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Powerlifting Home Gym: Essentials to Build YOUR Strength Gym

How to Build A World-Class Powerlifting Home Gym w/ The Bare Essentials

This is a quick and straightforward guide to building a simple & basic powerlifting gym. This is for people who are perfectly comfortable training with minimal equipment (which is all that is necessary) and are working with a budget. However, “working with a budget” doesn’t mean cheap. It simply means being deliberate to get the best equipment possible at the best possible price. It also means buying everything you need and nothing you don’t. I bought my first home gym the second they announced that businesses were closing due to COVID. I was a bit late, but still managed to grab good equipment. The good thing about powerlifting is that you really don’t need much. Training revolves around three lifts, all which are performed with a barbell and weights. Below are the bare essentials needed to build a perfectly functional powerlifting home gym.

What You Need to Build Your First Garage Gym

These is the bare minimum list of items:
  • Power Rack
  • Barbell
  • Bench
  • Platform
  • Weights
  • Plate Tree
These are the bare essentials needed to build a perfectly functional powerlifting home gym that will serve you faithfully for decades to come. The power rack will serve as the tool that facilitates squatting and benching. The power rack is one of the most critical components of the home gym, since almost everything else will be built around it. You don’t need a fancy power rack that takes up a ton of space: you need something that will allow you to squat, bench, and press overhead. Nothing more. Four steel uprights, four steel crossbars, J-Hooks, and safety pins is all that is required to perform those lifts. There are two considerations: a bolt-down rack (to the floor) and a flat-floot rack that doesn’t require bolting. We’ll speak more on those later. The barbell will be arguably your most important piece of equipment. If there’s one item where you absolutely cannot go cheap on - it’s the bar. A well made powerlifting bar will last you decades if you treat it well & maintain it properly. That means no rack pulls, or letting it go months (or even worse years) unattended. Dropping the bar on steel pins will bend it. Letting the bar pile up rust, chalk, sweat, dust, and other stuff will reduce the effectiveness of the knurling, and in that the effectiveness of the bar itself. The bench will be used in exercises that require the use...of a bench. The standard dimensions are:
  • 12 inches wide
  • 48 inches long
  • 17 inches high
The main consideration for a bench is going to be the material - making sure that the lifter doesn’t slide through the exercise. If you’ve already got a bench, and you have this problem, the use of resistance bands is usually the best way to improve the “stickiness” of the surface. The platform is also another important element of the gym. I often recommend the use of a large platform. This will be a platform that allows you to bolt down your rack to the floor affording you more stability than a flat-foot platform. It will also protect your garage floor from deadlift and other pulling movements. This part is critical. Simply using horse stall mats is not enough, if you plan on getting sufficiently strong. Which we advocate for on this website. You need to build a platform that has two layers of plywood on the bottom, another piece of plywood placed directly in the middle as the third layer, and stall mats on the sides where the plates would touch. The weights are going to be an absolutely essential part of your garage gym, as well. There are essentially five types of plates you can buy:
  • Cast Iron Plates
  • Rubber Coated Plates
  • Bumper Plates
  • Steel Calibrated Plates
  • Olympic Machineed Plates
Each has its own pro’s and con’s. Cast-iron plates are the cheapest and most widely available option. Their main downside being that they can be 5-10% inaccurate at times. I’ve found mine to be all within 2% variation of 45 lbs with one plate only being 43 lbs. These are extremely popular and you can at times find them for as cheap as $0.80 on the dollar. Rubber-coated plates are popular in commercial gym environments. They also tend to have grip configurations. They are safer to handle and not as noisy as cast-iron plates, but more expensive. Their main drawback being that they also aren’t any more accurate than cast-iron plates, and I kind of enjoy the iron clanking sound. Bumper plates are generally used for weightlifting movements. They’re created to be dropped on the ground without wrecking everything around it. They can be found in lb and kilo configurations, and can be as calibrated as steel plates. The main drawback being their enormous size taking up too much space on the bar and thereby limiting the amount of weight that can be lifted. Olympic-machined plates are more accurate than cast-iron plates but slightly less so than steel calibrated plates. They’re not very popular, and aren’t typically the smartest choice to make. The reason being is that if you’re going to be shelling out cash for accurate plates, you’re most likely planning on being a competitive lifter. So, you’re not getting the flexibility in bar loading that steel plates offer (they’re thinner and heavier). And you’re also paying far more cash than you otherwise would with cast-iron plates. So you don’t get the cheap price of cast-iron nor the ability to load more weight on the bar or perfect accuracy of steel plates - so why get them? In my opinion, purchasing olympic-machined plates is like buying 35 lb plates. Steel-calibrated plates are the priciest but the most accurate. They also afford you the ability to load far more weight on the bar. These plates are used for competition, and advanced powerlifters will also purchase them to simulate as much as possible a competition environment in their gym. Once you have your plates, you’re going to need a tool to store them. These are called plate trees. The most effective ones have 1” pins and an “A” frame. Usually having the capacity to store up to 500 lbs at a time. The reason for the 1” pin is that they’re easier for handling 45-lb plates. The two inch pins will often require two hands for you to take weights  out of the tree, or place them back in. It’s a slight annoyance, but a consideration nonetheless.

What’s The Most EFFECTIVE Power Rack?

As I had alluded to earlier, choosing a Power Rack shouldn’t be too hard. All you need is a simple, sturdy platform that can hold your weights safely. Safety pins will allow you to lift by yourself without the need for a spotter, in situations where you might fail a lift. For example, if you miss a rep on the bench, the height of the safety pins should be such that if you were to relax your arch, the bar would rest safely on them. You could then squeeze from the underneath the barbell. For squats, if you were to fail, you would simply “sit” back down, and allow the pins to take the weight off your back. The height of the pins should be set such that by allowing your balance to shift back towards your heels, the bar would make contact and rest quietly on the pins. The are two power racks that come to mind when it comes to what most lifters should find perfectly serviceable for their garage gyms:
  • Rogue R3 Power Rack
  • Rogue RML-390F Power Rack
The primary distinction between the Rogue R3 Power Rack & the RML-390F is that the R3 requires you to bolt down the rack to the floor. The RML-390F, on the other hand, is a flat-foot rack. This means that it doesn’t need to be tied down the floor. This is important because the power rack being bolted to the floor gives you more stability. My first power rack was the RML-390F because it was the only one available at the time (start of COVID). I originally wanted the Rogue R3. Regardless, I love the RML-390F. I purchased storage pins to put 45-lb plates on the rear uprights. This affords me more stability. I also placed stall mats underneath the rack, because my garage floor is uneven. So far, I have squatted low-400’s with no issues, and that number should continue climbing in the coming months. I will post any updates / change my opinion if given reason to. Another difference between the two is that the RML-390F has more room inside the uprights. The R3 has 24”, while the RML-390F has 30” of room. If you like a bigger walkout on the squat, this might be a consideration for you. The RML-390F also has a bigger footprint. Being 48” in width, it takes up more space than the smaller 34” R3. Full disclosure: If I were to do everything from scratch, I would be an 8x8 plywood and stall mats platform as the foundation of my gym. I would install a Rogue R3 Rack towards the rear half of the platform, leaving an entire area in front for deadlifting and other pulling movements. However, not everyone wants to spend $800 on a power rack. Here are some recommendations for other (cheaper) platforms. Disclaimer: I have never used any of the following power racks. I am basing my recommendation based on research alone. I also would never recommend any of these racks over the Rogue racks (if your budget allowed for them). The racks are:
  • Fitness Reality 810XLT Super Max Power Cage 4.6/5 rating with over 1,300 reviews. 
  • HulkFit 1000-Pound Capacity Multi-Function Adjustable Power Cage

