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Training Routine and Two-Week Rotation
(8/13/03 - 11/14/03)

by Gary F. Zeolla

I competed in the IPA World Powerlifting Championships on August 8, 2003. Tentatively, my next contest will be the IPA National Championships, November 14-16, 2003 in Harrisburg, PA. If I enter it, I will once again be competing in the 114 pound weight class, in the men's amateur, open and masters (40-44) divisions. Below is the training routine I will use to prepare for this contest. If I don't enter it, then I will probably use this routine until sometime in December before changing it again.

Training Routine

I am sticking with the same format I used at the end of my last routine of lifting four times a week alternating four different workouts. So I am doing each workout once a week. But I changed all of the assistance exercises from my last routine.

After my Iron House contest I waited a full week to lift again, but that seemed like too long. And, as indicated at the end of my contest report for Worlds, my bench really needs work. So this time I only waited five days and started with benches. Then I did deadlifts before squats as before Worlds I did my last DL workout before my last squat workout.

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

The routine is:
Treadmill: Walk 1/4 mile, 3.0 mph, 2% grade.

Day One:
Bench
DB Decline Bench
DB Press
Swiss Ball Crunches
Captain's Chair Leg Raises

Day Two:
Deadlift
Rack Pulls
Good Mornings
DB Curls
Cable Reverse Curls

Day Three:
Speed, Rack Bench
Dips
Incline Bench
Nautilus Abs.
Twisting Reverse Crunches

Day Four:
Squat
Bench Squats
Lat. Pulldowns
DB Rows (elbows in)

Treadmill: Walk 1/2 mile, 3.0 mph, 3% grade.
Stretching: 15-20 minutes.

Assistance Exercise Choices


Squats:

My choice of assistance exercises for each new routine is usually based on where I've been missing lifts or at least what seems to be the hardest part of each lift. I especially try to note these points at my most recent contest. But I went 3 for 3 on squats at Worlds, and I only missed two reps on squats in my training in the previous two months. So its hard to say exactly where the hardest part of the lift is, but it seems to be just above parallel. So bench squats seem like a good idea.

Benches:
The hardest part of benches is obvious--the middle part of the lift. I have no problems getting the bar off of my chest, especially with a bench shirt on, and I have no problems locking out. So when I miss, it is always near the middle. I missed my third bench attempt at Worlds about 6" off of my chest. So to work this part of the lift I doing what I call "speed, rack benches." These are described on the page Bench Press Assistance Exercises. I am hoping the combination of speed work and just working this middle part of the lift will help me overcome my sticking point in this area.

Otherwise, decline dumbbell benches and dips are just all around quality assistance exercises.

Deadlifts:
Lockouts have been problematic on deadlifts. So rack pulls, along with other upper back work, is the most obvious choice for assistance work. But I am doing these somewhat differently than most. My method is described Deadlift Assistance Exercises.

Otherwise, I want to give the lower back and hamstrings more work than they get with my sumo DLs but without overtaxing the upper back, so good mornings will fit the bill.

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 2-3 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.

Altogether, I try to keep total workout times to about 2 hours.

Two-Week Rotation

There are 14 weeks between IPA Worlds and IPA Nationals. With taking a few days off after Worlds, taking several days off before Nationals, and with maybe an occasional day off otherwise, this will leave me about twelve weeks of actual training. For my training this time, I'm going to try something completely different.

The cycles I have used in my previous routines have worked very well. They enabled me to get back to handling some decent weights. However, I still feel like I am not doing lower reps often enough. Doing 1-2 reps still really tire me out. And it seems like I'm not able to use that much more weight for lower reps than for higher reps. Also, I feel like I am getting "crushed" when I do lower reps on squats and benches.

I noticed these problems in my last routine during the last week of the second mini-cycle, when I was doing 1-2 reps. I think the problem is that I am not getting used to doing lower reps and the resultant greater weights by only doing lower reps at the end of each cycle. So I want to incorporate lower reps more often.

However, I still believe it is necessary to do higher reps. Higher reps are better than lower reps at building the strength of tendons and ligaments. Also, they are not as dangerous, so one can lift "raw" with higher reps. In this way,  the torso and knees get strengthened more so than they do when doing lower reps with a belt and wraps. Also, higher reps build short term endurance that low reps don't.

What this means is, it is good to include both lower reps and higher reps in a routine. So for this routine, I plan on doing higher reps one week then lower reps the next week, and then repeating the sequence. For want of a  better term, I am calling this a "two-week rotation."

My plans for the powerlifts are to lift without supportive gear for the first, higher rep week and then to use a belt and wraps for the second, lower rep week. I will still do two work sets, but I'll probably increase the weight from the first to the second set so as to use lower reps on the second set. All assistance work will be done without supportive gear. However, I plan on using somewhat lower reps than I've been using during the second  week on major assistance exercises.

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.

First Week:
(Odd-numbered weeks)
PLs: 5-8 reps (Ideally, 1st set: 7-8, 2nd: 5-6) - No supportive gear.
Major asst.: 6-8 reps.
Minor asst.: 8-12 reps.

