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Training Routines and Drop Reps
(with Back-Off Set; 7/16/04 - 11/28/04)

by Gary F. Zeolla

After competing in the IPA World Championships on July 10, 2004, I took a week off. Tentatively, my next contest will be IPA Nationals on November 19, 2004, at the same location as World's were (Shamokin Dam, PA). There are 19 weeks between these two contests. With taking the week off after World's and a week off before Nationals, and with working out every other day, this will give me 15 "weeks" of training. For this time-period, I am planning on using two different routines. The first for 7 weeks. Then week 8 I'll use full gear for the powerlifts and not do any assistance exercises. Then I'll use the second routine for the remaining 7 weeks.

Training Routines

At the start of these routines, I began working out every other day rather than four times a week (see New Gym and Training Schedule). But I'll still follow the same schedule of alternating through four different workouts. This means my training "weeks" are now actually eight days long. So "weeks" throughout this article refers to this eight-day time period (four workout days and four rest days).

I haven't been bothering with doing any cardio lately, but I still stretch for about 15 minutes after my workouts. I'm trying to keep my total workout time (lifting and stretching) to less than 2 hours. I time the workouts from when I begin my first warm-up set to when I am finished with my last stretching movement.

Since my last bench assistance workout was about two weeks before World's, I'm starting with that workout. I'll then do squats since I did my last squat workout before my last deadlift workout, then will be bench day and lastly deadlifts. It will be a full two weeks after my contest before my first deadlift workout. This will be good as after my very difficult final DL at IPA Worlds I needed a break from deadlifts!

Workout Format:
Day One: Bench Assistance, Arms, Abs.
Day Two: Squat, Upper Back.
Day Three: Bench, Arms, Abs.
Day Four: Deadlift.

Routine #1

Day One:

  1. Rack Bench
  2. Close Grip Bench
  3. DB Rotations
  4. Wrist Curls
  5. Sit-ups
  6. Captain Chair Leg Raises

Day Two:

  1. Squats
  2. Pause Squats (3 count)
  3. Lat. Pulldowns/ Cable Pulls (wide grip)
  4. DB Rows

Day Three:

  1. Bench
  2. Incline DB Bench
  3. Curl Bar Curls
  4. Decline Crunches
  5. Twisting Reverse Crunches
Day Four:
  1. Deadlifts
  2. Stiff Leg Deadlifts
  3. Leg Curls
  4. Calf Raises

Stretching: 15-20 minutes.

Routine #2

Day One:

  1. Chain Bench
  2. Alternating Arms DB Bench
  3. Preacher Curls
  4. Curl Bar Reverse Curls
  5. Crunches
  6. Twisting Captain Chair One Leg Raises

Day Two:

  1. Squats
  2. Chain Squats
  3. Curl Bar Rows (underhand grip to waist)
  4. Cable Pulls (wide grip)

Day Three:

  1. Bench
  2. Dips
  3. Overhead Press
  4. Rotating, Alternating DB Curls
  5. Decline Crunches (increasing angle for resistance)
  6. Bicycle Abs.
Day Four:
  1. Deadlifts
  2. Platform Deadlifts (with chains)
  3. Leg Curls
  4. Calf Raises

Stretching: 15-20 minutes.

Assistance Exercise Choices

Wrist Injury:
About a month before World's, I sustained a minor injury to my right wrist, on the outside down from the pinky finger. It wasn't serious, and I was able to keep training by wrapping it during my workouts. And it obviously didn't hurt my gripping strength as I had no problems hanging onto my very slow final deadlift at IPA Worlds. But now I want to work on strengthening this area. That is the reason for the DB rotations and wrist curls on bench assistance day.

For the DB rotations, I am planning on holding a dumbbell as close to the plates on one side as possible and then rotating the opposite end up. This should work the outside of the wrist. It will also work the biceps as forearm rotation is one of the functions of the biceps. Even though only one wrist is injured, I'll work both arms to strengthen this area on the left wrist as well. For the wrist curls, I'll do them both with my palms down and my palms up. This should strength the area along with helping my grip strength. I'm hoping once a week will be enough for this rehab. But if not, I'll also do one or both of these exercises on bench day as well.