How to Choose A Power Bar

Being one of the most important pieces of your gym, the power bar is one of the items that will take the longest to make a purchase decision on. The other two being the rack and the plates, I believe. As a powerlifter, you will need a power bar that meets your expectations in the following criteria:
  • Diameter
  • Knurling
  • Weight
  • Oxidation-resistance
For a stiff bar, with no contributing whip, go for a 29-MM power bar. For a bar with a little more whip, go for a 28.5-MM power bar. 29MM is what’s usually used in competition, although some federations use 28.5MM here in the US. The International Powerlifting Federation requires bars that are between 28 to 29 MM in diameter. So, if you’re planning to build a powerlifting gym, you’re most likely going to want to be training using equipment that assimilates to a powerlifting competition environment. If that is the case, I would recommend the following power bars:
  • ROGUE Ohio Power Bar (No Whip, Aggressive Knurling)
  • Westside Power Bar 2.0 (No Whip, Aggressive Knurling)
  • ROGUE B&R Power Bar 2.0 (No Whip, Standard Knurling)
  • The ROGUE Bar 2.0 (Good Whip, Standard Knurling)
  • Texas Power Bar (Good Whip, Aggressive Knurling)
These bars are going to be your top barbells when it comes to the current marketplace when speaking about price, quality, specs, and availability. These bars will range from 185K PSI to 205K PSI when it comes to steel strength. There are some bars that use 250K PSI - but that may just be overkill for a home gym setup. A 28.5MM bar will have a little more whip than the 29MM bar. If you want a bar with a bit more whip, you can choose from:
  • The ROGUE Bar 2.0
  • The Texas Power Bar
The main difference here is going to be the knurling. The Texas Power Bar has more aggressive knurling, however, some people dislike this feature because it’s not as friendly on the hands. If this is so, go with the ROGUE Bar 2.0 since it has a “standard” knurling which will be slightly better on the hands. The whip and the aggressive knurling will generally aid you more on your deadlift than anything else. The Texas Power Bar is slightly more expensive than the ROGUE Bar 2.0 at $20. Additionally, the ROGUE Bar 2.0 comes with a lifetime warranty. The Texas Power Bar’s call to fame comes from its history, and the fact that it’s been used repeatedly to break world records. I included that as it may be a consideration for some people. Over on the 29MM side, we have three primary options:
  • The ROGUE Ohio Power Bar
  • The Westside Power Bar 2.0
  • ROGUE B&R Bar 2.0
The ROGUE Ohio Power Bar & the Westside Power Bar are very similar in terms of “whip”, PSI, and knurling. However, the ROGUE Ohio Power Bar is $60 cheaper (for the Black Zinc) and has many more price options and coatings to choose from. So, I’d go with the ROGUE Ohio Power Bar option on this one. I purchased the Stainless Steel, I don’t think everyone needs to spend the money for that one. The option for those that want the “no whip” but also “standard knurling” would be the B&R Bar 2.0. This was designed by Mark Rippetoe & Mike Burgener. It has dual marks (for weightlifting & powerlifting) as well as a standard knurling (not aggressive). The B&R Bar is primarily meant to be a “general training bar” for both weightlifting and powerlifting. It is not hyper-specific to either. So, if you’re someone looking to practice both types of movements (olympic and the power lifts) - perhaps this would be for you. There are many other power bars in the market. Such as some more expensive ones such as Kabuki Strength & Eleiko Power Bars. There are other cheaper options, as well. Such as The CAP or York power bars. However, when it comes to quality, pricing, specs, and availability - the five bars I suggested clearly stand out as my top favorites. If I had to choose one, I’d choose the ROGUE Ohio Power Bar every single time. It will last decades. It has very good pricing. The specs that I want (45-lbs, 29MM, 205K & Aggressive Knurling), and as long as I take good care of it, its effectiveness shouldn’t diminish, at all.

Choosing A Competition-Grade Flat Bench

For a flat bench, there’s not much you’re going to be looking at. First, how well it “sticks” - so you want good material on the pad. Second, dimensions. To create a training environment that assimilates to that of a competition, you’re going to want to get a bench that meets the following measurements:
  • 12” wide
  • 48” long
  • 18” high
There are two benches that immediately come to mind:
  • ROGUE Utility Bench 2.0 (the one I own)
  • REP Fitness FB-5000 Comp. Bench
The two are very similar, although the REP Fitness bench is slightly more popular. The REP Fitness bench is always $30 cheaper (at the current moment), so if you’re looking for the best value for a high-performing item, look there. Either one of the two will do the job perfectly fine. Another question that will come will be that of an adjustable bench. At the current moment I don’t own one in my gym (although eventually, I will). As I perform my own research and end up buying one, I’ll update this section of the post.

Picking Your Plates

Choosing plates for a powerlifting home gym is mainly going to come down to three options. Here are your best shopping options, ordered by least to most expensive.

Cast Iron Plates

If you’re electing to the cast-iron plates route, I assume it’s because you’re looking for the cheapest option possible. If that’s so, I’d first look into physical (non-internet) ways of purchasing the plates. These include:
  • Local junk /salvage yards
  • Craigslist
  • OfferUp
  • Facebook Marketplace
The reason why is because shipping for hundreds of pounds worth of weights isn’t going to be cheap. Depending on where you live, I was charged $1 per lb shipped. You can also look into retail stores in your area. Really, any place where you can go physically and buy plates - I’d look there, first. If not, here are links from places over the internet where you might find some:
  • CAP Barbell Plates sold by Amazon.com
  • USA Sports, Inc sold by Amazon.com (I bought these)
  • Ader Black Olympic Plates sold by Amazon.com
  • ROGUE Olympic (Cast Iron) Plates
If you go around shopping, it might be useful to carry a scale with you to make sure you’re getting plates that are at least accurate to face-value.

Machined / Milled Plates (2%)

For Olympic-Machined plates, there are three major options that I would recommend. I love two of them, and would buy one of them just for the looks.
  • York “Legacy” Plates at ROGUE: $1.46
  • ROGUE Olympic Machined Plates: $1.77
  • Ivanko Olympic-Machined Plates: $2.20
Looks-wise, I think the York plates are awesome. They have a classic look in black plates. However, the Ivanko plates, to me, have the strongest aesthetic appeal. I really like that look. However, if I had to pick one of the three, I’d go with the York plates. All things considered, I think they provide the best deal.

