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Beneficial for Non-powerlifters
By Gary F. Zeolla
My newest book is titled book Starting and Progressing in Powerlifting: A Comprehensive Guide to the World's Strongest Sport. It is obviously geared towards powerlifters. However, non-powerlifters looking for advice on general strength training will find much benefit from the book as well. But a few modifications will need to be made. These benefits and modifications will be detailed in this article via an overview of each section of the book.
The Introduction to the book discusses the problems this writer had at my first contest. In doing so it introduces some basic mistakes that many people, powerlifters and non-powerlifters alike, make when performing bench presses in the gym. These mistakes are then discussed in-depth later in the book.
The "About the Author" section provides information about yours truly that many might find interesting.
The Sport of Powerlifting
The first section is the one that is the most powerlifter specific. But even non-powerlifters might find some information in this section helpful.
Chapter One begins by introducing the three powerlifts: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. It then explains why these three lifts should be the core of any strength training program.
Then later in the chapter, "Reasons for Disqualifications" are discussed. This is an overview of the mistakes many make when performing the three powerlifts that would get you disqualified at a contest. These mistakes get you disqualified as they are not the proper way to perform the lifts. Yet performing the lifts properly is vital for powerlifters and non-powerlifters alike as performing the lifts improperly renders them less effective and can even lead to injury.
Some of the information about supportive gear in Chapter Two would be beneficial to non-powerlifters. There are some who due to chronic pain or injuries might need to wear some of the support gear described, while some will simply want to wear some of the gear to prevent potential problems.
Most especially, many will want to wear a belt, at least when doing heavier sets. But the kind of belt that non-powerlifters need is the described standard weightlifting belt, not the thicker power belt.
The next type of gear that would be beneficial is wrist wraps and knee sleeves. These provide support for the respective joints. But some might also want to use elbow sleeves. These are not allowed in powerlifting contests, so do not get used to using them if you have any aspirations to be a powerlifter. But if you have elbow pain that requires support to be able to lift weights, then their use might be warranted.
The discussion on shoes would be relevant for non-powerlifters as proper foot support is important for anyone who lifts weights. Investing in the specialty squat and deadlifts shoes might be worthwhile for those who are serious about their strength training. However, due to the expense and the difficulty of use, I doubt few non-powerlifters would be interested in any of the other discussed supportive gear.
The rest of the first section is very powerlifter specific. But non-powerlifters might find it interesting if you have any friends or relatives who powerlift. Reading this section will give you some understanding of the sport so you won't feel "lost" when your friends start talking about their sport.
This section would be very applicable to non-powerlifters as much of the advice applies to non-powerlifting weight training routines.
The first chapter "Designing a Training Routine" presents information that would be applicable to any type of strength raining routine. Anyone who lifts weights needs to consider such things as proper warm-ups, number of work sets, rest between sets, exercise selection, workout frequency, workout breaks, how to incorporate cardio, stretching, cool down, workout lengths, and keeping a training log. These are all addressed in this chapter, and most of what is said would apply to both powerlifters and non-powerlifters.
But the most important modification would be in regards to the number of reps. The text makes the point that doing heavy singles and doubles can be dangerous. However, since powerlifting is about doing one rep max (1RM) in competition, then heavy singles and doubles must be done in training. But the non-powerlifter would have no reason to risk doing heavy singles and doubles. As such, the recommend rep ranges should be higher.
Specifically, the text uses the term "higher reps" to refer to 5-8 reps, and the term "lower reps" to refer to 1-4 reps. But these ranges should be raised for the non-powerlifter to 7-10 and 3-6, respectively. In this case, the four rep ranges for the "Basic Cycle" described in Chapter Eight would be: 9-10/ 7-8/ 5-6/ 3-4. Then the "drops reps" approach used in the "Alternate High/ Low Reps Routine" would be 9-10, 7-8 for the first week and 5-6, 3-4 the second week.
However, some might find that dropping to even 3-4 reps to be too taxing on the joints. In that case, you could add in the above mentioned supportive gear at that rep range. Or, you could go a little higher on the reps. The higher reps would thus be 9-12, while the lower reps would be 5-8. In this case, the four rep ranges for the "Basic Cycle" would be: 11-12/ 9-10/ 7-8/ 5-6 and the drop reps would be 11-12, 9-10 the first week and 7-8, 5-6 the second week.
The next chapter in this section first discusses training intensity. Again, this is an important point that everyone who lifts weights needs to consider.
The chapter then goes into detail about different training cycles. These are all geared towards conditioning the powerlifter to performing a 1RM and to peak for a contest. But the basic principles would apply to non-powerlifting training routines.
Specifically, the overarching point about all of the routines is that some kind of "change" needs to be incorporated into any kind of strength training program. You will not make long-term progress if you just keep doing the exact same exercises for the exact same number of reps over an extended period of time. But again, the main modification for the non-powerlifter would be to keep the reps higher throughout the cycles.
A second important point about these cycles is that you cannot stay at "peak" condition year-round. You need to periodically "deload" then gradually work back up. That is something most people do not even consider. But trying to stay at peak condition year-round can lead to stagnation or even injury.