[Update: My wrist injury healed just fine within a month or so. But I continued with these exercises throughout the routine. They are good exercises to do wrist injury or not.]

I haven't done pause squats before so I wanted to see what they're like. And the first time I did them, I must say my legs really got pumped up. So they seem like an effective exercise.

During the time of the first routine, I purchased some chains from Topper Supply Company (866-424-2467), so I'll try chain squats for my second routine. The chains increase the weight at the top of the lift helping with this area. But the weight will be relatively light at the bottom. So to give this area some work, I will try sinking the squats about three inches lower than normal.

My plan in my previous routine of doing only "non-flat" bench assistance on bench assistance day didn't work so well. So I am going back to doing "flat" assistance work on that day. I actually started to do so the last month of my previous routine. And I think the best type of exercise to do on that day will be ones designed specifically for helping with a shirted bench, namely rack benches, chain benches, and band benches. So I am planning on alternating through these three exercises, doing a different one with each routine.

Since I missed my third bench about 3" from lockout at my last contest, this is an area I need to work on. All three of these exercises should help in this regard, along with close grip benches. The rack benches I did before from about 4" off of my chest seemed to work well, so I'll be doing those for the first routine. For my second routine,  I'll try using my new chains.

And in a way, how much weight I handle for my major exercise on bench assistance day matters more than what I do for regular benches since these exercises approximate a shirted bench. So in my training logs, along with my weights for the three powerlifts, I am going to start indicating my weights for my major bench assistance exercise as well.

Otherwise, incline DB benches, decline benches, and DB benches are all quality pressing exercises, so I'll be utilizing them. For the DB benches, I'm going to try something different. Rather than raising both weights together, I'll try alternating arms. This way, I can focus more on my weaker right shoulder, doing it first.

The lower back is not worked that directly with my sumo (wide stance) DLs. So I've found that direct lower back work is the best assistance work I can do. And the three best such exercises are good mornings, SLDLs, and platform DLs. So my plans are to rotate through these three exercises, doing a different one with each routine. And I think I'll try using my new chains when I do the platform DLs. That way, both the bottom of the lift (with the extra pulling distance) and the top of the lift (with the added weight from the chains) will receive benefit. For these, I am standing on a 100 pound and 45 pound weight. Together, they are 3-3/4" high.

Otherwise, leg curls and calf work are beneficial to both squats and DLs. I do them on DL day simply because I have the time to do them then. My squat day is already filled with doing upper back work along with squats.

As for the back work, about a month into this routine I was struggling on the lockout on DLs. I think the reason for this is that lat. pulldowns do not help the DL lockout that much as the motion is just too different. So I switched to cable pulls, and will continue these through routine #2. And from now on, I'll stick with variations of cable pulls and rows for my upper back work as these most closely approximate the DL movement.

Warm-ups, Sets, and Reps

I don't do any cardio to warm-up. However, I have gotten in the habit of gathering together all of the weights I'm going to be using for my workout and piling them up by where I'll be doing my first exercise of the day before staring my warm-up sets. In this way, I can buzz through my sets a little faster. And the walking around to get all of the weights and carrying them serves as a general warm-up.

I also do a lot of warm-up sets. Specifically, on the powerlifts I do 12,8,5,3,1. The set of 12 is with just the bar. The set of eight then is with 145 for squats and DLs and with 95 for benches. The final single is with about 10% less than what I will be using for my first work set and is the only warm-up set done with gear (the belt and wraps I'll be using  for the first work set). The sets of five and three are then spaced out in-between the set of eight and the single (e.g. DLs: 45/12, 145/8, 235/5, 290/3, 335/1, first work set: 375). I'll use the same warm-up scheme for my first exercise on bench assistance day. For subsequent exercises I'll use 1-3 warm-ups sets of varying reps.

For my work sets, I'll use the same scheme I started using near the beginning of my previous routine. For the powerlifts I'll do three work sets of 3-4, 1-2, 6-8 reps. The first two sets are done with a belt and wraps and the third (back-off) set is done "raw." I'll then use full gear once, at the halfway point between the two contests. For those workout I'll play it like a contest and do three singles for each lift.

