Training in Phases
In this article I will not specify exact durations of each phase as this will vary depending on the individual lifter and what point in the season they are in.
Phase One: Conditioning
With brand new lifters or lifters returning after a period of inactivity , a conditioning phase is first used. Reps used are often up to 8 to 12 for upper body and even up to 15-20 for lower body. Many assistance exercises are included and they are used in the 8-12 rep range. For the bench a lot of upper bodybuilding exercises are used. Lifters will place extra concentration on the pecs, lats, delts, and tri’s. Here, a powerlifter will train more like a bodybuilder and concentrate on developing each muscle group. For the squat, reps up to 15 or 20 will condition the athlete. Leg presses, extentions and curls will play an important part as will sled pulling. For the deadlift, stifflegs, hypers and goodmornings make up much of the deadlift work. The over all goal of this phase in not at all how much weight is lifted, but the over all development and conditioning of the individual muscles that are used in powerlifting. This phase can also be called the bodybuilding phase.
Phase Two: Power Building
The goal of the power building phase is to develop the power for lifting heavy weights. With this phase the reps in the major exercises drop down to the 3 to 7 rep range. Now more weight will be handled. It is during this phase that power building exercises are most incorporated such as band, chain, or bungee work. Lifters practice for speed and power. When bands, chains and bungees are used the weight on the bar is approximately 50-60% compared to 65-75% for without them. This is for sets of from 5 to 3 reps. During this phase the assistance exercises are done for more quality than quantity. Only the major support groups are targeted and with sets of between 5 and 8 reps. The squat is often worked by box squat and band or chain work. It is still wise to practice the actual lift during this period. Sled pulling begins to tail off and only a few sets of heavier leg pressed are used. For the bench press, a routine similar to the squat is used. The assistance exercises are still used, but the over all volume of them decrease. Lats are worked hard, while delt work begins to tail off. In the deadlift, speed reps of low reps of 50-60% are used. It is here that bands, chains , or bungees can help with eliminating or reducing a sticking point. It is in this phase in which power transfer exercises are used most. Power transfer exercises are exercises similar to the main lift that indirectly add power to the main lift. Examples include box squats or good mornings for the squat, or inclines and declines for the bench.
Phase Three: Powerlifting
This final or third phase incorporates primarily the three powerlifts to bring the performance to 100% This is the peaking phase . Now by starting at 65-75% of the contest weight, the lifter will gradually increase to within “shooting” distance of 100%. The actual 100% effort is saved for the contest. Assistance exercises are cut down during this period as to just be used to keep muscles like the lats in shape tp do their work All non-essential assistance exercises are dropped. This is the only phase in which singles are used, if they are used at all. It is only in this phase that the training rep performance should equate to or predict the final outcome. The amount of weight on the bar will dramatically rise during this phase and taper off a week or two from the meet to give the lifter adequate rest and recovery before the meet.
Using the three phases:
The duration of the phases depend on the general condition of the lifter, the time between meets and whether the lifter is young , a master, a beginner or advanced.. A new, young, out of shape, or even a master lifter may use a longer conditioning phase. Likewise, a lifter with a lot of time for the next meet will extend the conditioning phase and the powerbuilding phase a bit. The actual powerlifting phase is always about the same duration 2-4 weeks. The powerbuilding phase will range from 4-8 weeks depending on meet proximity. The conditioning phase does not have limits, but generally is used from 2 -8 weeks. The whole concept of phase training is meant to prepare a lifter for a meet, while minimizing injuries and burnout. It is also meant to add muscle mass and then use that muscle for the actual lift.
The Westside Barbell club uses a non-phased training system in which the lifters use a powerbuilding of second phase type of workout most of the time. This can only be done by lifters who are in top physical condition. They do include many elements of conditioning at all times and their max effort workouts will simulate the third phase. Non phased routines should not be used by beginners as they can lead to injuries and burnout if not done right.
Lifters that benefit most from phased routines:
Teen lifters benefit from phased training because it gives them time to condition their bodies and then build the muscle to lift larger weights. It also gives them the time to work on explosiveness during the second phase while not being over loaded by max attempts. Too long of time concentrating on a powerlifting phase could be detrimental to a growing body. Phased workouts give them the time away from the heavy attempts. Master lifters need to use phased workouts as they will have less injuries and will not be overloaded for long periods of time . Beginning lifters benefit from phasing as much time can be spent on auxiliary muscle groups and the power and explosiveness.
Phased routines give the lifter a separate time to condition, gain power, and then practise for the meet. They also can help prevent burnout and injuries.
By: Bob Strauss
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