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Training Routine and Mini-Cycles
(4/19/03 - 8/8/03)

by Gary F. Zeolla

After competing in the Iron House Classic - 2003 on April 12, 2003, I took a week off. I then began training for my next contest, the IPA World Powerlifting Championships, August 8-10, 2003 in Harrisburg, PA. I will once again be competing in the 114 pound weight class, in the men's amateur, open and masters (40-44) divisions.

Training Routine

I will stick with the same four day per week format I have been using. But I will change all of the assistance exercises from my last routine. I will also do one less exercise each day as I was feeling a little overtrained with the previous routine.

My last workouts pre-contest were: squat, 12 days before; deadlift, 8 days before; bench, 5 days before. Since it had been the longest since I put in a squat workout, I started with squat day.

The workout format is:
Day One: Squat, Upper Back.
Day Two: Bench, Abs.
Day Three: Deadlift, Biceps, Forearms.
Day Four: Bench assistance, Abs.

The routine is:

Day One:
Olympic Squat
Long Bar Cable Pulls
Biceps Pulldowns (palms up, close grip)

Day Two:
Close Grip Bench
Bike Ab Exercise

Day Three:
Deadlift (Sumo; my competitive stance)
Conventional Stance Deadlift (as an assistance exercise)
Cable Curls
Hammer Curls

Day Four:
Decline Bench
DB. Bench
DB. Incline Bench
Reverse Crunches

Assistance Exercise Choices

Since I didn't miss any of my attempts at the Iron House Classic(!), it's hard for me to say exactly where my sticking points now are. But I based most of my choices of assistance exercises on where I seemed to struggle the most on each lift at the contest.

I had no problems sinking my squats and getting out of the hole like I had previously, probably thanks for the low squats in did in my previous routine, along with the "bounce" I got from the power suit and power wraps. But where I seemed to struggle the most was in the middle part of the lift.

My thinking is this is where the quads come most into play, hence the Olympic squats (close stance, bar high on the traps) for quad development.

The wide grip benches and two board benches I did in my last routine, along with the CMW bench shirt, helped me to overcome the problem I was having with missing reps in the bottom half of the lift. But now I seemed to struggle most in the top half.

This is where the triceps come most into play, hence the close grip benches. Also the dumbbell benches are done with bringing the dumbbells close together at the top, so they are in essence a close grip bench. Otherwise, the triceps get a lot of work from all of the other pressing movements.

I'm not planning on doing any direct triceps work, like the triceps pushdowns I did last time, as I felt by doing so I was overtraining the triceps. And besides, I really don't think exercises like pushdowns really help the bench lockout.

As for the decline benches, a couple of the powerlifters at my gym swear by them, so I figured I'd try them. Once I get the hang of them I think they'll be helpful. The way I figure it, with as much as I arch on my bench, it's almost a decline bench. So declines should help.

I'm hoping the DB work will help with the still remaining weakness in my right shoulder. I injured it in a bicycle accident almost four years ago, and I'm still having a bit of a problem coming up even on benches.

I had little problems getting the bar started, so the platform (deficit) deadlifts I did in my last routine, along with the CMW deadlift suit, worked in helping overcome that problem. But otherwise, it's hard to say where I struggled the most. My attempts seemed to be about equally difficult throughout.

But since it has been a long time since I have done conventional stance deadlifts, and with the added work they give to the low back and hamstrings over my normal sumo deadlifts, I figure conventional deadlifts will be a good assistance exercise to help throughout on my sumo deadlift.

I had no problems with gripping strength, so I'm thinking the forearm work from hammer curls will suffice. And I'm hoping the combination of cable curls and hammer curls will help bring up the size of my wimpy biceps!

Sets/ Workout Length

I plan on sticking with two work sets for all exercises. I also usually do 5-6 warm-up sets on my first lift of the day (12,10,8,5,3,[1], the single only with lower rep work sets), and 1-3 warm-up sets for each subsequent exercise (reps vary).

My rest periods between work sets are as follows:
Squats/ DLs: 8-10 min.
Major squat/ DL assistance: 6-8 min.
Benches and major bench assistance: 4-6 min.
Rest of exercises: 2-5 min.
Half of above rest times between warm-up sets.

I also warm-up on a treadmill for several minutes before my workouts and stretch for about 15-20 minutes afterwards. Altogether, I try to keep total workout times to less than 2 hours.


There are 16 weeks between the Iron House Classic and World's. With taking a week off after the Iron House Classic, taking several days off before World's, and with an occasional day off otherwise, this will leave me about 13 weeks of actual training.

Rather than utilizing one long cycle for this entire time-period, I plan on doing three "mini-cycles." This way, I will do lower reps more often, which is what I feel I need, more lower rep work. Specifically, I will repeat the following rep scheme for the powerlifts three times:

Week 1 - 6-8 reps - raw
Week 2 - 4-6 reps - raw
Week 3 - 2-4 reps - regular belt, super wraps, wrist wraps
Week 4 - 1-2 reps - power belt, power wraps, wrist wraps, drug store knee sleeves (on DLs); third mini-cycle only: suits and shirt.

I use a range for my reps rather than a specific number because of the way I perform my sets. I work almost to failure, but I stop before missing a rep.

For major assistance exercises (like Olympic squats) I will do 6-8 reps for weeks 1&2 and 4-6 reps for weeks 3&4. The reps for minor assistance exercises (like cable pulls) will also change each two weeks, such as 8-12 reps for weeks 1&2 and 6-10 for weeks 3&4. All assistance work is done "raw."