Steel Calibrated Plates

If you want steel calibrated plates, I’d check out the ROGUE Steel Calibrated Plates series. The main difference for purchase considerations is going to be price…
  • ROGUE Steel Calibrated Kilo Plates: $2.00 / lb (25KG Pair)
  • ELEIKO Steel Calibrated Kilo Plates: $2.36 / lb (25KG Pair)
  • Ivanko Steel Calibrated Kilo Plates: $3.34 / lb (25KG Pair)

The Plate Tree

Once you have the plates, you need a place to store them. I’d highly recommend getting yourself a plate tree. Particularly, with an “A” shape, and a 1” pin.  These would be easier to maneuver. Be mindful of the “weight carrying capacity”. Good ones should have at least 300 to 500 lbs capacity.
  • Marcy Standard Weight Plate Tree (1”) - (300 lbs. Max)
  • CAP Barbell (2”) - (500 lbs. Max) - I own this one.
  •  CAP Barbell (1”) - (300 lbs. Max)

Building Your Platform & Other Helpful Items

There are several helpful guides on the internet when it comes to building a platform for your home gym. I’d recommend Alan Thrall’s guide. That’s the one I personally used. It was the most detailed, and included the entire list of materials to buy. For my platform, I created a 4X8, since I am using a flat-footed rack which doesn’t need to be bolted down to the floor. I used Birch Plywood from Home Depot for all layers, and I purchased horse stall mats from GreatMats.com. The materials for assembling the platform were purchased from Home Depot, as well. No preference, this was just the closest to my house.

Useful Items for Powerlifting At Home

Barbell Collars & Quick Release Clamps

I purchased the Lock-Jaw Oly 2” Barbell Collars on Amazon.com. I’ve used them for several months with weights in excess of 400 lbs. and never had any issue of any sort. The weights don’t move much and rarely rattle. Highly recommended.

Deadlift Wedge

This is a cheap item that you put underneath a plate, and roll it forward, so that one side is elevated. It makes the removal or addition of plates for deadlifting / rowing much easier. Deadlift Jacks / Helpers can be quite expensive, but equally useful. This is a $10 item that can help you equally effectively. Some people will place a 5-lb or 10-lb underneath a 45-lb plate and roll it forward to achieve the same effect. I’ve found that doing that the bar will tend to roll over in some form. Maybe I’m just doing it wrong.

Cleaning Kit

Asides from all that, having a cleaning kit readily available should help you keep your barbell’s knurling as effective as possible. As a general rule, don’t apply a bunch of chalk to your hand nor to the bar. It doesn’t improve your grip and reduces the effectiveness of the barbell by getting in between the knurlings. Use chalk lightly, and it’ll also prevent too much cleaning or deterioration of the knurling. Keep some 3-in-1 oil, WD-40, and brittle brushes for maintenance. Some cleaning rags can also help you in wiping down any residue. This also applies to your bench. If you’re someone who sweats a lot, maybe having some disinfectant wipes nearby will be useful for after your bench session. With all of the items listed in this article, you should have enough to assemble a perfectly functional powerlifting home gym that will serve as the training grounds for your next monster total.

Powerlifting Diet Plan: Eat for STRENGTH (+Sample Meals)

How to Eat for Strength Growth & Powerlifting Dominance

To maximize your ability as a powerlifter, you need to lift the most amount of weight possible, at the leanest possible bodyweight. For most people, this means that they will need to get as strong as they possibly can at around 12 - 15% body fat percentage. Because your weight and body composition will be an essential part of your career as a powerlifting or strength competitor: you will need to learn the essence of counting calories and manipulating meals to hit certain macronutrient goals. Although “hitting macros” is a beast completely on its own, this diet plan will be a template that you can use to consistently build muscle mass over a period of time. It can also be easily adjusted to gain or lose weight in a way that allows you to retain as much muscle mass as possible (during periods of fat loss) & building as much lean body mass as possible during periods of weight gain.

Why is Gaining Weight Important for Powerlifting?

Gaining weight (in specific: skeletal muscle mass) is essential for strength because that is what allows you to lift more weight. If you compare a trainee at 200 lbs & 15% body fat percentage; and that same trainee at 180 lbs & 15% body fat percentage - the former will be able to move a greater amount of weight by virtue of having far more muscular body mass. But the key isn’t to eat 4,000 calories of ice cream & milk every day to make the scale move: the key is to eat in an intelligent & deliberate manner that achieves three factors:
  • Supports performance
  • Facilitates recovery
  • Builds muscle mass
These three pillars support each other in achieving continual strength gains. Recovery needs to be as best as possible to maintain a high level of performance. Training performance needs to be high in order to squeeze the most out of every session. And the foods need to then aid in the process of re-building and growing additional tissue. That is the primary aim of this diet template.

How to Build Muscle in The Kitchen Consistently

So we know that we need to gain weight. And we want to maximize the amount of useful body weight that we can gain on a weekly basis. In order to do that, we need to eat in a way that maximizes our daily muscle protein synthesis, is at a slight caloric surplus, and maintains an elevated level of performance in the gym. Hitting our optimal daily muscle protein synthesis means that we are maximizing how much muscle we’re building on a day-to-day basis. Because an MPS response can only happen every 3-5 hours - this means that you need to somewhat time your meals to hit these windows. It also means that every meal needs to contain enough protein to either stimulate or maximize this response. Secondly, we need to eat in a slight caloric surplus to actually gain weight. Why slight? Because there’s only so much muscle you can build, and eating a ton of calories won’t improve that amount. For that reason, eating a bunch of food in excess of your maintenance will simply amplify the rate of adipose tissue gained. That’s not what we want. We want muscle. You should be aiming for 300 to 500 calories in excess of your maintenance. That’s a slight surplus. Err on the side of 300. You should not be gaining more than 0.5 lb per week. Anything more than that and you might not be doing yourself any favors. As you build more muscle, you might have to adjust your calories by raising them a bit.

How to Setup Your Macros for Building LEAN Mass

On this website, you may have seen me recommend a macros templates that may be generally applicable to a random population. While one should refrain from doing so, I believe it would be generally useful for most people. At the very least, the demographic that follows this blog. For building muscle, most of you would fare generally well eating these macros:
  • 2,700 calories
  • 200g of protein
  • 70g of fat
  • 317.5g of carbs
    • Get at least 30g of fiber
Add more or subtract some depending on the scale movement. If your weight remains equal, add a bit more calories. If your weight goes down, add more calories. If your weight goes up too quickly (more than 1 lb per week) - subtract some calories. That’s really all there is to it: managing your caloric intake & weekly weight average. Eat 4-5 times per day with 3-5 hour intervals between meals.

Sample Meals for Building Strength & Muscle

Notice: This food is what I would eat in a normal week-in-the-life. These are the six meals that I eat the most. You’ll notice a trend of:
  • Easy to prepare
  • Reasonably good taste
  • High-protein
  • Cost effective
I don’t like to spend too much time in the kitchen. And most often, if a recipe requires too much prep or time to make it, I won’t have the ability to (on a weekday, generally). These recipes need to taste reasonably good. I don’t have to love them to eat them. I just need to enjoy it. If I don’t: I will find myself often getting food to go somewhere. Cost-effective: I like to budget myself $80 for the whole week for food. I find that this is plenty and is within reason. Lastly, it has to be high-protein since our requirements for recovery and anabolic processes are quite high. Without further ado:

(Breakfast) Ground Chicken Burrito

Macros:

  • 703 calories
  • 46.5 of protein
  • 21.9g of fat
  • 82.4g of carbs
    • 6.6g of fiber
These are a personal staple & very easy to make.

