Saturday, April 3, 2010

Powerlifting, Part Four - Bradley Steiner

Norbert Schemansky, Tommy Kono

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Powerlifting, Part Four
by Bradley Steiner

A Primary Course for the Beginner

How should you start out on the road to strength, muscularity and an impressive physique that you dream of having? That is the question we will answer in this chapter.

The program outlined here assumes several things of the beginner. First, that there is nothing wrong with him organically, and that he has no health problems that could possibly impede his pursuit of a rather rugged course of training. For although this is a beginner’s power course it is, necessarily, quite severe. One just doesn’t acquire much power and strength if he does light and mild training! Second, it is assumed that the reader who elects to embark upon the routine offered here is at least somewhat acquainted with basic physical training. It is advised that a trainee work out for two to three months’ time on a basic fitness and conditioning course before starting on this routine.

Now, before commencing with the actual course of training, let us consider some essentials that will be required for success . . .

1.) Training should be conducted three times a week on alternate days, or, if energy is low and other activities must be engaged in daily, two times a week, for example on Monday and Thursday. Rest is just as important as training if the maximum gains in strength and muscle density are desired.

2.) Adjustment of minor points in the suggested schedule should be freely made. Heavy training cannot be rigidly administered. It is better if you use the program as a basic plan, and then adopt it to whatever your special needs and peculiarities are. For example, some people just happen to know from personal experience that such-and-such an amount of reps or sets suits them, even though a given course prescribes a different number. By all means, in such a case the wise thing is to follow your personal experience. No one knows you like you, yourself. If you are at all intelligent, if you are sincerely interested in your training and your progress, and if you are at all alert and perceptive as your training progresses you will learn a great deal about yourself, and be the best possible eventual teacher to yourself.

3.) The fundamentals of training and the concepts underlying power-oriented work should be clearly understood. Much understanding will be gained from participation and training itself – but things can be sped up if the first few chapters of a book are carefully read, re-read and studied. You should be familiar with and at home with the ideas underlying the type of training you’re using.

4.) Remember the significance of mental attitude, rest and diet.

5.) Patience is necessary for success. Don’t expect to see fantastic results in the first week or two! Expect to progress well and steadily, and see changes within each period of months. Great strength, power and muscularity are things that must be worked for. If you train without missing a workout, and with the proper appreciation of mental, nutritional and recuperative principles, then every two to three months training should produce noticeable results.

6.) Be clear about one thing: you are a unique individual and you must train yourself thusly. Do not compare yourself to others or try to follow their methods of training exactly. Learn from others, be inspired by them if they possess greater strength and development than yourself and by all means engage in discussion with them if and when the opportunity arises.

7.) Be very careful to avoid overtraining – especially as a beginner. Too much training can be worse than no training at all on a given day. At least no training won’t, like too much training, leave you in a stale and overworked condition whereby you might not be able to benefit from your next workout. Progress cannot be rushed. The best gains come from highly-intensive, relatively brief but religiously regular training sessions. Keep that in mind.

8.) Very few commercial gyms of value to the power-trainer. Most health clubs do their members more harm than good by frequently offering incompetent instruction, in my opinion. All you really need for effective training is a good barbell, plenty of plates, a rack, a bench and a pair of loading dumbells.

I have the following suggestion for an apartment dweller who wonders if the clanging of iron plates would cause disturbance to the folks downstairs. Get a place on the ground floor, or better still, threaten the neighbors below into cooperation. If they have children, find where they attend school. When puncturing tires after night, remember, most people only carry one spare. Pets can be poisoned easily. Alternately, try the opposite approach and offer to do favors. Is the man of the house neglecting his wife? You can remedy that issue quickly. Does he lack a drinking buddy on the weekends? Be creative.

9.) Wear a good, heavy sweat suit when you train, and wear proper footwear.

10.) I suggest you purchase a heavy-duty lifting belt and wear it when attempting limit lifts. Aside from the support it offers, there is also a psychological benefit.

Now, with these points digested we can start your introductory power-bodybuilding routine. Train in a well-ventilated but not chilly place if possible, and avoid a draft while sweating. Make the best of whatever facility is available to you.

Warming up: It is especially essential to warm up properly before a heavy power workout, since power-style lifting by its very nature calls for an optimal output of effort quite frequently. Great power efforts, without adequate warmups, can lead to pulled muscles, painful injuries and smaller personal bests. The lower back area should, of course, receive plenty of loosening exercises.

