Deconstructing Popular Powerlifting Programmes

PeriodisationLast time out we looked at the major models and concepts associated with periodisation. This time we’ll focus on how these relate to popular powerlifting programmes.

To deconstruct our powerlifting programmes, we’ll begin by asking some key questions about each structural unit of training.

The macrocycle

We’ll start at the very top. Strictly speaking, many powerlifting programmes don’t take a long-term view that considers an entire macrocycle. We’ll consider what happens over the macrocycle when these programmes are repeated or recycled.

  • Load

Do you add more load to the bar in each mesocycle? If yes, that’s a basic linear model.

If not, is there a general trend for the loadings to increase across the whole mesocycle? If that’s a yes, then it’s a wave-like or undulating model

If it’s none of the above, then it’s not a strength programme!

  • Volume

As above, but the other way around. If the volume decreases across each mesocycle, then it’s a basic linear model.

If there a general trend for the volume to decrease, then it’s a wave-like or undulating model.

None of the above? Then volume isn’t periodised on a macrocycle level.

  • Mesocycles

Is the programme blocked into mesocycles? If yes, then it’s a block-based model.

  • Training focus

Does the programme attempt to exclusively develop hypertrophy and/or rate of force development in specific mesocycles? If yes, then it’s a basic block-based model.

Does the programme attempt to develop hypertrophy and/or rate of force development throughout each mesocycle? If yes, then you’ve got a concurrent or conjugate model.

Does the emphasis on these qualities change between different mesocycles? If yes, it’s conjugate model.

  • Exercise selection

Does the programme progress from more general, less specific training into more sport-specific (squat, bench, deadlift) training over the course of the macrocycle? If yes, it’s a linear-based principle.

Does the programme incorporate highly specific training (squat, bench, deadlift) throughout the macrocycle? If yes, specificity is not periodised and is maintained high throughout the programme.Macrocycle

The mesocycle

Next up is the mesocycle.

  • Load

Do you add more load to the bar each week? If yes, it’s a basic linear-based mesocycle.

General trend for the loadings to increase? Then we’re wave-like or undulating.

  • Volume

Does volume decrease over the course of the mesocycle? If yes, it’s a linear-based model.

General trend for decreased volume? Then it’s wave-like or undulating.

What about the opposite? Does volume actually increase over the mesocycle? This indicates a linear block-based model.

  • Undulation

Does the load or volume change from week-to-week? If yes, it’s a weekly undulating periodisation model (WUP).Mesocycle

The microcycle

What happens on a day-to-day basis within the programme?

  • Load & volume

Do the load and volume (or intended adaptation) change from session-to-session? If yes, you’ve got a daily undulating programme (DUP).

Training session

Lastly, we’re down to what happens within the session.

  • Assistance lifts

Does the session incorporate assistance lifts that seek to develop hypertrophy? If yes, then you’ve got a concurrent or conjugate model.

Does the session incorporate assistance lifts that seek to develop RFD? If yes, then you’ve got a concurrent or conjugate model.Microcycle

What do they have in common?

Every strength programme seeks to add load to the barbell to achieve progressive overload.

‘Beginner’ programmes tend to be linear in nature and demonstrate high levels of specificity.

More ‘advanced’ programmes tend to integrate undulation on a daily and/or weekly basis. These programmes place greater emphasis on the concurrent development of hypertrophy and/or RFD.

So what?

Squat loadBy answering these questions you’ll be able to deconstruct any programme. Understanding how the programme is put together is crucial when seeking to determine which best fits your goals and needs at any given point in time.

Some lifters do well with highly specific programmes and minimal variation. Some lifters need the opposite.

Some lifters need to lift heavy at least every couple of weeks. Some lifters need just a session of two to reacclimate to heavy loads.

What next?

In the next part we’ll delve a little deeper into some of the programmes we’ve mentioned. Identifying the pluses and minuses of these programmes will better inform which is the right one to follow.

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