The final chapter in this section is "Proper Performance of the Powerlifts." This is again of vital importance to both powerlifters and non-powerlifters. Granted, non-powerlifters will not need to concern themselves with the commands given at a contest, but all of the other points about how to properly perform these core lifts are very important to follow.
Powerlift Assistance Exercises
The descriptions and pictures of exercises in this section would be of value to all lifters. But rather than calling them say "squat assistance exercises" the non-powerlifter should think of them as "squat variations."
The point is, in previous chapters it is said it is good to vary your exercises. So rather than doing regular squats all of the time, you could alternate doing regular squats one week and then say front squats the next week, alternating back and forth. Or do regular squats for a few weeks, then front squats.
Many other squat variations are also described in the first chapter of this section, along with variations of bench presses and deadlifts in the next two chapters. Many of these would be of value to non-powerlifters. But the exceptions would be partial movements, like partial squats or board presses. These would be of little value for non-powerlifters.
However, non-powerlifters could find benefit from the use of chains and bands discussed in the fourth chapter in this section. These are full range movements, but the chains and bands provide a completely different yet effective training effect.
Putting it all Together
The first chapter of this section first presents four different training splits based on four days a week training programs. There are formats for what exercises to do and in what order for each training day. These splits would work well for powerlifters and non-powerlifters. But again, instead of "major squat assistance exercise" the non-profiler should think of it as a "squat variation."
Possible three days a week and two days a week programs are also presented in this chapter for those with limited time for training. The chapter then lists a wide variety of exercise that can be used in the training splits.
All of this information will make it very easy for the reader to design a training program and to choose different exercises so as to periodically make changes in the routine.
The final section of this chapter is "Yearly Training Program." This is oriented towards peaking for powerlifting contests. But again, the basis idea of periodically deloading and then gradually working back up is one that that all who lift weights need to grasp for long-term and injury-free progress.
The second chapter in this section reprints four sets of this writer's training logs. The first two sets are leading up to contests; the second two sets were my most recent workouts prior to publishing the book. These latter two look more like basic strength training routines than specific powerlifting routines, so they would be similar to how non-powerlifters should train, except again, to go a little higher on the reps.
The last chapter in this section is specifically about a powerlifter's "Contest Attempts." But again, if you know anyone who is into powerlifting, the non-powerlifter might still find it of interest.
Injuries and Back Pain
Anyone who engages in any type of exercise is subject to sustaining injuries, and many people suffer from back pain. So the two chapters in this section would be applicable to many people besides just powerlifters.
The chapter on injuries discusses how to avoid injuries in the first place. But if an injury does occur, it then discusses how to rehabilitate from a minor muscle "pull" or strain, along with how to determine when you need to see a doctor.
The chapter on back pain is a summary of this writer's booklet on Overcoming Back Pain. It relates how I overcame six years of crippling low back pain, so much so, that I was able to start powerlifting again.
Nutrition and Supplements
Three of the four chapters in this section present information that would be of interest to anyone concerned about their health, especially to those who engage in any kind of exercise program.
The first chapter is a summary of my God-given Foods Eating Plan book. It overviews the various components of a healthy eating plan.
The second chapter is on "Pre- and Post-workout Nutrition." This is an issue that is a concern to anyone who exercises and one that seems to confuse many people, as evidenced by the many emails I have received over the years with questions in this regard. These concerns are warranted as what you consume and when you consume it can have a dramatic effect on the quality of your workouts and on your training progress.
The fourth chapter is on supplements. This again is an area that many have questions about and that has caused much confusion. This chapter should help to answer these questions and clear up this confusion.
Only the third chapter in this section would be powerlifter specific. It is about cutting weight for a contest. However, powerlifting is not the only sport that has weight classes, so the information in this chapter would be applicable to any athlete who needs make weight for a competition.
This chapter might also be of interest to the person looking to drop a few pounds quickly to look their best for a special event like a wedding or high school reunion. That is not the brightest idea as you are far better off losing the weight slowly so that it stays off. But if you must lose weight quickly, then this chapter will outline how to do so in a safe manner.
Personal Problems in Powerlifting
This final section is mostly powerlifter specific. But non-powerlifters should take note of my discussion in the second chapter about the injuries I sustained trying to perform low reps (1-4) without supportive gear.
Also, the third chapter on "Gym Problems" would apply to many who work out at commercial gyms. The atmosphere at many gyms simply is not conductive to training progress.
The first appendix lists many companies where powerlifting gear, weightlifting equipment, and supplements can be purchased. This list will be of help to anyone interested in purchasing such products.
The final two appendixes provide short descriptions of all of my writings. I of course hope that everyone would be interested in these pages!
My book Starting and Progressing in Powerlifting is truly a "comprehensive guide" to this sport. But it is also in many ways a "comprehensive guide" to general strength training. So both powerlifters and non-powerlifters should find the book to be very beneficial.
The above article was posted on this site May 30, 2009.
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