Ingredients:

  • 1X Burrito Tortilla (~$0.34)
  • 4 oz Ground Chicken ($0.83)
  • 2 oz Mozzarella Cheese (Low Moisture Part Skim) (~$0.47)
  • 2 oz Mexican Rice ($0.10)
  • 4 oz of Refried Beans (~$0.24)
I generally make these in a strange fashion. Basically, I just cook the ground chicken, then once the chicken is cooked, I toss everything in all at once and mush it together. Heat up a tortilla to soften it up, place the aforementioned mush in, and wrap it (often somewhat successfully). Regardless, it tastes great and I can eat it at any point in the day. It is also very cost-effective. Total cost per burrito: $1.98. I buy most of my food at Aldi’s, or BJ’s.

(Breakfast) Mayo & Tuna Sandwich

Macros:

  • 752 calories
  • 56.6 of protein
  • 32.4g of fat
  • 61.6g of carbs
    • 5g of fiber

Ingredients:

  • 1X Brioche Burger Buns (~$0.84)
  • 1X Can of Chunk Light Tuna in Oil (drained) ($0.85)
  • 1 oz of Mayo (Hellmann’s) ($0.15)
This one’s a bit on the fattier side with 32.4g of fat. However, it takes less than 2 minutes to prepare and it’s a decent amount of volume. I make two sandwiches with the above measurements. The combined price is: $3.64. Just take a small bowl, putting the tuna, red onions (chopped), and the mayo. Mix it all in. Put it in two separate buns. Eat.

(Lunch) Ground Turkey Breast & Pasta

Macros:

  • 921 calories
  • 86.1 of protein
  • 22g of fat
  • 98.3g of carbs
    • 6g of fiber
This is arguably my favorite meal of all. I eat it at least 5x a week, if not every day. The pasta I most use is elbow macaroni, it’s just shoving it in boiling water.

Ingredients:

  • 6oz Ground Turkey Breast 99% Lean (~$1.19)
  • 4 oz Pasta (Barilla) (~$0.21)
  • 2 oz Gouda ($1.5)
  • 4oz Traditional Pasta Sauce ($0.25)
The gouda cheese and the pasta sauce really are what make it extremely delicious. Total price = $3.15. I cook the pasta separately (boil water, put in pasta, turn down heat - al dente). At the same time as the ground turkey is. Once they’re both finished - take the water out of the pot and put the pasta back in. Low heat. Toss in the cheese, cooked turkey, and pasta sauce. Mix it all in as the cheese melts. And I generally just eat it straight from the pot & do not leave a single atomic particle untouched.

(Lunch) Skillet Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Lean Ground Beef (w/ Bread)

Macros:

  • 561 calories
  • 49.2g of protein
  • 24g of fat
  • 38.2g of carbs
    • 7g of fiber

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz of 93% Lean Ground Bean ($2)
  • 2 oz Mozzarella (Low Moisture Part Skim) (~$0.47)
  • 8 oz Sweet Potato (Skillet Roasted) ($0.31)
Total price: $2.78. However, because it doesn’t have any carbs - I will typically eat it with a ton of bread on the side. For no other reason than, one: I love bread. I can eat plain bread any time anywhere. And two: I want more carbs in that recipe/meal. You can include more carbs in any way you want or just leave as is.  With the usual added bread:

Macros:

  • 786 calories
  • 56.7g of protein
  • 25.6g of fat
  • 83.2g of carbs
    • 8g of fiber
I’ll usually add whatever quantity of bread needed to get an extra 50g of carbs. It may vary weekly or daily. Sometimes, I just drink some orange juice with that meal. Overall, the taste is amazing. I bake the sweet potatoes in the oven at 400 degrees over 30 minutes. Some olive oil on top with everything seasoning. Make the ground beef on a skillet and when it’s finished, I’ll add the cheese on top and let it melt. Mix & throw it all into a dish together. Piece of bread on the side.

(Dinner) Mexican Rice & Chicken Burrito

Macros:

  • 857 calories
  • 59.1g of protein
  • 34.7g of fat
  • 76.3g of carbs
    • 5.5g of fiber

Ingredients:

  • 1X Burrito Tortilla (~$0.34)
  • 1X Pack of Mexican Rice ($0.50)
  • 6 oz of Chicken ($0.71)
  • ½ of California Avocado ($0.45)
  • 2 oz Gouda Cheese (or cheese of preference) ($1.5)
Total price: $3.50. You’ll notice this is much higher in fat than the previous meals. That’s because I eat dinner immediately post-workout. I just don’t have as much a need for carbs. Also, after my first two meals, I will generally be at around 40-50g of fat, and I need to load up a bit to match my daily targets. To make, I heat up the rice as per the instructions on the package. Cook the chicken, when it’s finished, I mix it all in the skillet & place it into the burrito. I also mush the avocado so it’s a guac-like consistency.

(Dinner) Garlic Roasted Potatoes & NY Strip Steak

Macros:

  • 857 calories
  • 41.8g of protein
  • 37.5g of fat
  • 84g of carbs
    • 4.5g of fiber
Need to be adjusted depending on what steak you choose.

Ingredients:

  • 1X 6 oz Steak of Choice
  • 6 oz Potatoes
  • Bread
This meal also follows the trend of fattier foods at night. I eat it with a piece of bread to add some more carbs. I’m not an expert on cooking steaks so I won’t even try on telling you how I make it. It’s a technique I learned from Joshua Weissman. I’m not sure if my form is all the way there, though. But - working on it. This is also a bit pricey, so I only eat it a few times a week - to stay within budget. However, the garlic-roasted potatoes and the richness of the fat in the steak really make it absolutely phenomenal. And that’s it. That’s how you eat in a way that supports performance, facilitates recovery, and builds muscle. Nothing complicated. Nothing super-advanced.

How Often Should You Strength Train: Get Strong CONSISTENTLY

What’s the Sweet Spot for Training & Frequency?

When talking about frequency, finding the“sweet spot” will be a very tailored answer. Meaning: it needs to be tailored to the desired outcome. If you’re reading this blog: I’m going to make the assumption that strength improvement is what you’re after. And if, strength improvement is what you’re after: how does training frequency affect the programming of someone looking to maximize their strength improvement in a given period? [caption id="attachment_471" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Source[/caption]

How Getting Stronger Happens

Getting stronger (over a long period) is going to come down to two things:
  • Strength adaptations (changes in the brain for exertion, neuromuscular connections, force production capacity, stiffer tendons, etc)
  • Hypertrophy (increases in muscle cross-sectional area, and so forth)
In English: increasing your capacity for exertion and building more muscles. As you get more advanced, more of that emphasis is on hypertrophy. As a beginner, programming considerations primarily focus on two aspects:
  • Skill practice with the competition lifts
  • Training adaptations to improve work capacity (i.e. tolerate more volume)
Building proficiency in the squat, bench, and deadlift requires more frequent exposure to these lifts. Training adaptations will occur as a result of performing these lifts at high intensities with relatively high volume. A more advanced trainee will have different goals & they will often adjust their training in a different fashion. With more general training the farthest away from competition, and peaking specificity the weeks preceding the meet. They will also change their programming around meet priority (which ones are most important). This is known as block periodization and it's a programming tool used to manage fatigue while still maintaining high levels of volume and intensity required to make progress. But how does any of this factor into training frequency? 

