Thursday, October 17, 2019

Mass for Powerlifting - Paul Carter

This is an excerpt from Maximum Muscle Bible by Paul Carter and Christian Thibaudeau.

Go Here to Get Your Copy:

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This book is loaded with applicable, specific muscle-building info
written by men who have decades of hands-on-the-bar experience.

The title of this chapter is "Mass for Powerlifting" and not "Powerlifting for Mass." 

I have to point that out because, after more than a decade of doing powerlifting-specific training, I can tell you for certain that powerlifting-style training is a very inferior method for building mass compared to bodybuilding or very specific hypertrophic-style training. 

This will rub some people the wrong way, but there's no denying  that bodybuilders are far more muscular than powerlifters. After all, bodybuilders train specifically for mass, while powerlifters train for moving maximal weight.

This doesn't mean there are no muscularly developed powerlifters. Indeed, there definitely are. However, if a powerlifter's focus was to solely get bigger - especially to increase his lean muscle mass to raise his strength ceiling - he would need to do things aside from just training for the competitive lifts. 

In fact, a lot of powerlifters lack development muscularly because they can often become "minimalists" with regards to movement selection.

While the squat, deadlift and bench press will create a solid foundation of mass they will also leave one incomplete from a muscle perspective, if they make up the bulk of one's training program.

It takes more than the big three to maximize muscle mass and overall development. 

Targeting Appropriate Muscle Groups for Powerlifting

A powerlifter would want to approach mass training a little bit differently to a bodybuilder. Obviously, each is trying to gain mass for entirely different reasons.

The bodybuilder is trying to gain mass to create the most complete, balanced and symmetrical physique he or she can to present to a panel of judges.

The powerlifter is trying to gain mass so that the new muscle translates to bigger lifts on the platform. After all, as noted, more muscle mass means a higher strength ceiling. You can talk about central nervous system this and that all day long but at the end of the day, muscle is what moves weight and more muscle means the potential to move more weight.

This is why it's important to understand that, as a powerlifter, how you set up training for mass will probably look far different from how a bodybuilder sets up training for mass.

Primary and Secondary Movers, and Weak Points

Despite the fact that everyone has their own unique leverages, everyone - for the most part - uses the same primary, secondary and tertiary movers in the squat, bench and deadlift.

The bench is mostly pecs, triceps, and deltoids, with the lats and upper back playing a support role. 

The squat is quadriceps and glutes, with the hamstrings, erectors and upper back all playing a role as well. 

The deadlift is quite a mixed bag, depending on how you perform it. But, assuming you are a conventional puller and your technique is dialed in, your legs will perform the push off the floor, and then the back and glutes perform the "pull" from over the knees (the glutes perform hip extension to assist with lockout. We will just say the posterior chain (the glutes, hamstrings, lats, traps and rhomboids, are all vitally important in developing mass for a stronger pull.

The degree to which they are used can vary depending on the technique employed by the lifter. 

For example, a very wide squatter will bring more hips into play, whereas a close stance squatter will activate more of the quadriceps. A close-grip bencher will need more triceps strength, whereas a wide-grip bencher will ask the pecs to do more work.

This doesn't negate the fact that you will need to make your strong points stronger, and your weak points stronger as well. Basically, you need to get bigger and stronger all over.

One principal lost on a lot of powerlifters is, because of your leverages and individual make-up, your sticking points will always be at the same place unless you change your technique. And, when you do, you will have a sticking point there as well. 

Your "weak point" is generally going to be the transition point where the distribution of the weight is lessened across the target muscle groups involved, and the smaller ones must complete the lift.

An example is the area where the pecs become close to maximally shortened in the bench press, where the triceps then have to take over to complete the lift.

The train of thought about this has been that if you fix your weak points the lift will go up. And it will, until you reach a weight that exceeds your ability to press, squat or deadlift it. Then the same sticking point will resurface. This is because the shorter the range of motion is, the less musculature is involved in lifting the weight.