The "super wraps" refer to my knee wraps from college. These are not as good as today's power wraps. But I still have several pairs of them, and they'll do for week 3. However, for week 4 I'll switch to my CMW power wraps.

I'll use the same power wraps I used for my recent contest in mini-cycles 1&2, but I will use a new pair of power wraps for the third mini-cycle and at World's. However, I will use the same CMW squat suit, bench shirt, and deadlift suit as I used at my last contest for week 4 in mini-cycle three and at World's.

I will adjust the length of the third mini-cycle as needed to coincide with the contest. If I need to lengthen it, I will add workouts to weeks 2 and 3. In week 4, I'll do three work sets on the powerlifts rather than my usual two and not do any assistance exercises.

The Three Mini-Cycles

First Mini-cycle:
The first mini-cycle began on April 19, 2003.

My workouts for this mini-cycle for the powerlifts went as follows:


Week One

Week Two

Week Three

Week Four


230/8, 235/5

235/4, 235/6

245/4, 255/4

275/2, 285/2


155/6, 155/6

160/6, 160/6

165/4, 170/4

180/2, 185/1


305/7, 305/6

315/5, 315/5

325/4, 325/4

335/2, 340/2

Note: With as good as I felt and performed at the Iron House Classic, I thought this meant I was basically over my health problems. So I was looking forward to getting back in the gym afterwards and really seeing my lifting take off. But this didn't prove to be the case. Instead, after the contest, I had somewhat of a relapse and even a rather severe flare-up of being paralyzed for a couple of days. So for the first couple of weeks for this mini-cycle my training wasn't going too well, especially squats. And I lost some weight. But by about the third week, I started to feel better again. So my training started going well, and I started gaining weight again.

But to help with my recovery, I made a minor change in my routine. I cut back from lifting 4 days per week to every other day. This way, I won't have to lift two days in a row. Doing so was proving too much for me. But this means I will now be working each powerlift only every eight days. So the "weeks" for the mini-cycles will now be eight days long.

Second Mini-Cycle:

The second mini-cycle began on May 21, 2003..

My workouts for this mini-cycle for the powerlifts went as follows:


Week One

Week Two

Week Three

Week Four


235/8, 235/8

245/6, 255/6

270/4, 275/4

295/2, 300/2


155/8, 160/8

165/6, 165/6

170/4, 175/4

185/1, 185/1


310/8, 315/7

325/6, 325/5

335/3, 335/3

345/2, 350/2

Third Mini-Cycle:

The third mini-cycle began on June 24, 2003.  By the beginning of this cycle, my bodyweight was up to over 118 pounds. I was rather excited about this. I had dropped down to 106 in April 2002 as a result of my health problems. So I had gained 12 pounds in 14 months. And 118 is the most I’ve weighed since the mid 1980’s when I stopped lifting weights. However, I want to be careful not to gain much more. I think it is best to stay within five pounds of the weight class limit of 114.5 pounds.

My workouts for this mini-cycle for the powerlifts went as follows:


Week One

Week Two-A

Week Two-B

Week Three-A

Week Three-B

Week Four


250/8, 250/6

255/6, 255/6

260/6, 260/6

280/4, 285/4

300/3, 300/4

315/2, 325/2, 335/1


165/7, 165/6

170/6, 170/6

175/5, 175/5

180/4, 180/4

185/2, 185/2

190/2, 200/2, 205/1


320/5, 320/4*

325/5, 325/5


335/3, 335/3

340/3, 340/3

345/2, 355/2, 365/2

* The problem with the week one deadlift workout was, I believe, due to not deadlifting often enough. I had missed a couple of workouts in the preceding couple of weeks. So I deadlifted on the tenth day then the ninth day rather than every eight days. So I thought it best to go back to lifting four days a week. This way, I could "make-up" the missed workouts and go back to working each powerlift once a week. My health had improved enough at this point that I figured I can handle working out a little more often.

And with this change, I got in more workouts than I originally thought. So I ended up doing two "week 2" workouts for squats and benches and two "week 3" workouts for each powerlift. For the second "week 3" workouts I wore the same gear as for the previous 1-2 reps workouts (i.e. power belt, power wraps, wrist wraps, and pull-up knee sleeves). I then wore full competitive gear for my final workouts for each powerlift pre-contest. This way, the weight increases from the gear were more gradual.


I put in my last heavy workouts the week of July 28, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, doing deadlifts, benches, and squats, respectively. By way of comparison to the final workouts indicated above, at my last contest (April 12), my lifts were: squat: 305, bench: 195, deadlift: 350. So my lifts are definitely up, and I should have no problems breaking my records from last time. But we shall see...

I started cutting weight Saturday August 2, the morning after my last heavy workout. I only have about 4 pounds to lose, so it shouldn't be a problem. I have a light bench workout to put in on Monday, and then I'll be resting until the contest.

I'll be leaving Thursday morning, with weigh-ins that afternoon. It's about a 3 1/2 hour drive from the Pittsburgh area where I live to Harrisburg. But it will be the PA turnpike the whole way, so the drive should be easy.

I'll be competing in the Friday AM session. I'll then be judging the Friday PM and Saturday AM sessions, and then leaving after that. With stopping to eat on the way home, I'll probably get back late Saturday evening. So it will be a busy weekend, and I plan on just resting a couple of days afterwards!

Contest Update

My attempts at IPA Worlds were:
















I went 8/9 and break all six of my own records, plus one additional one, the open squat record. See IPA World Championships - 2003 for details.

Training Routine and Mini-Cycles. Copyright 2003 by Gary F. Zeolla.

Powerlifting and Strength Training
Powerlifting Training: My Training Routines

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