I found this kind of routine works very well and incorporates everything I want in a routine. Using belt and wraps for every workout enables me to use and thus stay used to handling heavy weights. The set of 3-4 reps is the real strength builder. The set of 1-2 reps helps me to stay used to doing heavy singles and doubles, with the heavier weights and different psyching than for higher reps.

The back-off raw set then serves several purposes. By lifting raw, it keeps my joints strong. The higher reps build muscular endurance and overall conditioning. But the reps are still low enough for it to be a significant strength builder as well.

The week of using full gear then gives me a chance to practice using the gear and in picking attempts. It will also give me a good idea where my lifts are at halfway between contests. For the workouts when I am using full gear, I won't do any assistance work. That way, those workouts shouldn't be overly taxing.

With one exception, assistance work will be done raw. For the most part, I see no reason to use gear for assistance work. Doing so would only detract from the specific strengthening effects. For major assistance exercises I'll do two work sets of 5-6 then 3-4 reps. For minor assistance, I'll do two sets of anywhere from 5-12 reps, depending on the particular exercise.

The one exception will be the rack/ chain/ band benches on bench assistance day. For these I'll do three sets of 4-5, 2-3, 6-8 reps, using a belt and wraps for the first two sets. This way, I'll have two pressing exercises where I do two heavier sets with gear and a back-off set without gear, just as I have two such exercises for the lower body (e.g. squats and DLs). But the reps are a little bit higher for the first two sets as there's no reason to do singles with assistance work.

Since I am dropping reps from the first to second sets on the powerlifts and major assistance exercises, and then doing a back-off set for the powerlifts and one bench assistance exercise, I am calling this program "Drop Reps (with Back-off Set)."

Powerlift Work Sets

My work sets for the powerlifts and my major exercise on bench assistance day went as follows. Since all sets for the full gear workouts are for singles, just the weights are indicated. See below for notes.

Week Squat Bench Deadlift Rack Bench
1a 335/3, 345/2, 255/6 165/5, 175/2, 145/8b 350/3, 365/1, 295/6 165/5, 175/3, 145/8
2 335/3, 350/2, 255/7 170/4, 180/2, 150/8 350/4, 365/2, 295/8 170/5, 180/3, 150/8
3 335/4, 355/2, 255/8c 175/3, 185/1, 155/8 355/3, 370/1, 300/6 175/5, 185/5, 155/10
4 340/3, 360/2, 260/7 175/4, 185/2, 160/7 355/4, 370/2, 300/8 180/5, 190/3, 165/8
5 340/4, 365/1, 260/8 180/3, 190/1, 160/7 360/4, 375/2, 310/6 190/4, 200/1, 175/7
6 345/3, 365/1, 265/6 180/3, 190/1, 160/6d 365/3, 380/1, 310/7 190/4, 195/3, 175/8
7 345/3, 365/1, 265/6 180/4, 190/2, 160/7 365/3, 385/2, 315/7 190/5, 200/3, 180/8
Full Geare 365, 385, 405 195, 210, 220, 225 385, 405, 415 195/4, 205/2, 185/7
Week Squat Bench Deadlift Chain Benchf
1 345/4, 365/2, 265/7 185/3, 195/1, 160/7 365/3, 385/1, 315/8 115/5, 125/3, 105/8
2 350/3, 370/1, 265/8 185/2, 195/1, 160/8 365/4, 385/1, 320/6 125/5, 135/4, 115/7
3 350/4, 370/2, 270/7 185/2, 195/1, 165/6 370/3, 385/1, 320/8 130/5, 145/2, 115/8
4 355/3, 375/1, 270/8 180/4, 195/1, 165/6g 370/4, 385/2, 325/6 135/5, 145/3, 120/6
5 355/4, 375/2, 275/7 185/3, 190/2, 165/7 375/3, 390/1, 325/6 140/4, 150/2, 120/6
6 360/3, 380/1, 275/6 185/3, 195/1, 165/7 375/2, 390/--, 325/4h 140/5, 150/2, 120/7
7 360/4, 380/1, 275/7 185/3, 195/1, 165/7 375/3, 390/1, 325/6 145/4, 155/2, 120/8i
8j 365/3, 380/1, 275/7 185/3, 200/1, 165/7k 375/3, 395/1, 325/6 150/3, 160/1, 125/6
Full Gearl 385, 405, 420 200, 215, 225 375, 395, 410 150/3, 160/1, 125/6