The part that is also missed in that is that you can miss a lift not just because of a weak point, but because the primary mover isn't strong enough to get you through the transition point to finish the lift. If the primary mover can't generate enough momentum to get through the transition point so the secondary mover can finish, you will fail to complete the lift. 

That is why, when we talk about training for mass for powerlifting, we need to change the train of thought from training from training the movements to making the primary and secondary muscles grow - all while still training the lifts themselves but with less of an emphasis. 

Inclusion of the Big Three 

Despite the fact that we are talking about gaining muscle mass, the actual lifts involved in competing still need to be trained to keep the motor cortex primed in regards to movement patterns.

What this means is that you will still need to practice the lifts so that you maintain your "groove" with them, and still have to practice to perfect your technique. This way, when you transition either into a block of volumizing the competitive lifts or into a peaking cycle, you're not spending as much of that time trying to perfect form.

However, because this is about gaining mass that is applicable to the big lifts, you will place less of an emphasis on actually doing the big three, and more of an emphasis on building the body parts involved in them.

For quite some time, "movement kings" have frowned on such ideologies: "You don't train body parts, you train movements." 

No, you do both. You understand the difference in moving weight through space (training movements), and making the muscle work against resistance (making the muscle work).

The difference in the two is that when you train to move weight through space, you're not trying to emphasize one particular muscle group over another. So, while it's virtually impossible to actually isolate off a muscle group, you can indeed become body aware enough to ask certain muscles to do the majority of the work with particular movements. 

Some movements lend themselves to this function more efficiently than others. Flyes tend to exclude the triceps from doing very much work, while they ask the pectorals to do the great majority of it. Conversely, in the standard barbell press, you aren't trying to isolate anything off. You're actually trying to bring the maximum amount of muscle groups into play, in order to move as much weight as possible. Although you can perform a bench press in the realm of "making the muscles work", it's more efficient to use it as a "moving weight through space" exercise because of the degree of weight that can be used.

With that said, let's talk about how we will keep the big three in the program.

Rate of Perceived Exertion

RPE is nothing more than a way to apply a degree of effort to a set. That is, rather than program by intensity (degree of one rep max), you go by "feel" that day, and work up to a certain RPE programmed for a particular rep range.

This is what the RPE scale looks like: 

RPE 10: Maximal effort. No more reps could be done.
RPE 9: Near maximal effort. One more rep could have been done.
RPE 8: Very hard. Reps don't move fast but two or three more reps could have been done.
RPE 7: Somewhat difficult. Bar speed is fast when maximal effort is applied. 
RPE 6: Top end of warm-ups. Bar moves fast with moderate force applied. 
RPE 5 and below: Essentially falls into warm-up sets.     

Remember that the RPE scale can be applied to any rep range, not just one rep maxes.

For example, if the lifter goes into the gym to squat, and works up to 315 pounds for an all-out set, where a sixth rep could not have been done it would appear as follows: 

Squat: 315 x 5 @ RPE 10

The RPE scale can therefore be applied to virtually any set to give an idea of the difficulty of it.

Since we've already established that we want to simply keep the motor patterns fresh in regards to the big lifts, and apply our energy towards bringing the muscle groups involved in the big three up, we are going to keep RPE relatively low. The volume dedicated to the big three will also be low.

For the big three that means, after warm-ups, working in nothing higher than an RPE of 7.     

Below are the guidelines: 

Bench Press: Warm-ups, then 2 sets of 8 @ RPE 7.
Squat: Warm-ups, then 2 sets of 5 @ RPE 7.
Deadlift: Warm-ups, then 3 sets of 3 @ RPE 7.

Movement Selection

Just because we aren't going to apply a lot of effort into building the lifts for this phase, doesn't mean we aren't going to train using a similar movement pattern for them. In fact, we want that to be a big part of this program.

We want to be able to build mass in the muscle groups that are primarily responsible for maximizing the lifts but, in order to do that, we must be intelligent about movement selection outside of the big three. We will call these "primary support movements". 

We still want to press, squat, and pick things up off the floor, however, we want to use movements that are similar to the competition lifts to ensure there is as much transfer to them as possible.

