Periodization in Powerlifting: Build Power and Increase Strength



periodization in powerlifting You can effectively increase your endurance, strength, and explosive power by using periodization in powerlifting.

Are you staying true to all of your powerlifting workouts, but you aren’t seeing the gains in strength and power that you want? It could be time for a change in your workout.

When you need to change things up in your powerlifting workouts, periodization is the best way to do it. By following a periodization-style macro-level or long-term workout program, every week will be different. What’s more, you’ll improve in four key areas of fitness performance: endurance, muscle size, strength, and power.

Let’s take a look at what periodization is, and how you can apply it to your powerlifting workouts for insane strength and power gains.

What is Periodization in Powerlifting?

Periodization is a systematic approach to weightlifting where the acute variables – sets, repetitions, and volume – are manipulated to achieve a different goal every week, month, and year. In other words, your workouts will change every week and you’ll perform a different number of sets and reps. Some weeks may be similar to what you’re doing now while others may be radically different.

The end goal of periodization-style powerlifting is to improve all areas of your performance. You can use the big three exercises – squats, deadlifts, and bench presses - but you can also use the alternatives of your favorite exercises such as lunges, sumo squats, and incline dumbbell presses.

There are four phases in a traditional periodization-style program. Let’s explore each phase, its goals, acute variables, and a sample workout.

Phase One: Endurance

The first phase in periodization powerlifting is muscular endurance. While your goal has probably been power gains since you started powerlifting, taking a week each month to focus on endurance can greatly benefit your workouts.

Muscular endurance refers to the length of time your muscles can withstand the resistance you’re placing upon them. By improving this, you will find that you’re able to lift a lot longer than before or that it’ll take your muscles longer to reach fatigue.

Acute Variables

Every endurance workout will use the following acute variables:

Sets: 2 to 4 sets of each exercise

Repetitions: 12 to 15 repetitions for each set

Tempo: During each repetition, perform the exercise as follows:

  • 2 seconds should be spent lifting the weight (concentric phase)
  • 1 seconds pausing at the top of the movement (isometric phase)
  • 4 second lowering the weight (eccentric phase)

Resistance load: 50% to 65% of your one-repetition maximum (or the maximum amount of weight that you can bench with perfect form one time)

Rest Period: 60 to 90 seconds of rest

Endurance Workout

Classic Powerlifting:

  • Squats: 4 x 12 – 15
  • Deadlifts: 3 x 12 – 15
  • Bench Presses: 4 x 12 – 15

Alternative Exercises:

  • Bulgarian Split Squats: 4 x 12 – 15
  • Romanian Deadlifts: 3 x 12 – 15
  • Incline Flys: 4 x 12 – 15

Phase Two: Hypertrophy (Muscle Gain)

Next up, we have muscle building. Again, your focus might be on strength and power, but you need muscle in order to use it. Your goal isn’t to get as big as Phil Heath, but adding a few pounds of muscle is always helpful, especially in powerlifting.

Acute Variables

You’ll immediately notice a change in how much you’re lifting along with how many times you have to lift it. Your weight load goes up slightly, but your reps go down. Pay very close attention to the tempo during the hypertrophy workouts as this is key to triggering growth.

Sets: 3 to 5 sets of each exercise

Repetitions: 8 to 12 repetitions for each set

Tempo: During each repetition, perform the exercise as follows:

  • 2 seconds should be spent lifting the weight (concentric phase)
  • 0 seconds pausing at the top of the movement (isometric phase)
  • 2 second lowering the weight (eccentric phase)

Resistance load: 65% to 75% of your one-repetition maximum

Rest Period: 60 to 90 seconds of rest

Hypertrophy Workout

Classic Powerlifting:

  • Squats: 5 x 8 – 12
  • Deadlifts: 4 x 8 – 12
  • Bench Presses: 5 x 8 – 12

Alternative Exercises:

  • Jefferson Squats: 5 x 8 – 12
  • Lunges: 4 x 8 – 12
  • Decline Bench Press: 5 x 8 – 12

Phase Three: Strength

Phase three gets you back into strength-focused workouts. Things will probably start looking more familiar here as you’ll be lifting a lot more weight with fewer reps and more sets. You’re not quite back to your power-driven workouts, but you’re getting there.

