By: Alex Wheatman, British & European powerlifting champion
I will be letting you all in on my training routine on the run up to a competition. I revert my training from a prodomatley body building routine with the three main power movements included but with high repetitions to a more basic but strict form of training with far fewer reps.
Over the years I have played about with many different forms of training. After picking out a little from each I have managed to find he right balance that works for me. I follow the west side barbell and metal militia routine and have tweaked them to suit me. For those that do not know what I am talking about. West side barbell club is a gym in America run by a man called Louie simmonds. He is a strength coach and has revolutionised the way that we train today. His gym has produced some of the biggest benches in the world. Metal Militia re quite similar in terms of athletes that have impressive totals but they have some different training methods. I use the west side template that emphasises training for speed and power on two separate work outs. I use the Metal militia template for assistantance work.
So I train for speed for three days of the week, by using lighter weights but really forcing my pace on the assent phase of he lift and then one day I train heavy with all three power lifts in one session. When I compete it can usually take all day so by going through all three lifts on one day in a short amount of time you feel far more refreshed the day of the competition.
So six to eight weeks out from a competition my training starts to look something like this:
Box squats-either 3x3 or 5x5 depending on how far out I am.
Leg press-same rep range
Leg extensions-as above
Pulley pull throughs- I use quite heavy weight but with reps of 15-20
Seated calf raises-As above
Standing calf raises- As above.
Bench- either 3x3 or 5x5 depending on how far out I am.
Incline press- 6x4
Pull overs- 6x4
Shoulder press- 6x4
Lat raises- 6x4
Assistance work for the bench- 4x4
Push downs- 8-10x3
Dead lift-3x3 or 5x5 depending on how far out I am.
T-bar rows- 6x4
Seated rows- 6x4
Close grip pull downs- 6x4
Partial dead lifts- either 3,4,5x3
Barbell curls- 6x4
Squat- moving up between 5-10kg each week. Starting from my base weight that is worked out a few weeks before my training cycle begins with my coach.
Bench- As above.
Dead lift- As above.
I usually finish off my speed/light days with some ab work. In terms of cardio, I walk everywhere and I sometimes throw in some track days on a Sunday where I would do some sprint work, plyometrics, speed chute and sled work. In the summer when he ground is dry I usually replace my track day with a car push day. I take my girlfriend out in the car and I push the car while she steers it. It seems to work out well. I set a course out which is between 10-15 meters long and push the car to the end, have a short rest then push the car back. Your lungs feel like they are on fire but it has really helped with my squat and my overall strength.
When I box squat I use a box that is about an inch below parallel and usually use woody bands. You tie the bands around each end of the barbell and then attach them to the base of the squat rack. These add resistance to the bar at the mid to top end of the squat. They help tremendously to your lock out power.
As you sit back on the squat, rest on the box and allow your hip flexors to relax, hold it there for a second or so then explode up. This helps with building the fast twitch muscle fibres that are vital for explosive strength.
Pulley pull throughs
A Pull through helps to build your Hamstrings, Glutes and your lower back. Now just to warn you, you may look abit of a pratt! If you get on a pulley system in the gym and use either a tricep rope or a handle for cable cross overs. Stand with your back to the attachment, bend over and pull the attachment through your legs. Take a few steps out, then keeping your back straight bend you legs until your upper body is parallel with the floor, then stand up and push your hips through. I can't stress that point anymore. You must push your hips through! This will help to develop your lock out power in both your squat and dead lift.
Assistance work for the bench
My Assistance work changing every two to three weeks. The reason being is that it takes that amount of time for your body to get used to that exercise so by changing the exercise you are not putting your body into its comfort zone. I tend to go quite heavy on these exercises hence the low reps. I reduce my recovery time for these as well. I tend to have about one minute or the time it takes me to load the bar.
The kind of exercises that I would do are:
These are a partial bench press. Your starting position is where your triceps start to take over a majority of the work on the bench press. I use the pins in my squat rack and have the bar on there. I place a bench underneath, and then it's just a case of pressing it. Make sure that you do not make the bar bounce when you get to the bottom of the lift.
Just like most of you guys do in the gym. I tend to add abit of weight onto my dipping belt. On a three week cycle I will add between 10-15kg per week.
As it reads basically. I use the pins on the squat rack again. Laying on the floor, lower the bar so that your triceps touch the floor, then just relax them. Don't worry about the bar falling onto you. I thought the same thing when I read it for the first time. Your shoulders will stabilise you. As soon as they have relaxed drive the bar back up. This works your stretch reflex the same as doing plyometrics. Now you might have a few people mocking you when you do this exercise as I did, but when you are out benching the 'Big Boys' then they soon pipe down.
Laying on a bench hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands with our palms facing inwards. With your arms extended bring your dumbbells down towards your face, then at the bottom slightly tilt your elbows back. By doing this you will hit more of your tricep at the bottom of your arm by your Ulna which is important for a big bench.
DB flared raises
Sitting on a bench with a slight incline, hold a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing each other. Slowly lower the dumbbells until they are inline with your eyes and then extend. Make sure that you keep the dumbbells together at all times.
Close grip bench press
Nothing different to what you do normally. I se a few guys do these and start to make progress and then stop. Why? The only thing that I don't do is to let the bar bounce off of my Chest, I tend to let it hover just above my chest.
Partial dead lifts
I have seen many guys in many different gyms try to do partial dead lifts. They take the term partial quite literally. A partial dead lift is not moving the bar three inches and then bragging that you have just partialed nearly 300kg!
When I do partials they are from below the knee on the top of the shin.
I set the safety pins on my squat rack to the lowest they go, then I put I thick wooden block on the floor to get the bar starting from my shin. I tend to go quite heavy on these so I tend to use lifting straps to get those extra reps out. They are great for locking out your dead lifts.
Reverse band lifts
Another alternative that I found works really well is the reverse band lifts. You do these by setting the safety pins on your squat rack high, I set mine at the top. Next you loop a set of woody bands over the top of the pins, and then slide your bar through them. The bar will then be suspended until you start to load it. The idea of these is the same as the partials. The bands help the bar to accelerate from the floor until the bar reaches about shin height then your are taking all of the weight.
I found theses were a great alternative to doing partial's. They do take some getting used to as it becomes a great shock when the light bar you were holding suddenly feels twice as heavy. Once you have got over that they are great.
Thats how my training looks on the run up to a competition. It was the same schulde that I used last year when I won the English, European and World championships. I totalled more at each competition.
The thing with training heavy is that it is hard work. I have gone through five training partners in as many years. You hurt, you ache and all you want to do is sleep. I have no social life when I have a compeition coming up. I work, then train, then eat and then sleep. My love life takes it toll as well. In between being in the gym, travelling to other gyms around the British isles, meetings with my coach and sleeping there is not much time for anything else, so if you are a girl and looking for a power lifter as a boyfriend beware!
In terms of my diet, I have nothing set in stone, as long as I make my weight I pretty much eat what I want. I have pizza and burgers when I like. A lot of the time I do just have Chicken, rice, pasta and other good clean foods, but cheat days are well worth throwing into the mix.
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