they need to do this to make their session feel like they've done something.
But remember - you are not coming here to do hard physical training - you are coming in here to practice the movements. There is plenty of time for the hard physical training - but you need to make sure the movements are on point before you go into more strength and power training. If your technique is shoddy, doing the strength and power work later down the line isn't going to be as effective and will be more dangerous for you.
So once you've done your big three, you could do a lower body accessory (maybe a split squat or a reverse dumbbell lunge) and then something to work the core. Ideally this is some sort of TVA work. Posterior pelvic tilts would be a good starting point.
Moving onto day two, we have made the squat easier because they were challenging on day one and we're really focusing now on the bench press. The deadlift is nice and comfortable, focusing on the form. And this time we have upper body accessories like a military press, chin up's or lat pull downs. Choose one or two (maybe posterior and anterior work).
Try to choose accessory work that uses multi joint movements and will carry over well into your three big lifts.
On day three you will make the deadlifts challenging, the squats nice and comfortable and the bench press is easy. Again choose a multi joint lower body accessory and something for the core.
On day four, keep everything nice and easy so you're ready and fresh to go again on day one.
I hope this helps and I hope it gives you a little idea on how to potentially programme yourself if you're thinking about starting out in powerlifting.
Remember - powerlifting is not a sprint, it's a marathon. And if you can get this technical block right and concentrate on the technique then that's going to be really helpful for your future blocks when you're starting to develop your strength and power.
If you have any questions please ask - I am more than happy to help!
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