For the first time this macro-cycle, I wrote my own training from scratch. It was a bit of a gamble, but Auckland Champs went really well and I learnt a lot from the experience. Now, I’ve finally found some time to sit down and think critically about my training: what worked, what didn’t work, and thoughts on what I might do in the future. If you haven’t read my meet report (or you really want to read it again), you can find it here.
What I did
I wrote a strength and peaking block from scratch for my build up to Aucklands. Before this, I’ve always used cookie-cutter programmes from the internet which I’ve modified, or had someone else do my programming. Writing from scratch was an experience, and though it was slightly daunting at the time, I’m glad I did. I ended up writing a four week strength/peaking hybrid block (plus a one week deload), and a two week peaking block (plus a one week taper.)
Most of my previous training has been Sheiko or Norwegian based, so the Russian influence is pretty strong in my programming style. I also got a lot of my ideas from Mike Israetel’s book, Scientific Principles of Strength Training. Big thanks to Angus and Jing for talking me out of most of the stupider ideas.
The layout was simple: lift four times per week.Bench heavy twice, and light twice. Squat heavy twice. Deadlift heavy once and light once. Do a variation after every primary lift. Hit a heavy single for each lift once per week. Do abs, back work, and hamstrings after primary lifts. In the peaking block I hit about my second attempt 3 weeks out, doubled my openers two weeks out, then had some low volume three lift days as I got closer to the meet, before tapering.
“Heavy” for me usually still means far from failure, usually 5 sets of 3 at 80% (85% for bench.) Light bench days were 4 x 4 at 75% ish, and light deadlift days would usually mean just do snatch grips deadlifts or similar.
My peak seemed to work really well. Aside from my bench, everything felt like greased lighting. I’ll probably use a pretty similar structure in the future, thought I’d like to be able to extend it to three or four week (+ taper) in the future. Doubling my openers, hitting my seconds (even though I felt like I was dying when I did it) was a huge boon I think. Those trainings were long and hard, but if you can hit something for a double, while fatigued, to a good standard in training, you can certainly hit it on the platform.
My deadlift training was pretty much on point. I am coming to terms with the fact that my hips can’t handle high deadlift training volumes, so being on the lower side here was good. Over time I’ll try and increase the volume I can handle, but that’s a long term project. For now, one heavy and one light session seems about right. Angus also introduced me a light deadlift protocol which he found useful, so I might try to increase that to one heavy and two light sessions per week in my next strength mesocycle.
I feel like the two light bench sessions per week were really key. Bench has a small range of motion, and so long as you’re doing it well recovers quickly. Two hard sessions a week don’t do it for me. Adding the two lighter sessions added ~32 working reps and ~ 3600 kg of total tonnage per week, without significalty impeding the heavy singles and triples. As they say #benchmoretobenchmore (actually, I don’t think many people say that. It might just be me.)
My bench was a little bit lacklustre on the day (despite the , and it took me a little bit of reflection, but I think I figured out why. For my squats and deadlifts, I tend to work at ~80% for the majority of my training, but (as I think is the norm) I find bench press a little easier to recover from, so I do my real work at ~85% of my projected max. I use a very Sheiko-esque taper, which means triples at 75% 5 days out and 70% 3 days out as a baseline. For my squats, that means a 10% (of max) reduction in absolute intensity and a 48% reduction in volume per session, which seems about right. For my bench though, that meant a 15% reduction in intensity, and a 59% reduction in volume per session. Looking back, I think I tapered too harshly for bench, and I might have peaked a little early. I have a few ideas on how I’m going to modify this for my next meet.
TL;DR: bench felt hard, because I tapered too hard.
The other thing about my bench was that I hit my tricep/shoulder MRV way too early. Because I was doing competition bench four days per week and four variations per week, I ended up clocking nearly 50 sets of bench and bench derivatives per week in the first two weeks of my strength cycle. Unsurprisingly, my elbows didn’t like that very much, and I was dealing with moderate tendinitis for most of the training cycle. Lesson learned: cut back bench volume (a little bit.)
I’m going to keep doing my own programming for the immediate future. I’ve enjoyed the experience, and I think I got a lot out of it. My next meet will likely be the Auckland Bench Press Championships (I can get another shot at figuring out that bench taper), and my next full powerlifting meet will be the New Zealand National Powerlifting Champs, in August!
So, hopefully I haven’t given away all of my secrets. I’ll try to get back to more regular posts now, so keep an eye out! Train hard, and I’ll see you guys on the platform.