For bench pressing, this means exercises such as incline pressing and dumbbell bench pressing.

For squats, it means exercises such as front squats and hack squats.

For deadlifts, it means stiff-legged deadlifts aand bentover barbell rows.

We also want to pick movements based on building mass and strength in various transitions of the three lifts.

For example, if your technique is dialed in on the deadlift but you re slow off the floor, it means your legs need to be stronger. This means more quad and hamstring strength and mass is required. 

If you are a wide-grip bench presser, then you need more pec mass to get off the bottom and more triceps to finish at lockout. If you are a close-grip bench presser, then the triceps play a somewhat bigger role, since they will kick in earlier and have a longer "stroke" to complete the lift. 

Putting this all together, we need to take the following into account:  

1) Pick similar movements to the competition lifts to get maximal carryover. 

2) Develop the primary working groups maximally for the competition lifts.

3) Pick movements that address each phase of the lift, i.e., the bottom of the squat, start and finish of the bench press, and deadlift. 

With that defined, let's create a list that fits the criteria of primary support movements that are similar to the competition lifts. These movements are also defined as "moving weight through space". 

Primary Support Movements

Primary Support Movements for the Bench Press
DB bench pressing
Incline pressing (barbell and DB variations)
Decline pressing (barbell and DB variations)
Close grip bench
Wide grip bench
Overhead pressing (any kind - yes - I know this doesn't qualify as a similar movement pattern, however, we're making an exception because you still need strong shoulders)

Primary Support Movements for the Squat
Front squat
Hack squat
Safety bar squat

Primary Support Movements for the Deadlift
Block (rack) deadlift (nothing above the knee)
Stiff legged deadlift  
Romanian deadlift
Trap bar deadlift
Sumo/Conventional deadlift (use the opposite to your competition-style lift)

Muscular Movements

The second part of selecting movements is to develop the muscles primarily used in the big three. For bench pressing, that's the chest, shoulders and triceps. For squatting, it's the quads, adductors and glutes. For deadlifting, it's the entire posterior chain (let's focus on hamstrings, glutes and upper back). These movements are more focused on "making the muscles work". 

Muscular Movements for the Bench Press
Pecs: Flye (flat, incline, decline)
Triceps: Pushdown, French press, DB skull crusher
Shoulders: Laterals (front, side, rear)

Muscular Movements for the Squat
Quads: Leg extension, Sissy squat
Hamstrings; Leg curl
Adductors: Abductor machine (I also call this the "bad girl" machine)
Abductors: Abductor machine (I also call this the "bad girl" machine)
Glutes: Glute bridge, Split squat

Muscular Movements for the Deadlift 
Erectors: Hypers, Good morning
Glutes: Glute bridge
Rhomboids and upper back: Dumbbell row, Barbell row, T-bar row

Transition Movements

This is a list to help you decide, based on musculature, what weak areas may be holding you back. This will help you make better choices about where to focus on with regards to volume and specifics in training. This also assumes that your technique is dialed in. Remember, if you miss a lift, it's either because your technique was off or because you're weak somewhere along the muscular chain. That, or you're not yet strong enough to lift that particular weight. 

Transition Movements for the Bench Press
Bottom position: Pectorals
Mid-range: Shoulders and triceps
Lockout: Triceps

Transition Movements for the Squat 
Bottom: quads 
Mid-range: Adductors, abductors and glutes
Finish: No one normally misses a squat at "lockout". If you get through the transition point, you generally finish.

Transition Movements for the Deadlift
Off the floor: Quads and hamstrings
Mid-range: Erectors
Lockout: Rhoimboids and glutes

Note: This is not an all-inclusive list of everything that can be done. This is only a general recommendation of movements to improve musculature of areas of the lift that may be weak.

One way you can test to see if you are weak in an area is to perform a movement that places more emphasis on it. If that movement feels difficult, it is very likely that you need to do that movement.

An example of this is when I was focused on improving my squat. My thoughts told me that my quads were lacking, and my testing of both the front squat and hack squat - which are far more quad dominant - cemented that idea. I sucked terribly at both fronts and hacks. So, I made it a big priority to improve them over that off-season. My quads grew, and my squat improved. 

