By: Graham Dowers, British Bench Press Record Holder
Power lifting has an unfair reputation for being a sport for fat boys who lift big weights; this is totally unfounded as it is now no longer uncommon to see power lifters who are more "ripped" than most puffy body builders that inhabit gyms. It is a sport for humble people; if you come into the sport with an ego you are quickly singled out as different and are often given a harder time in competitions than the quiet boys.
It is a sport of comradeship, even competitors going head to head will happily give advice or make recommendations for equipment and supplements to use, and it is just in the nature of the sport.
If you feel somewhat put off, do not feel so. Power lifting is a very rewarding sport with the training often yielding rapid and sometimes rather phenomenal if unbelievable results in both young and old athletes. Power lifting itself will not give you muscles comparable to The Hulk, its purpose is only to strengthen what muscles you do have hence I feel that power lifting is often well combined with a body building routine done every so often.
As many if not all of you reading this article are aware, the body quickly learns to adapt itself to training and eventually no longer responds to the training, either with slower progress or none at all aka a plateau which can be quite a mental strain on the athlete. So I feel that a method of training to "keep the body guessing" is somewhat essential in order for constant progress to be more likely.
There are several ways you can train for power lifting. As a general rule no more than 6reps should be performed in each set, as any more than 6 reps per set may trigger muscle growth (6 reps is seen as the upper most limit for strength training, and the lower limit for body building). More commonly reps of 3-5 per set are used. My personal favourite is the method of the 5sets of 5 reps training combined with 5 sets of 1 rep of 95% of your one rep max between the sets of 5. All this will become clear later.
Power lifting consists of 3 disciplines, the bench press (arguably the most popular/most favoured lift) the dead lift and the squat, which is seen by many as the true test to sort the men from the boys.
All of your friends that know you work out will ask you one question above all others, they wont ask you what you bicep curl, they wont ask you what you can leg press they'll ask you what you can bench press.. And hopefully with this training programme you'll be able to progress to a point where they go 'wow' rather than 'oh... is that all?'
Firstly I shall talk you through how I train for the most popular of all disciplines the bench press. I train my bench press twice a week, with one heavy day focusing on as the name suggests lifting the heavy weights, and a light day where I focus on "exploding" with the bench press motion to develop as much explosive power as I can as momentum helps on the top end 1RMs.
The heavy day training will be conducted as follows. A set of 5 reps on a weight of roughly 85-90% of your one rep max will be attempted; you will then rest for a minute and a half. After this short break, you will attempt a single lift on 95% of your 1RM, and then rest another one and a half minutes and complete another set of 5 reps. This cycle will be completed until you have completed 5sets on 5 reps and 5 single lifts.
5x5reps on 85-90% of 1RM
5x1 reps on 95% of 1RM
On your working weight you should aim to complete all 5sets of 5 before increasing your working weight. Each time you increase the weight do so by the smallest amount you can possible at your gym, known as baby stepping, this will increase the chances of developing a momentum of progress rather than risking plateaus forming.
After completing the sets on your normal grip do 2 sets of close grip, as well as 2 sets of wide grip work, thus ensuring the whole of the chest is developed evenly. These sets should be of the same method i.e. 2 sets of 5
Dumbbell Bench press (allows a greater range of motion)
5x5 reps on a weight you could normally complete 8 reps on for a single set, resting a minute and a half between sets.
I personally do weighted dips with a 50kg weight attached with a weight belt, this may be too heavy, or too light for you. So find a weight where you can complete 4 sets of 4 reps. Each of these reps should be hard work, if you can push on your triceps power, your bench press 1RM should increase at a greater rate than if you neglected your triceps.
As the body quickly adapts to training, I suggest occasionally mixing it up with a bit of body building, there are several methods you can use, triple drop sets, century sets etc. I myself prefer to drop my working sets down to around 75% of my 1RM and complete 10 sets of 8 reps resting for around a minute between sets. I personally think this helps maintain a qualitative muscle mass on the key areas i.e. pecs and triceps
I also train my shoulders hard with body building exercises such as military presses and lateral raises etc I shall assume these are already part of your training so I shall not give much advice except that you should focus your work on the front deltoid group as this is the part of the shoulder used for the bench press.
Next is the true test of a man, the squat lift. Neglected by many as it is "too hard" or "too painful", you cannot go into training your squat with that attitude as progress will just be hampered, as in this sport a positive strong mind set is essential to progress as mental plateaus are just as likely to form as physical ones.
I train my squat twice in a week with a heavy day (usually on a Sunday) and a light day, normally in a mid week session e.g. Wednesday.
This is an example my heavy squat routine:
60kg warm up - 8 reps
100kg - 4 reps
120kg - 1 rep
140kg - 2 reps
160kg - 4 sets of 4 (wearing knee wraps)
With each week I would aim to increase the amount that I work on i.e. the 4 sets of 4 by 5kg e.g. 160 becomes 165, 165 becomes 170 etc.