Training Frequency, Strength, and Hypertrophy

Programming for strength requires trainees to accumulate volume at a high enough intensity rate to stimulate the desired adaptations. Past your beginner phase, the most predictable indicator of continued strength growth will be the addition of more skeletal muscle tissue. For maximum hypertrophy gains, lifters should aim to maximize their weekly volume, without outpacing their body’s ability to recover. A big reason for why most online novice programs stop working is because they don't have enough volume for an advanced trainee to continue making progress. But not all volume is created equal. As you build more muscle and become more resistant to training, a greater emphasis is placed on volume to drive progress. But going from 5X5 (25) to 5X8 (40) is not the same. Wavelength

Get Stronger Faster

The Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID) Principle means that your body will create adaptations that are specific to the imposed demand caused by the external environment (i.e. training). This is where intensity, volume, & frequency begin to be taken into consideration. What we're trying to do is maximizing the amount of volume we can do in a given week at a set intensity rate. In order for our training to adhere to the SAID principle, we need to make sure that we are meeting two factors:
  • Strength adaptations
  • Hypertrophy stimuli
We cannot get stronger without the strength adaptations that occur while training in the higher intensity ranges (>70%). This means that all of your training needs to occur while being at a minimum of 70% of your e1RM. So, that’s the first criterion. The second criterion will be that the training volume (at the aforementioned intensity ranges) needs to meet the base minimum for hypertrophy to occur. I don’t know what the “base” is. And I haven’t found any information that could indicate what that “base” is or could be. It’s individual to the trainee. And one can only know from notating weekly training volume, average intensity, increases (or decreases) in body weight, and the changes in weight lifted. (Sidenote: Track, track, track.) Those who are more sensitive to training will require less volume to stimulate a response than another lifter who is more resistant to the same stimuli. Over time, by observing training data, you will notice what level of weekly volume you respond best to. However: not all volume is equal. The adaptations that occur at 5 sets of 5 reps at RPE 8 (~81%) are different than those that would occur at 2 sets of 14 reps at RPE 8 (62.5%). Even less obvious would be the observation that 3 sets of 8 reps at RPE 8 (73.9%) would also stimulate different changes on the trainee. Training frequency then allows the trainee to separate training sessions so that a sufficient level of intensity is able to be maintained with higher volumes of training. Taking Monday as a “Bench” day would mean doing:
  • Competition Bench: 5X5 (~81%) at RPE 8
  • Touch & Go Bench: 6 Sets of 4 Reps (~86.4%) at RPE 8-9
  • 2-Count Paused Bench: 6 Sets of 4 Reps (~86.4%) at RPE 8-9
By this point, the level of fatigue on the lifter will have accumulated to a point where productive training at a high-enough intensity is no longer possible. Or the weights would have to be accommodated (read: lowered) to such an extent that strength gains would suffer greatly (thereby violating Criterion #1). In this way, it would be better to split the benching sessions into several different days. This would allow the lifter to maintain their weekly volume while lifting at an intensity rate that suitable for both strength & hypertrophy. So, taking the programming above as an example:
  • Monday - Competition Bench: 5X5 (~81%) at RPE 8
  • Wednesday - Touch & Go Bench: 6 Sets of 4 Reps (~86.4%) at RPE 8-9
  • Friday - 2-Count Paused Bench: 6 Sets of 4 Reps (~86.4%) at RPE 8-9
In this scenario, the same amount of volume is split into three different days. Training in this fashion allows you to scale the volume without sacrificing intensity. Because you're still training at above 80% intensity, the strength and hypertrophy gains would happen concurrently. Notice that in the first scenario, the frequency rate was 1X per week. In the second scenario, the frequency rate went to 3X per week. What's the difference? The difference is that by packing all of that volume into one single day you're sacrificing intensity (weight lifted as % of your e1RM) for volume. It's just very difficult to lift at that high of an intensity while performing 73 reps in a single session. What frequency allows us to do is to split a single large session into three more manageable sessions. Doing this helps us maintain high levels of volume and intensity throughout the training week. deadlift setup

Intelligent Fatigue Management

Of course, if we're talking about high volume & high intensity training concurrently, there needs to be an element of regulation. This is where RPE comes from & how that interaction with frequency works. If you continually train very hard, almost to the point of failure, and you do that very frequently (multiple times per week) - the fatigue will build up very quickly. This will lead to less productive training, decreased motivation to train, higher risk of injury, and overtime: slower progress. Long-term strength growth is the product of continued hard training with deliberate programming. If you keep needing to stop, reset, deload, etc. repeatedly — your ability to progress in your lifts will be diminished. Smart training is productive training. RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) is a measurement metric that you can use to calibrate your training. Each set comes with a prescribed level of exertion that will dictate the weight you will use. What RPE tries to do is squeeze the most of what you have for that day without going overboard. On a day that you're feeling great, you might pull 585 for your single @ 8. The next week, maybe you didn't get to sleep as much, you're feeling a bit sore & you pull 545 for your single @ 8. RPE (by proxy of "effort") calibrated your weights by your perception of what you had that day. Had you attempted to grind through a single @ 585, you might've incurred additional fatigue to what you were already feeling. And in that making the next week of training completely unproductive. If not having to completely halt & do a low-stress week.

Tying it All Together

So, let's recap. The first programming principles that we need to adhere to are Intensity & Volume. In order to progress as a lifter ("get stronger"), we need to continue scaling our volume to meet the demands of advanced training. Because volume must be scaled in a fashion that doesn't disproportionately increase fatigue (by cramming it all into one session) or sacrifice intensity (by adding more reps within the same quantity of sets) — we need to use increased frequency as the tool to drive progress forward. The primary conclusion to draw from this blog post is then: use training frequency as a proxy to to maintain a high intensity rate while scaling up your volume to continue making progress well into your advanced stages. How often should you train? As often as you need to stimulate progress. Read more here:

5X5 Workout: Is 5X5 The IDEAL Program for Beginners?

What's The 5X5 Program & Is It EFFECTIVE?