Of course, this depends on your technique being dialed in. For example, if your deadlift lockout sucks, getting your glutes superhumanly strong won't do a damn thing for you if you don't pronate your toes (point them slightly outward) during your setup. This is because you need some external hip rotation in order to get full gluteal contraction.

You need to make sure that you have perfected your technique to take advantage of your stronger and more massive musculature - or all the work will be worth very little.

Building The Stabilizers: Secondary Support Movements

As you looked through the list, you probably felt like there were a lot of areas left off. That's because we dealt with the muscles involved as primarily and secondary movers. Now we can deal with the stabilizers for those movements.

Despite what you're read on the internet, or from supposed "experts", you cannot bench press with your lats. Their primary function is internal rotation of the humerus; that is, to adduct the arm. They pull the arm towards and behind the trunk, like a lat pulldown or row. 

Since this is also the same motion in the eccentric portion of the bench press, they still perform as stabilizers for the shoulders throughout the range of motion.

The lats and upper back play a significant role in the execution of the bench press; however, their role is as a major support/stabilizer. If your lats or upper back are weak, you will not be able to provide the support the shoulders need to be able to press powerfully and with stability. Therefore, they cannot be ignored.

The best part about the big three with regards to support and stabilizer work is that there is great overlap, as hitting all of the support muscle groups "fills in the gaps". The transverse abdominus and erectors also perform support work in the squat, but more significantly in the deadlift. The lats and upper back perform as stabilizers in the squat and bench press. They are also major performers in the deadlift. The biceps help to stabilize the elbow joint in bench pressing. The calves help to support the knee.

As you can see, you don't need to pick support work for each movement independently of each other since there will be overlap in many cases. 

What we want to do is cover as many support groups in as few movements as possible in order to achieve good training economy. We also want to use the "make the muscle work" ideas as well, since we're not trying to make these movements transfer directly to the big lifts. We want to use them to build the muscles involved so that, when the competitive lifts are performed, the support musculature is bigger and stronger; this will give you a much larger base to support the lifts with.

Secondary Support Musculature for the Bench Press
Upper back: Bent lateral, Face pull, Row
Lats: Lat pulldown, Chins
Biceps: Curls of various types

Secondary Support Musculature for the Squat
Calf work: Seated and standing, Donkey calf raise
Upper back and lats: Same as bench press
Abdominals: Ab wheel rollout, Plank

Secondary Support Musculature for the Deadlift
Abdominals: Same as squat

Note: Because the deadlift starts from the floor and is mostly a  concentric movement, everything working to move the weight off the floor generally works in a "support" or isometric role. This lack of eccentric before the concentric portion of the movement is what separates the deadlift from the squat and bench press.

Also of note is that any of the movements described in the Primary Support Movements section can and often are listed as "support" work. For this outline, however, we aren't concentrating on really building the lifts - just the muscles involved in them.

Injury Prevention and Balance

It's hard to train when you feel beat up, or are beat up. The single most important factor in avoiding injury is proper technique. After that, a very close second is maintaining balance throughout the body.

By balance, I mean that you don't want one leg to be significantly stronger than the other. one glute firing more than the other, etc. You may feel this if you can feel the load in a squat dramatically shift from one leg to the other. That means your body is moving the load to your stronger and more dominant side, and not dispersing it evenly across the musculature. This is also an issue when you are someone with uneven lockout on the bench press. This is a telltale sign that something bad is forthcoming, especially if it happens often or when loads approach the 90 percent range.

That is why it is important to do enough unilateral work to keep your body in balance, and not overly favor one side over the other. If your technique is dialed in and you have great muscular balance, you will significantly reduce your chance of injury. 

For lower body, this generally means one-legged work such as split squats, one-legged dumbbell deadlifts, one-legged leg presses and walking lunges. You can still build plenty of muscle with these movements by either loading them progressively (with one-legged deadlifts or holding dumbbells for split squats) or simply by voluming them with bodyweight (walking lunges or split squats for tons of reps).  
This is also why you need to include plenty of dumbbell work and do variations such as one arm dumbbell extensions for triceps, one arm dumbbell bench presses, dumbbell rows, or basically one arm anything in movements for the upper body. That's if you know you have imbalance issues.