 I would have liked to have gotten the top number of reps for each set on squats and deadlifts. But it's hard to gauge how much to drop the weights after a contest. Actually, I probably could have gotten the full number of reps, but it would have required me to work harder than I wanted to right after a contest. I prefer not to push all-out the first couple of weeks.

b. I "forgot" to pause the first three reps on the first set, but I paused the fourth rep and then did an "extra" rep with a pause to make up for it. And at least I got the top number of reps for each set on benches.

c. During this workout, my local newspaper had a photographer at the gym taking a picture of me for an article about me and my powerlifting. The picture they used was from the first set with 335. For the article and picture, see Weightlifter overcomes obstacles.

d. I've been trying to pick up my workout pace some. I figure this help get me in better condition so I won't get so exhausted at my next contest. But until I get used to the new pace, it might hurt my poundages somewhat.

e. I knew my lifts had been down since IPA Worlds, so for my full gear workouts at mid-point between contests, my main goal was simply to be able to do about what I had done at my last contest. And I accomplished that. So I now have about seven "weeks" worth of training until IPA Nationals to get my lifts up. I also learned that with putting my suits and bench shirt in the dryer after I washed them, my squat suit and the "extra" 0.5 meter of knee wraps added about 40 pounds. The bench shirt added about 25-30 pounds, and the DL suit about 10-15 pounds. So this knowledge will help me plan my attempts for my next contest. I also hit some gym milestones. For the first time in 22 years, I was able to put four 45s on each side of the bar for squats and DLs. For benches, I wanted to to be sure I got the 220 I just missed at IPA Worlds, so I tried that on my third attempt. Then I took a fourth attempt to go for the milestone of two 45s on each side, and I got it! Overall, I went 9/10 in my attempts. So I'm happy with how these workouts went.

f. Only the bar weight is indicated. But the chains weigh a little over 50 pounds, so adding 50 pounds to the indicated weights gives an approximation of the weight used at the top of the lift when the chains are almost completely off of the floor.

g. Benches are stagnating once again. So I'm going to try mixing things up some by changing the weights. Also, it was at this point that I added overhead presses on Day Three. I've been missing some lifts at or slightly above half-way, where the delts are most used. So I'm hoping the presses will help in this regard. I also added in preacher curls on Day One to keep the number of exercises working the biceps even with the number working the triceps (e.g. five for each; the three curl and two upper back exercises for biceps and the four pressing exercises plus dips for triceps).

h.  Wasn't feeling too well on this day, so I didn't push too hard. Hence the missed reps on each set.

i. Starting with this workout, I dropped my  reps down on my major bench assistance exercise to the same as for the powerlifts, namely: with belt and wraps: 3-4, 1-2, raw: 6-8.

j. My plans changed, and I decided I would not enter IPA Nationals on November 19, 2004. See the "Change of Plans" update at Contest Plans for 2004 for details. Tentatively, my next contest will not be until next spring. So I decided to add another week to routine #2 and then use full gear the ninth week. After that, I will start a new training routine. I'll post details at that time.

k. I am beginning to realize that the reason my bench is stagnating is because my assistance work is geared towards benching with a shirt, but my regular benches are being done without a shirt. So when I begin my next routine, I am going to start using a single-ply shirt in training, while saving my double-ply shirt for my full gear workouts and for contests. For details, see "Bench Shirt in Training" at Initial Christian Powerlifters Forum Posts

l. For comments on these workouts, see Full Gear Workouts (11/24-28/04).

See Training Log (11/30/04 - 1/24/05) for the weights I used for my next training routine.

Training Routines and Drop Reps (7/16/04 - 11/28/04). Copyright 2004 by Gary F. Zeolla.

Powerlifting and Strength Training
Powerlifting and Strength Training: My Training Routines

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