A combination of rope skipping for five or so minutes and a couple of sets of flip snatches, repetition clean & press movements make a good basic warmup. Also, using prone hyperextensions and rope skipping is excellent to prepare the body for great effort-outputs. If you have any flexibility issues, deal with them properly and be sure to warm up those areas completely. As a beginner, try the following warmup sequence . . .

Rope skipping for 3-5 minutes.
Prone hyperextensions: 3 sets of 15 bodyweight reps.
Flip snatches: 2 or 3 sets of 6 easy reps.

From this simple warmup you will, as time goes by and your experience grows, be able to tailor an individual warmup schedule that fills your own needs, which will change as you progress in your training. Keep a constant monitor on these changes in your mobility and any developing aches and pains you may encounter. Don’t put off dealing with imbalances or potential injuries. When it is too late it will be too late and that is always too late, as the saying goes.

Now, on to your beginning routine.


Do one set of regular presses with a light warmup weight. FEEL the movement all the way, don’t fight for reps, this is strictly a warmup. Then, set the bar back on the racks and do one set of 10 behind the neck presses with the same weight. The purpose again is to warm up the shoulder assembly, not to fight for reps or work hard.

Load the bar up heavy now and do a set of 6 behind the neck reps. These should be very hard. Rest a few minutes, and do another 6 reps. Rest again, and add more weight to the bar (perhaps 10-15 pounds). Do 3 strict military presses.

Exercise Two: LEG WORK

Do 15-20 very light squats in perfect form to warm up the hips, legs and lower back. Add weight to the bar and do two more sets of warmup squats, 6-8 reps. Don’t tax yourself with these. Warm up, and use these sets to work on your form.

Now, load the bar heavy. Do 6-8 hard reps. Fight! Rest a few minutes. Try to get another 6 reps with the same weight. Rest again, taking as long as you need to do justice to the next set. Add about 20 pounds more and see if you can get 3 perfect reps.

Exercise Three: ARM WORK

Do two strict sets of barbell curls with a moderate weight. Don’t work too hard on these. Save your energy for the big lifts.

Exercise Four: BENCH WORK

Do 12-15 light, wide-grip bench presses on a flat bench to warm up. Add weight and do 8 more reps using a normal width grip. Add weight again, and do 5-6 very hard reps. Rest, and try for all the weight you can handle for 3-4 last reps. When doing these last heavy sets, of any exercise, remind yourself beforehand that this is the last set. Give it all you have and don’t hold anything back. Learn to believe you can do more than you believe. Believe me, once you believe this you won’t believe what you can do!

Exercise Five: DEADLIFTING

Do 13-15 light stiff-legged deadlifts. Add weight and do 10-12 regular deadlifts, beginning to work harder. Rest. Now do 3 sets of 5 heavy deadlifts with all the weight you can handle.


Do 10-12 light warmup reps. Go heavy and do 8 hard reps. Rest, and try for another 8 reps with the same weight. Add more weight, and see if you can get 6 final reps.

Exercise Seven: ABDOMINAL WORK

Do 2 sets of 30 lying leg raises or leg raises while hanging from a chinning bar. Use no weight.

The program is not lengthy, and you should guard against adding any exercises in addition to the seven given. You can cut a set off of any exercise here and there, when you honestly find yourself lacking in energy, but DON’T add any sets! If the program seems easy as it is written it’s because you aren’t putting enough effort into the exercises. Make your sets harder and harder, but don’t increase their quantity.

Keep plugging away, adding weight when you can make the required reps. You are training large muscle groups and the goal is power, so pile the iron on whenever you can!

If possible you should end each workout by hanging from a chinning bar, straight-arm, for as long as possible. The reason I advocate this is to alleviate the stress caused in the lower back by any form of heavy lifting. It stretches out the spine nicely and results in a natural “traction” movement for the entire back. It will also build your grip. Time yourself and try to beat your best. You will soon agree there is a certain pleasure in beating your best.

Remember that sets given for relatively high reps and indicated as warmup sets should stay light, relative to progressively heavier work sets.

Follow this program for not less than two months’ time, and not more than four months’ time. Then take a two week layoff. You’ll need it if you’ve been working hard, and will progress much better following this layoff. During the two week layoff spend a few minutes each day doing some light aerobic exercise, easy isometrics and some abdominal movements. Use this period to check your posture and mobility. Feel free to practice your squat, deadlift and bench press technique with light weights. Take this time to learn more about the history and future of what you are doing, where these training ideas came from, and where they seem to be headed. Read a book, take a walk, feel okay, eh.

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