Acute Variables

Here are the acute variables for your strength workouts. Remember that the focus here is on building strength and not all-out explosive power. Hold your horses – We’re getting there.

Sets: 4 to 6 sets of each exercise

Repetitions: 5 to 8 repetitions for each set

Tempo: During each repetition, perform the exercise as follows:

  • 2 seconds should be spent lifting the weight (concentric phase)
  • 1 seconds pausing at the top of the movement (isometric phase)
  • 2 second lowering the weight (eccentric phase)

Resistance load: 75% to 85% of your one-repetition maximum

Rest Period: 90 to 120 seconds of rest

Strength Workout

Classic Powerlifting:

  • Squats: 6 x 5 – 8
  • Deadlifts: 5 x 5 – 8
  • Bench Presses: 6 x 5 – 8

Alternative Exercises:

  • Sumo Squat: 6 x 5 – 8
  • Overhand Rope Pulls: 5 x 5 – 8
  • Single Arm Dumbbell Press: 6 x 5 – 8

Phase Four: Power

Finally, we’ve arrived back to your original style of powerlifting workouts. If you’ve given yourself ample rest time, there’s a great chance that you’ll notice a big difference in your power-focused workouts. Maybe you can lift more or you’re able to lift longer. Either way, given enough time, periodization powerlifting will start to upgrade those gains.

Acute Variables

We probably don’t need to remind you, but this is where you want to move as quickly (and safely) as possible while pulling those big plates.

Sets: 5 to 7 sets of each exercise

Repetitions: 1 to 4 repetitions for each set

Tempo: During each repetition, perform the exercise as follows:

  • 1 seconds should be spent lifting the weight (concentric phase)
  • 0 seconds pausing at the top of the movement (isometric phase)
  • 1 second lowering the weight (eccentric phase)

Resistance load: 85% to 100% of your one-repetition maximum

Rest Period: 120+ seconds of rest

Power Workout

Classic Powerlifting:

  • Squats: 7 x 1 – 4
  • Deadlifts: 6 x 1 – 4
  • Bench Presses: 7 x 1 – 4

Alternative Exercises:

  • Hex Bar Squat: 7 x 1 – 4
  • Stiff-Legged Deadlift: 6 x 1 – 4
  • Incline Dumbbell Press: 7 x 1 – 4

Complete Periodization Powerlifting Workout

Let’s put all of the workouts together. Each workout style will take place over one week. So each month will see four different workouts.

Week One: Endurance Workout

  • Squats: 4 x 12 – 15
  • Deadlifts: 3 x 12 – 15
  • Bench Presses: 4 x 12 – 15

Week Two: Hypertrophy Workout

  • Squats: 5 x 8 – 12
  • Deadlifts: 4 x 8 – 12
  • Bench Presses: 5 x 8 – 12

Strength Workout

  • Squats: 6 x 5 – 8
  • Deadlifts: 5 x 5 – 8
  • Bench Presses: 6 x 5 – 8

Power Workout

  • Squats: 7 x 1 – 4
  • Deadlifts: 6 x 1 – 4
  • Bench Presses: 7 x 1 – 4

Do You Use Periodization Powerlifting?

Does your current workout use periodization? Will you use the workouts listed above? Have a video or picture of yourself using periodization powerlifting? Tag us on Instagram so we can share it!

 

References

  1. Clark, M.A., Lucett, S.C., Sutton, B.G. (2012). NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  2. American College of Sports Medicine. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Mar;41(3):687-708.

Topic: Powerlifting Articles