For the light squat routine follow a pattern similar to this:
60kg warm up of 8 reps
100kg 4 reps
120kg 4 sets of 4reps (NO knee wraps)
Each week I would aim to add 2.5kg to the working set weight
To help my leg strength further I also use the leg press which will be done after the squat sets are completed, I myself just perform 5sets of 5 but for this use which ever method you feel i.e. 6sets of 6 or heavier weights but with lower reps with higher numbers of sets
The next lift is one dead lift. I won't lie, it will make you ache for a good few days after training it but when you see the back development it gives you, it'll very much be worth the pain I assure you.
Again I train it with both a light day and a heavy day.
For the light day alter this example to weights which are appropriate for your level of progress.
60kg warm up of 6 reps
100kg 4 reps
120kg 1 rep
140kg 1 rep
155kg 4 sets of 4 reps
Ensure you can complete all 4 sets of 4 reps before increasing the weight by 5kg on the working sets.
Heavy Dead lift example
170kg 1 rep
180kg 2x1 rep
Ensure that you can complete all the reps in each set and can complete all the sets for each exercise before increasing the weight, otherwise you risk forming a plateau in your training which can be very mentally taxing on even the most experienced of lifters, only advice I can give if you do hit a plateau in your training is you try and mix your training up and do things in different order or different exercises to "keep the body guessing"
A typical training split would be as follows:
Monday- Bench press (chest shoulders triceps)
Tuesday- Day off
Wednesday- Squat and Dead lift
Thursday- Day off
Friday- Bench press
Saturday- Day off/cardio/body building session (up to you what you feel like doing)
Sunday- Dead and Squat
I was asked what motivates me to train. To be honest there is not one thing in particular which makes me want to train, the desire to be the best with any serious competitive athlete is obviously my main drive. But I do appreciate that sometimes motivating yourself to get off of the comfort of the sofa to go train can be hard.
Remember that even the best have their off days, if you really feel as though training will not be productive, then do not train as your mind set is wrong to train and you will go to the gym and struggle on weights you could usually rep all day. Just don't wimp out too often, as that's a sure fire way to stop progress in its tracks.
To keep yourself motivated, set yourself targets to achieve and work hard towards them, once these are reached set new targets and so on and so on, do not set impossible targets however as this can cause de-motivation itself.
If you choose to be competitive with your power lifting, the desire to win should be the only motivation you need, more so if you have someone chasing you.
The final aspect of training to consider is arguably one of the hardest things to get right, the diet. There are so many schools of thought about what you should eat, how and when you should eat it etc that often it is impossible to get it right, or so it would feel at least.
Personally, I feel that the readers of this article will know their bodies better than I ever will, so I will not tell you what to do, but I will make some recommendations that I feel work for myself and may aid you in your training.
I start the day with a meal such as porridge or a bowl of oats etc and a LA Whey 2.2kg protein shake mixed with water (one single scoop mixed with around 150-200ml of water). By doing this any hunger cravings I may otherwise get are kept at bay.
For my lunch meal I have a good source of protein such as a chicken breast, or a tin of tuna etc with a small serving of carbs such as couscous or rice
And finally for my evening meal I will have a protein source e.g. chicken or tuna again with a high fibre salad made with green vegetables and carrots etc.
I only have 3 main meals a day but I do often supplement the other 2-3 meals with a LA Whey shake to act as a meal replacement. Also I recommend having one of the protein shakes before going to sleep taken with milk which contains a slow release protein, which aids my recovery and may well help you. And also one protein shake should be taken after a work out, preferably immediately after as this is when your muscles are most "sponge" like and will absorb nutrients better. Also taking creatine post work out is said to aid recovery.
On non training days, to help keep body fat levels low I will not eat much in the way of carbs at all, with my breakfast being an omelette made with 3 eggs with bacon, my lunch being tuna/chicken with green salad and in the evening to have a protein shake. It may seem as though I eat a ridiculously small amount, but I am only in the 60kg class so I do not have a need for a lot of calories.
Also I have found that eating a small amount of nuts each day helps the body maintain a qualitative muscle mass and provides the body with essential fats.
Personally I do not feel you can go wrong with a good protein shake and a quality creatine will be enough for the power athlete.
But I feel that in order to make progress you need to make the most of what your body is capable of, hence I feel some form of male hormone booster is almost essential. I would personally recommend LA ZMAX Compound as it greatly improves your recovery time which makes doing the training easier as your ready for your next set faster etc.
If you can afford to put on mass (which I cannot) I would recommend a product such as Norateen simply as it will aid you in putting on quality muscle mass while greatly increasing your strength, if you can afford it, it is very much worth the price tag it carries.
And if you're an image conscious power lifter then you can't go wrong with any of the products in the fat stripping range LA Muscle offer. Also I find that taking an aspirin and a good quality caffeine supplement such as Pro Plus or Limitless or some sort of equivalent greatly improves my performance, and it may well help you too.
I am also looking into going into personal training/running my own gym etc so if anyone would be interested in my services feel free to get in touch with me via LA Muscle.
Train hard and give it 100% each and every time you train
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