Second Week:
(Even-numbered weeks)
PLs: 1-4 reps (Ideally, 1st set: 3-4, 2nd: 1-2) - All three: power belt; squats: power wraps; benches: wrist wraps; deadlifts: wrist wraps and pull-up knee sleeves.
Major asst.: 3-5 reps.
Minor asst.: 6-10 reps.

Last workout each PL pre-contest:
3 sets of 1-2 reps with full competitive gear.
No assistance.

Changes in Form

As I started this new routine, I made slight changes in my form for each of the powerlifts. For squats, I noticed in a picture taken at IPA Worlds that I was holding the bar rather high on my traps, so I moved the bar down lower on my back. And this slight difference changed the way the whole lift feels.

On benches, I am now starting with the bar over my chin and then lowering it in an arch to about an inch below the nipple line on my chest. I am then pressing the bar with an arch back to over my chin at the top. This enables me to bring my elbows in more during the press and thus use more triceps strength. Before I was going straight up or even angling down towards my feet a little, which made it hard to bring my elbows in.

For deadlifts, I am now starting with the bar a couple of inches in front of my shins rather than right against my shins. It is good to keep the bar close, but I was hitting my shins too much, slowing the ascent of the bar. I was also having to come forward a little to get past my knees. I'm also now only dropping my butt down before the start of each rep, and then starting to pull as my butt comes up past knee level. Previously, I was coming down with my legs as well.

It will take me a little while to get used to the new forms and to engrain them as "habits." So I expect my weights to be down for a little while until I get adjusted. But I am hoping that eventually the new forms will enable greater weights to be handled.

Powerlift Work Sets

My work sets for the powerlifts went as follows. See below for notes.

Week

Squat

Bench

Deadlift

1

235/8, 240/6

160/7, 160/6

315/4, 310/4a

2b

 285/4, 290/4

175/3, 175/4

325/3, 330/3

3

 240/8, 245/8

 160/8, 165/7

 305/8, 310/6c

4

 295/4, 305/3

 180/3, 180/3

 330/4, 335/3

5

 250/8, 260/8d

 165/8, 170/6

 310/8, 315/6

6e

 305/4, 315/4

 180/4, 185/3

 335/4, 345/3

7

 265/8, 275/6

 170/6, 170/6

 315/8, 325/6

8

 325/4, 340/2f

 185/3, 190/2

 345/3, 355/2

9g

275/8, 290/5

 170/7, 175/5

 325/5, 325/5

10

 335/3, 350/2

 185/3, 195/1

 350/3, 360/1

11h

340/3, 360/2

185/4, 195/1

355/3, 365/1

12h

---

190/2, 200/1

---

1-2 Repsh

 365/2, 385/2, 400/--

205/1, 215/--, 215/-- 

360/2, 370/2, 380/1

IPA Nationals

365, 385, 385 195, 205, 205 355, 370, 380

Notes:
a.
These DL sets were supposed to be for 5-8 reps, as described in the "Two-Week Rotation" section above. But along with the adjustment to the new form, there is always somewhat of a let-down and drop in weights after a contest, and I underestimated how much of a drop these would require. But this workout gave me a starting point for picking weights for future workouts.

b. The second set went better than the first for all three of this week's workouts as I was finally getting used to my new form on each lift.

c.  That's more like it!

d. A fantastic workout! I began wearing a mouth guard while working out. I did so as I could tell I was grinding my teeth, and my jaw was hurting after my workouts, aggravating my TMJ problem. The guard worked for the teeth grinding, and as a bonus, I think it helped my lifting. After my squat sets, I wasn't as winded as usual. Most likely, the teeth grinding was increasing pressure in my sinus decreasing the amount of oxygen I was sucking in with each breath.

e. As indicated above, my plans for this routine was to do two sets of 1-4 reps on even-numbered weeks. However, ideally, I was planning on doing 3-4 reps on the first set and 1-2 on the second, but I have gotten 3-4 reps on both sets every week up to this point. Part of the reason for this is my lifting has been going better than expected. For instance, on the squat workout for this week I expected that by adding ten pounds for the second set I would only get it for two reps, but I ended up getting four! So basically, I need to learn to judge how much of a difference a particular increase of weight will make.

f. Another great squat workout! I squatted 335 at my last contest wearing full completive gear, while the 340/2 in this workout was done with belts and wraps but no suit! And with this workout (done on 10/8/03), I decided I would enter IPA Nationals November 14. All of my lifts are obviously up, especially squats. So it will be worth it to enter the contest. And counting the days out, I should get in four more workouts for each powerlift. As scheduled, I'll do high reps for week nine and low reps for week ten. But for week eleven, rather than doing high reps as scheduled, I'll do low reps again as that close to a contest low reps are warranted. The final week will then be 1-2 reps wearing full competitive gear.

g. For the DL workout of this week, I was really tired, so got one less rep than for the second set of week seven's workout. But for the squat and bench workouts, I purposely increased the weight sufficiently for the second set so as to only get five reps. In this way, this week's workouts were "transitional" to the heavy pre-contest workouts to come.

h. See New Gear and Final Pre-Contest Workouts for comments on my final workouts before my upcoming contest. See IPA National Powerlifting Championships - 2003 for a report on how I did at the contest.

Training Routine and Two-Week Rotation. Copyright 2003 by Gary F. Zeolla.

Powerlifting and Strength Training
Powerlifting Training: My Training Routines

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