By Chris Manrodt
just getting started in Powerlifting? Have you heard about lifting but
aren't sure what it really is? Are you interested in playing a sport, but
need to get bigger, stronger, or both to crack the starting line-up? This
section of the Strength On-line Page is devoted to helping the beginner.
A lot of the lifting information out there is written for folks who compete
regularly in Powerlifting meets, or who have a several years of lifting
experience. I will attempt to make this column humorous and interesting
as I try to shed light on the basics of successful, injury free lifting.
Have you ever felt so frustrated
with your lifting that you didn’t even know what exercises to do?
Ever gotten so sick of missing the same weight in the same lift that you
wanted to kick the bar? Have you ever bombed at a meet, or lost by 200lbs
to the next-place lifter in your weight class, and then wondered what the
heck you were doing there? Frustration, adversity and setbacks are as much
a part of competition as getting that trophy. When I was a kid, my grandfather
used to tell me that success is a poor teacher. . To see what I mean,
you don’t have to look any further than the police blotter on the ESPN
website filled with stories of America’s most successful athletes unable
A case in point: 1999 was not a good lifting year for me. I set my best
lifts of the year in February, and then I went backward at three subsequent
meets. After a dismal meet in September, I redoubled my efforts to make
a better total, and had some progress last fall. By early January, I was
setting all kinds of PR’s for reps, and I was rapidly approaching a PR
total at our State Championships here in Minnesota. But, two weeks before
the meet, my boss sent me packing on a two-week, sixteen-city, business
trip from hell. By the time I got back, I had lost almost ten pounds, and
I was asking myself, why am I lifting? Why am I putting myself through
all this muscle soreness,
So, that’s when I set out to rediscover training and really improve my
lifting. The key to overcoming adversity is to learn from my mistakes.
1) One must train with heavy weights in order to force super-compensation by the body. This is the training effect required for muscular gains that improve strength.
2) Strength is the product of three components: Muscle size, muscle coordination, and rate of muscle fiber recruitment.
3) Strength training requires focus on all three components of strength. You must train for hypertrophy. You must train for muscle coordination (form), and you must train for central nervous system development to produce the most force in the instant it is required.
4) The training effect is only accomplished when conditions in the body are right for adequate recovery. This means plenty of
a) Sleep,5) Individual differences in genetics, leverage, recovery, and dedication require that training regimens be tailored and constantly updated. The training effect is reduced in the body is not forced to adapt to constantly changing stimuli.
6)Your training goals dictate your training methodology. You cannot simultaneously train for a marathon and a powerlifting competition, and obtain optimum results in either one. The human body cannot adapt to stressors that have conflicting endpoints (slow-twitch vs. fast twitch, different metabolic pathways, etc.)
There are no secrets to lifting, but there are certainly plenty of pitfalls. If you want an example, read my article in the archive about my Westside experiment.
In February, I went back to periodization for two reasons: I had good success
training this way before, knowing what works and what doesn’t. And secondly,
I could train this way without much coaching. While I believe that Westside
may be more optimal in the long run, I was wary of trying to take on so
much learning with my morale as low as it was. I started by going back
to Prillipen’s table of reps and sets by percentage. I then set up a simple
program for my bench and squat that looks like this:
For me, it was easiest to do squats and dead lifts in the same workout,
to keep my lower back from getting overworked. My training split looked
For my deadlifts, I used the following cycle:
Ok, I know what you are thinking: “Two lifting sessions per week? That’s nuts!!” Well, actually I found that because I was hitting my squat and deadlift in the same session, I was able to make gains with only two workouts, and it was nice to be able to go to the gym each session and feel fresh. Sometimes less is more, especially if you are not able to get all of those recovery conditions together that I listed in principle #4.
Also, the cross-training workout was never a cakewalk. During the first
three weeks, I did continuous tension, super-slow training using Hammer
Strength® machines. I did a single set on each machine training
my whole body in a circuit with very short rests. I then repeated the circuit
once. I knew that this would not help my total very much, but this type
of training is helpful for improving body composition, and also helped
me to build up work capacity for the 3x6’s and heavy reps that followed.
It also allowed me to train to muscle failure with light weight, so I was
getting more hypertrophy without placing additional strain on my joints.
Before you string me up, I should say that I am not a believer in HIT.
I just added this in for variety and to take some emphasis off the heavy
iron I’d be so focused on. It really helped me to do
During the remaining weeks of the cycle, my cross-training usually consisted of either a fun workout with weights or a few hours of manual labor helping my brother move into his new house. When I was in the Gym, I did Power Cleans, Leg Presses, Lat Pulls and some type of shoulder press. Each session ended with 20-30 minutes of cardio. I also played community league softball on Friday nights. To be honest, I believe that the biggest reason that I PR’ed my squat this cycle was that I spent three consecutive weekends on weeks 4,5, and 6 lifting heavy boxes for a few hours. What can I say, my brother used to work for a major bookseller. They should add the “china barrel box of paperbacks” to the events at the next World’s Strongest Man contest!!
I freely admit that this is a basic program, but this column is geared
for the beginning lifter. The bench routine is almost pure Ed Coan, without
the extra shoulder workouts. The squat is similar, and I admit that the
assistance exercises are right off the Westside top ten. But the goal was
to pick some simple exercises that would help the most without sacrificing
whole body parts. And speaking of beginners, my brother added 60 lbs to
his squat and dead, while adding 45 to his bench in this cycle. This was
only his second powerlifting cycle, and really his first where he was using
strict competition form for his work sets. It’s a good thing I am back
to being excited about training. It may not be long before he catches up
For more information on getting started check out the archives section here on Strength Online or drop by the Q&A forums.
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in whole or part, for any purpose other than personal use is prohibited
without written consent. Copyright ©2000 Chris Manrodt.