The 5X5 style of training is very popular training in strength circles, and for many an introduction to the world of strength. It has given way to other popular training programs, and most probably popularized the use of “5” as the standard rep range for strength training. There isn't a set "5x5" program, although there are several popular iterations online: - Bill Starr 5x5 - Reg Park's 5x5 - MadCow's 5x5 - StrongLifts 5x5 Case in point: there are many types of 5x5 programs out there, each with their own structures and purported benefits (of said structure). All have success stories of some kind, and have been tried by thousands...yet they all have the same limitations, which we'll examine today. You're here for the question: will it work? Most likely. Depending on your past training history. For beginners who've never touched a barbell - it will work well for up to 10-12 weeks. For intermediates who've gone through other strength training programs - not as much. We'll look at why, and what to do about it. For the sake of simplicity, let's go with the most popular online version of 5x5 (currently): Workout A:
  • Squat 5X5
  • Bench Press 5X5
  • Barbell Row 5X5
Workout B:
  • Squat 5x5
  • Overhead Press 5X5
  • Deadlift 1X5

The straightforwardness of the program is immediately appealing to a novice trainee. I know it was for me.

The progression is the same as it is for most novice linear progression programs: add 5 lbs on the upcoming workout if you completed all sets of five reps.

The exercise selection is pretty minimal, and there's plenty of exposure to the main lifts. As far as results go, these types of programs can be quite effective if followed to the letter. But why? And what are its shortcomings (if any)?

Is 5X5 The Ultimate Beginner Strength Training Program?

If we are in agreement that building strength effectively is a result of strength adaptations and muscular hypertrophy, as the two primary levers of strength growth, then it's easy to see why the programs work. First, the 5-rep range that the program is based around is typically higher than the required 70% intensity range needed for strength improvements. Five reps at moderately challenging (RPE 8) to all-out (RPE 10) effort will generally be upwards of 80% of a lifter’s e1RM. Secondly, each session will average 25-reps per exercise (except for the deadlift: more on that later). By doing an average of three sessions every two weeks per lift, that will generally be averaged to:
  • 75 reps of squat
  • 37.5 reps of bench
  • 37.5 reps of press
  • 37.5 reps of rows
  • 7.5 reps of deadlifts
Assuming that the lifter is doing the program, these reps will generally be performed at an 75-80% intensity rep range. Setting Up for Set of 5s Deadlift For a complete novice, these aren’t terrible volume numbers. While not characteristically high, they are enough to stimulate a hypertrophy response on a novice trainee. The reps on the squat are a bit higher than necessary. Benching reps are lower than would be ideal. With deadlifts being far too low. What I’d like to design for a beginner would be closer to:
  • 54 reps of squat
  • 72 reps of bench
  • 32 reps of press
  • 47 reps of deadlift
As the base of the program, the lifter would be subjected to greater levels of volume in the bench & deadlift. As in, nearly double the bench volume, and almost five times the pulling volume. The squat volume is slightly less, but for a beginner trainee, 75 reps of squats per week is overkill. In fact, on the Starting Strength novice program, lifters are subjected to 45 reps of squats per week, and most people tend to see significant results at that volume level. It doesn't appear immediately obvious that novice trainees need any more than this. When I first started training in the manner described above, I followed a template that was exactly like this. I was able to add 50 lbs to my squat (315 > 365), 40 lbs to my deadlift (345 > 385), and 50 lbs to my bench (195 > 245). This came along with a bodyweight gain of 3 lbs & 7 weeks of training. Although, in later trials, I actually achieved a much faster rate of progress by being more aggressive with the weight gain. Instead of micro-managing a 250-300 caloric surplus, I let myself have anywhere from 350 to 500 calories in excess. The rate of progress was 50% faster, and I didn't notice too much extra fat. Although I'm sure there was some. It should be a noted that this was all done as post-novice training - a novice trainee would derive a much greater training effect. If I were to take an 18 year old, 5'8, 140-lb male who's never followed any formal strength training protocol, I would have him gain 30-lbs over the next six months while following a training structure as outlined above. This individual would mostly like see a sustained rate of growth that would have him squat somewhere in the vicinity of 405, bench 275 (paused), & pull 455. For sets of five. A trainee that followed the training as described without missing/skipping meals or workouts should very well set these numbers as their targets. To see a full layout for what I’d recommend for novice powerlifters, or novice strength trainees in general, see the post about my Beginner Powerlifting Program. Why would I program like this & what are its inherent benefits over the 5X5 program?

What is Good & Bad About the 5X5 Training Program

The 5X5 program although decent as an introductory training protocol for beginner lifters, it has some drawbacks that are mainly noticeable in the long term.

Simplicity & Structured Programming

So, for starters, it’s a simple and straightforward program. Again, that’s very appealing to someone just starting out. It also has an element of structuring and progression. Rather than not being sure what to do, or what the best way to progress is, the program states it simply: add 5 lbs. This also distills more abstract concepts like progressive overload into simple, actionable strategies. Although this simplicity is attractive to more novice trainees, and it's a feature built into the program: "adding 5 lbs" as a novice linear progression is not unique to 5X5.

Frequent Exposure to Main Lifts

Another plus that isn’t unique to 5X5 but a good feature nevertheless is the exposure to the main lifts. The fact that you’re squatting, pressing, and pulling rather frequently helps the lifter improve their technique (if done correctly) very rapidly: or much quicker than if they were not doing so. It can also cement the idea that training heavy, frequently, and with compound barbell movements is completely fine.

Decent Level of Volume at Proper Intensity

While not generally considered a high volume program, compared to other beginner programs, it is actually quite decent. Although I would tweak it as I demonstrated before, the program does contain sufficient volume for novice liters.

Skill Practice, Strength Adaptations & Hypertrophy

Overall, when compared to other programs in the primary levers of strength growth, the 5X5 program tends to fare fairly well. There’s frequent exposure to the main lifts, adequate intensity for strength adaptations, and enough volume to stimulate hypertrophy. So - what are its drawbacks?

Why 5X5 is Not An Optimal Training Program

Although it is a reasonably good program, there are some reasons for why it is not optimal.

The Repeated Bout Effect & the SAID Principle

Without going into too much detail, what the (SAID Principle) means is that your body adapts specifically to the stress imposed upon it. And it doesn't create tangential adaptations. Meaning: there's very little cross-over to other "related" movements or exercises. In other words: If you want to get stronger in the squat, bench, and deadlift - you have to train for strength in the squat, bench, and deadlift. Which means that anything that is not a Squat, Bench, or Deadlift will not impact your strength output in these lifts. Leg presses, dumbbell presses, reverse hypers, or any of these "similar" exercises do not have direct carry over. (This is a more complex subject outside the scope of this post. See that "direct" is bolded above). The 5X5 programs are great at improving your numbers because you're training the same movements over, and over, and over again. This is great, however... Your body is also very good at adapting to external stresses (The Repeated Bout Effect). This means that if you continue to train at the same intensity, with the same rep range, with the same movement patterns, with the same level of effort: your body becomes increasingly better at creating adaptations so that each workout disrupts its homeostatic balance less and less. It might first appear as a decrease in muscle soreness, as every workout becomes "less novel" - over time, however, the Repeated Bout Effect also means less gains. This means that each training session becomes continually less effective and the effects of the program are cut prematurely.

Daily Undulating Prioritization

This is where DUP comes in. By changing rep ranges, effort levels, energy pathways, and intensity percentages - the lifter is able to impose different stresses upon the body with every workout. This continual “shifting” of required stress adaptations from workout to workout means that your body does not become nearly as efficient at dealing with them as they otherwise would. Therefore, by altering certain parameters within the training program - the lifter is able to enjoy a much greater return on their time spent in the gym.

