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New Two by Two Training Plan and Next Contest Plans

by Gary F. Zeolla

This article is a follow-up to IPA Pennsylvania State Powerlifting Championships - 2016.

I competed in IPA PA States on Saturday, March 5, 2016. Last year, I started training again on the Friday following the contest, but I didn’t feel quite right for that workout, so this year I am waiting until a full week afterwards, starting on Sunday, March 13, 2016. I will be starting a new training plan for a proposed contest in September. I will again be following my “Two by Two Powerlifting Training Plan,” with just some minor changes from my previous training plan.

Training Plan Overview

My Two by Two Plan consists of two training routines (Routine A and Routine B, which I will now call my Post-Contest Routine and Pre-Contest Routine, respectively), with two training weeks within each routine (Week A and Week B). Each training week consists of four training days: Bench Assistance, Squat, Bench, Deadlift, with workouts being on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. I will continue to post my workout logs after each training week.

In the Post-Contest Routine, I will do two powerlift look-alike lifts instead of the actual powerlifts. Then in the Pre-Contest Routine, I will again do two look-alike lifts Week A, but the actual powerlifts Week B, followed by one look-alike lift. These major exercises are usually followed by a speed exercise and a minor exercise. I thus do four exercises in each workout. I do different exercises each training week and routine to routine, so there are clear differences between the training weeks and routines. IOW, I alternate through four different sets of exercises. This gives lots of variety to the training plan, but the corresponding exercises are similar enough that there is consistency as well.

Also, for the two major exercises in each workout, I have found it best if there is a significant difference between them. Thus using deadlifts for an example, I do one exercise with a sumo (wide) stance and the other with a conventional (close) stance. If I do two sumo stance exercises in a row, I am burned out for the second exercise, and it does not go well; but by switching to a conv stance, I feel refreshed and can exert greater effort on it.

Sets x Reps

I will continue to use my “drop reps” approach for all exercises. I will stick with 3 sets x 5-6, 3-4, 1-2 reps for the powerlifts and look-alike lifts. However, I am going to try slightly fewer reps on SLDLs, speed work, dumbbell pressing exercises, and other compound exercises than I had been doing, dropping from 3 x 7-8, 5-6, 3-4 to 3 x 6-7, 4-5, 2-3. For most isolation exercises, I will drop from 3 x 9-10, 7-8, 5-6 to 3 x 8-9, 6-7, 4-5. These rep ranges are based on my belief that six or fewer reps are best for increasing one’s 1RM on the powerlifts, while doing more than six reps is just too different both physiologically and psychologically from a 1RM to be of much use. Thus most of my sets are for six or fewer reps.

Workout Times

Checking my training logs, my workouts last spring took about half an hour less than they did in my most recent routine, but I am doing the same volume. That can only mean I am taking longer rests between sets. I don’t feel like I am, but I never time my rest times. I go by feel, starting when I feel like I am ready. I can only guess I am taking longer to recover. That could be because of being a year older, or maybe I am just dogging it. Either way, that is something I need to work on as my workouts have been taking too long. Also, I am arranging my workouts so that more time-consuming and demanding exercises are coupled with ones that are less so.

Raw with Sleeves Versus with Wraps

I keep going back and forth as to if I should train and compete raw with sleeves or with wraps, and after my recent contest I still had not decided which way to go. I thus wrote up training plans for each method. But there was not a huge difference between them, so I revised them into one so as to be training for sleeves and for wraps equally. The way I have it written up, I won’t actually use wraps in the Post-Contest Routine, as I will do the look-alike lifts using sleeves instead. I will then only use wraps Week B of the Pre-Contest Routine, while I will use sleeves Week A.

All of this means two things. First, I should be prepared to compete either with wraps or with sleeves. Second, I will only need to wrap for six workouts per training plan. As I’ll explain shortly, ideally I should get in two training plans and two contests a year. That means, for both training and contests, I will only need to wrap 14 days a year. That is not much for the advantage wraps give me for my main competition goals regarding the All-time raw master records and All-time raw open ranking lists, both of which are for raw with or without wraps. I will thus plan on competing raw with wraps, though remaining open to competing with sleeves.

Gear and Divisions

I will keep using the same gear I’ve been using, namely: Crain Genesis 2.5-meter knee wraps for squats with wraps, Crain Genesis wrist wraps for squats and benches, APT heavy knee sleeves for squats with sleeves and squat look-alike lifts, APT single-ply knee sleeves and wrist bands for deadlifts, and a Crain power belt for all major lifts.

I will try to stay in the 114-pound weight class, but I will be moving up to the 55-59 age division, as I turn 55 in a couple of weeks.

Future Contests

Ideally, each routine in my Two by Two Training Plan lasts twelve training weeks. With taking several days off before a contest and a full week off afterwards and with taking an “extra” day off every four weeks (as I’ve found I need to do to aid recovery), that means the total plan lasts six months. Thus this plan is designed for entering two contests a year. If I do, I would get in a total of 46 training weeks per year. Ideally, those weeks would be split as evenly as possible between the two training plans and thus between contest.

As such, having entered a contest in March, God-willing, I am now planning on entering another contest in September. I’ve found three possibilities, but I’ve yet to decide which one I will enter as there are pros and cons for each. However, I will need to decide by June, so as to know when to transition from my Post-Contest Routine to my Pre-Contest Routine. But in the meantime, I will be marking the weeks in my Post-Contest Routine as “Week 1 of 12”, etc., but the total number of weeks might change when I decide on which contest to enter.


That’s my plan. This has all been worked out over decades of experimenting. Here’s trusting the LORD that I got things figured out just right and that my training progresses well, so that I can better what I accomplished at my recent contest at my next one. For my first workouts using this plan, see Full Workout Logs: Starting 3/13/2016 – Two by Two Plan; Post-Contest Routine, Weeks 1-6 of 12. For a  follow-up to this article, see Contest Decision.

New Two by Two Training Plan and Next Contest Plans. Copyright 2016 by Gary F. Zeolla.

Powerlifting and Strength Training
Powerlifting and Strength Training: Full Workout Logs: 2014 - Present

The above article was posted on this site March 12, 2016.

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