Volume Isn’t HUGE

Although the squat enjoys a great deal of high-intensity volume - the same cannot be said for the other lifts. Particularly the deadlift. This is another big reason for why the program isn’t effectively optimal. By applying the tweaks that I mentioned in the “Beginner Powerlifting Program”, you can elevate the volume of the training schedule in a way that produces maximal long-term hypertrophy benefits.

Lack of Continual Stress Increases During The Program

The last point being that the program is “set”. As the lifter becomes more trained, the program does not adjust its nature to the trainee’s apparent progression. As your body continues to develop adaptations to combat the training stress imparted by a workout, the effect of the program noticeably decreases. While in part this is dealt with by combining different training stresses & movement patterns (DUP), this is not addressed by volume or total weekly training stress. In other words, you’re doing the same amount of work throughout the entirety of the program. This will cause the effectiveness of the program to diminish quite sharply. Instead, your programming needs to reflect the reality of what’s happening: as you become better trained & capable of handling your current workload - your training must adjust to continue to stimulate progress. This kind of continued “stress programming” or adjustments to workload are not addressed by this program. In the beginning, when the stress of training is a novel stimulus, trainees will not need to adjust their workload too much. As the increased stress (“progressive overload”) will be handled primarily by the novelty of the stimuli & the slight weight increments. However, because that volume remains equal & the stimulus no longer remains “novel”- the weight increases (5-lb per workout/week) no longer become a suitable overload progression strategy. In this case, manipulating volume as the primary driver of stress and hypertrophy (i.e. muscle mass) will be the primary tool for continuing to stimulate further strength gains. Instead of trying to force a 5-lb increase & using that as the dose for which adaptations need to occur. As such, training protocols need to remain dynamic in order to remain effective in the face of continued adaptations.

The Final Verdict

To wrap things up, although the program is quite effective & suitable for beginners: if a lifter is most interested in maximizing their strength potential at level of advancement, they would be better suited with a more deliberate planning approach that addresses:
  • Intensity requirements for strength adaptations (the SAID principle)
  • Frequent exposure & practice with the main lifts
  • Volume demands for hypertrophy
  • Combatting the Repeated Bout Effect (DUP)
  • Long-term programming considerations for continued progress
See these programs here: Strength Training for Beginners & Powerlifting Program.

Powerlifting Programming Periodization: CONSISTENT Strength

Powerlifting Programming 101: How to Train for Strength for English Speakers

The main function of programming for powerlifting is to meet two specific criteria:
  • Hypertrophy for muscle
  • Strength adaptations
This means that your program is going to have enough volume to drive hypertrophy, at an appropriate intensity rate, with enough movement specificity to produce strength increases in the competition lifts. These three factors are what’s necessary to create monster lifts. Volume, intensity, and specificity. The other elements that you can manipulate outside of these three factors to improve the results of your training are: You already know how dietary and lifestyle factors can influence your progression, but let’s talk about some other elements that we can leverage to increase the effectiveness of your programming. Powerlifting Glossary

Powerlifting Programming Glossary

One of the most important factors that will dictate the results (or lack thereof) derived from training will be your sensitivity to training. There are many, many factors that can improve or hinder your sensitivity to training. Some of these I’ve mentioned, but since this is a programming article, we will spend the most time focusing on how training can be adjusted to improve sensitivity to training. How sensitive to training you are will amplify the results derived from a training session. This means that muscle or strength improvements will enjoy a greater rate of progress. Being sensitive (to training) will necessitate less training stress to produce results. Resistance to training will be marked as requiring more training stress to stimulate the desired adaptations. There are factors that affect your sensitivity (by way of making more/less anabolic) that don't have to do with training, such as:
  • Body composition
  • Dietary habits
  • Sleep quality and / or duration
  • Age
  • Current level of training sensitivity
  • Biological sex
Let’s run through some examples.

Body Composition

There’s evidence that suggests a leaner body (12 ~ 15% bodyfat) will be more sensitive to training. Perhaps as a function of more favorable nutrient partitioning, sleep quality, improved hormonal profiles, etc.

Sleeping

Sleep habits (as mentioned before) can also impact your progress in a major way. Hormones are released and secreted into the bloodstream during the deep stages of sleep. This means that not sleeping enough (with enough uninterrupted hours of this deep sleep) will generally dampen your response to training. Less sleep and / or lower quality of sleep are both generally bad for building muscle or recovery. There are conditions that can affect the quality of your sleep such as:
  • Obesity
  • Neck Circumference
  • Different Classifications of Apnea's
  • Pulmonary Disorders
Making sure you are in good health overall will also lend to more favorable anabolic conditions, not just improving the quality of your sleep. Although sometimes, external circumstances outside of your control, may impact said quality. Such as, but not limited to - kids, noise, work hours, someone mowing your lawn at 7 AM, and other such “life” things.

Dietary Habits

Dietary habits also play a pivotal role in your response to training: eating 4-5 times per day, at 3-5 hour intervals with at least 5g of leucine per meal is necessary to maximize your muscle protein synthesis response. In doing so, while being in a caloric surplus, will ensure that additional skeletal muscle mass is built. On the other hand, not consuming enough protein (or maximizing your protein synthesis) will make you more resistant to training - meaning, you’d have to do more in the gym to make up for poor nutrition habits.

Age & Training History

Being younger is also favorable for sensitivity to training, as is being a male. Novice / newer trainees are also far more sensitive to training than more advanced athletes. However, this is more complex than that. "Going to the gym" does not automatically qualify as training. Deliberate (and intelligent) training produces far better results, and in turn, desensitizes you to training to a greater degree. Going from 315 lbs for 5 to 405 lbs for 5 on your Squat in 3 months will desensitize you more than going from 315 to 345 in the same time frame. Deliberate training = better results.

Training Adaptations & Sensitivity

Past training sensitivity, we have the “SAID Principle”. The SAID Principle states (in English) that your body will create adaptations that are specific to the imposed demands In other words, your body will respond in direct reaction to the stress that training imposes upon it. This means that if you want to get a huge deadlift, you need to train movements that very closely assimilate to the deadlift, in the appropriate intensity ranges, and with enough volume to satisfy hypertrophy needs. Take, for example, this whole week of deadlift programming: Day one: 3X5 @ RPE 8 - Competition Deadlift Day two: 4X6 @ RPE 7,8,9,9,9,9 - Paused Deadlift Day three: 4X7 @ RPE 8 - 1.5" Deficit Deadlifts This is 67 weekly reps at an average of 80% intensity with movements that are very specific to the deadlift. This style of training should allow you to continue a growth path of over 5 lbs per week on your main lifts, on command. In fact, I was able to put on 100 lbs on SQ & DL and 80 lbs on Bench in an 11-week period when I first started training like this with a bodyweight gain of 9 lbs.

Creating Resistance

The goal of your body is to make the adaptation process as efficient as possible. This means not only creating adaptations specific to the current stress, and thereby dampening the stress response from that single event, but also making each subsequent bout of that event even less stressful than the previous one. This is called the “Repeated Bout Effect” and it is exactly as it sounds. The more of a “stress event” your body is exposed to, the less of a stimulus effect it will have. However, your training needs to still remain specific in order to effect the adaptations we're after (strength & hypertrophy). Because of this, there will be a necessity in your training programs to adjust based on this reality. If you keep doing the same rep-range, at the same intensity, with the same movement - the overall response derived from the program will diminish rather quickly. Even though a static program with an affixed rep scheme for the entirety of the training sessions will work well for beginners, it will not be so for more advanced trainees. The reason being is that beginners are far more sensitive to training than more experienced athletes. This means that they can make substantial progress even in the face of diminishing returns from the Repeated Bout Effect. For intermediate and advanced athletes — who are more resistant to training, having workarounds for “The Repeated Bout Effect” and the principle of “Sensitivity to Training” will be of far greater importance in programming than simply volume numbers and intensity. The reason why I bolded "intermediate and advanced athletes" above is because of this next point: that same logic applies to anyone who is resistant training. Including, but not limited to:
  • People of advanced age
  • People who have less than ideal health conditions
  • People with limited anabolic responses (short of sleep, poor dietary habits, virtually no appetites)
And so forth. Appropriately enough, there are both short-term and long-term applications for beginner, intermediate and advanced trainees to incorporate into their training to maximize their results. Factors that will need to be taken into consideration in creative effective programming include:
  • Exercise selection (varying specificity to combat desensitization & injury management)
  • Periodization (Daily & Long-Term Block Periodization)
  • Volume (Measured on a weekly basis)
For short-term programming considerations, Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP) has been shown to be an effective way of improving the results from a training program. It does this by changing the volume and intensity ranges on a particular movement from session to session. The implication being that by altering the specific stress imposed on your body per workout, it could lessen the effect of the Repeated Bout Effect. ROGUE Power Racks

Short-Term Programming Periodization

As a short-term consideration, it’s an excellent programming tool. So, for squats, you could have a scenario like this:
  • Monday: 4 (sets) X 5 (reps) Competition Squats
  • Wednesday: 5 (sets) X 4 (reps) Paused Squats
  • Friday: 5 (sets) X 8 (reps) Safety Bar Squats
20 (reps) at 80% (intensity) + 20 (reps) at 85% (intensity) + 40 reps at (75%) intensity. This comes out to 80 total weekly volume (reps) at an average intensity of 78.75%. Within a structure of this nature, what is imposed from your body on a workout-to-workout basis changes, thereby retaining some level of “sensitivity” to training from week to week. Consider the following scenario:
  • Monday: 5 (sets) X 5 (reps) Competition Squat @ RPE 8
  • Wednesday: 5 (sets) X 5 (reps) Paused Squat @ RPE 8
  • Friday: 5 (sets) X 6 (reps) Safety Bar Squats @ RPE 8
25 (reps) at 80% (intensity) + 25 (reps) at 80% (intensity) + 30 (reps) at 78.6% (intensity). This comes out to 80 total reps per week with an average intensity of ~79%. Sets @ RPE 8 are generally repeatable across the board with some degree of fatigue mounting through the workout. But let’s assume that the lifter would follow a programming structure like this which is very common in beginner and even post-novice online programs. In the second scenario, because there isn’t as much variance in terms of volume and intensity ranges, this would mean that the Repeated Bout Effect would have a greater influence on the general progression of the trainee. In other words, over a 3-6 month training period, the second program would prove to be less effective because the trainee would become more resistant to training, as a result of the Repeated Bout Effect. In other words: the diminishing returns curve would curtail the progress at a much earlier point. To add on to that, the tertiary movement generally is performed at 70 ~ 75% intensity, which allows for the addition of more volume to the program. Which also improves training outcomes.

Long-Term Programming Periodization

Ultimately, as you advance through your powerlifting career, the inevitable will happen: you will become increasingly more resistant to training, and your gains will slow down. This occurs as a function of less potent muscle protein synthesis responses to training, among other factors. This requires more attention to detail in terms of dieting (maximizing daily muscle protein synthesis), sleep (7~8 hours), body composition (12 ~ 18% bodyfat percentage), but also in terms of training - there are continual adjustments to be made. For one, training stress has to increase. The more “advanced” you are, the more hypertrophy will play a role in strength performance. So, as you progress as a lifter, more training emphasis will be placed on volume. Volume, as the primary driver of hypertrophy, will become the variable that needs to be analyzed the most for continued growth. But just adding more volume isn’t specific enough, since not all volume imposes the same demands on your body. Consider the following scenario:
  • 6 (sets) for 4 (reps)
  • 3 (sets) for 8 (reps) 
Even though the volume is almost the same at (24) vs. (24) - the stress isn’t the same. The intensity in the first workout is ~83.7% and the intensity range in the second rep scheme is ~73.9%. This is without taking RPE into consideration. But the added complexity wouldn’t be necessary in this argument. So consider a lifter that is trying to increase their volume for the next training block, he wants to increase the volume on squats by 20%. This is the current template:
  • Monday: 4 (sets) X 5 (reps) @ RPE 8 Competition Squats (405 lbs.)
  • Wednesday: 5 (sets) X 4 (reps) @ RPE 7,8, 9, 9, 9 Paused Squats (365 lbs.)
  • Friday: 5 (sets) X 8 (reps) @ RPE 8 Beltless Squats (315 lbs.)
Total weekly volume: 80 @ at average intensity ~80%. Goal weekly volume: 96 @ at average intensity ~80%. How should the lifter increase their volume in this scenario? Note that each lift will have a different “fatigue” effect. We want to train productively, at high volume, for a long period of time. Therefore, we want to manage the training volume & intensity continuum to avoid accumulating fatigue too quickly. This means we simply have to be more mindful of not adding too many fatiguing reps. Adding an extra set of 5 @ 8 on the competition squats is more fatiguing than adding an extra set of 4 reps on the paused squats. Because pure volume can also accumulate fatigue very quickly, it means that just adding two extra sets on the Beltless Squats (+16 reps) could also be problematic. In this instance, having a recorded training history would aid the lifter in making the decision. Knowing which exercise or which specific workouts are the most fatiguing. In my case, I would add (two) sets of 4 reps @ RPE 9 on paused squats, and (one) set of 8 reps @ RPE 8 on beltless squats to achieve 96 reps per week. In this instance, the average intensity would stay relatively the same, and I would continue to make some more progress on the following block. However, training in this fashion at such a high volume would mean that the lifter would incur more fatigue throughout the duration of the training program. For this reason, using block periodization would help tremendously when it comes to fatigue management (and in turn: avoiding injuries). By assigning different training blocks throughout the year, the lifter could manage periods of high stress (high volume @ high intensity) with periods of lower stress (less specific exercise selection & lower intensity) while continuing to make gains consistently. However, the concept of “training blocks” is outside the purview of this post. This article should have created a vision for what deliberate programming looks like in the face of:
  • Training Sensitivity
  • Periodization
  • Programming
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Hypertrophy
  • Volume
  • Repeated Bout Effect
  • The Principle of Specificity
And what all of that entails in the face of intelligent powerlifting programming for continued progress.

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