Even if you feel you do not, it doesn't hurt to keep some unilateral work in your program. Most people have one leg and arm stronger than the other, and this is the same for pecs, lats, deltoids, etc. I don't know that you can ever be perfectly balanced but, if you're completely out of whack, getting that in order is highly imperative. 

Lastly, don't leave out rotator cuff work. This can simply be a part of your warm-up on upper body days. Let me also add that you probably don't need anything heavier than 5 pounds to actually strengthen the rotator cuff. I cringe when I see people doing cuff movements using even 10 pounds. The rotator cuff is comprised of four very small muscles and, to target them effectively, you need to be very strict and deliberate in your movements - not "overload" them with progressive resistance.

To keep things simple, my recommendation is to do an external and internal rotation movement as part of your warm-up. It's beyond the scope of this book to cover everything rotator cuff-related (again, it's a mass-building book!) but in regards  to injury prevention for the powerlifter, who bench presses a lot, take care of your rotators by doing some prevention work. I recommend three to four sets of 15 to 20 reps using a very light weight.

Maxing Out in the Off-Season

Because of YouTube and social media, many people have developed a very bad habit of "maxing out for the camera". 

Ego-driven training has no place in an intelligent strength or mass program. 

Maxing out is nothing more than strength demonstration. You should be saving those attempts for the competition. I'm not sure what else there is to say about that.

If you enjoy maxing, there is a more intelligent way to go about it. You can set single PRs based on the RPE scale referenced above. For example, hitting a single at an RPE of 9 is not a terrible option. That usually means it should have been somewhat fast, and it looked like a double was possible.

But you need to be honest with yourself and not believe that, when your whole body was shaking and it took 13 seconds from the time you started the concentric portion of the lift, another rep could have been done. 

Even with all of that said, I just don't see much of a point in maxing out at any point in training. Yes, I've done it before, and sometimes it is just for the sake of testing yourself. However, as I have gotten older and wiser, I've learned to save my big lifts for competition or to rely on setting new rep PRs as a more intelligent and efficient way of gauging progress.

Movement Rotation

Because I have thrown so much at you, you're probably wondering how in the hell you're going to put all of this together into a program to cover each area.

This isn't really an issue if you understand that you don't have to hit the same movements at every session each week. That would make your workouts very long and cumbersome.

Movement rotation is a perfectly viable option and, actually, it is more ideal because you can avoid overtraining certain movement patterns and allow yourself to cover more bases over time.

I recommend making a list of all the movements you need to hit to cover everything thoroughly, and then limit the number of movements you will perform in each training session. I usually try to limit number of movements per training session to four. However, five is also an option, depending on what movements were performed. 

Your frequency will also decide your split.

If you are training three times a week, you won't be able to cover as much ground as you would if you trained four or five times per week - meaning that you'd have to train longer per session than if you split movements out over more days.

This doesn't mean that training three times per week is always inferior. The law of individuality means that recovery rates will play a part in deciding training frequency. 

I have found that older and more experienced lifters can get by on training three times a week and, in some cases, as little as twice a week, whereas younger guys with less experience can often train more. This is generally because you can apply a greater amount of stress in training as you become more advanced. What a dirty little trick our own physiological system plays on us. As we get stronger and more efficient at applying training stress, the bigger the hole we can dig with regards to to fatigue - especially if the body isn't trying to adapt to a new training stimulus.   

We covered this, remember? But let's do a refresher.

1) A new movement is added, or a movement is changed in execution.
2) This creates a new stimulus.
3) Over the next few weeks, you gain strength and neural efficiency for that movement. 
4) As you adapt, efficiency becomes maximized and strength gains slow down.
5) Once efficiency is maximized and the stimulus decreases, fatigue increases in relation to those factors. 

This is why movement rotation is important for advanced lifters trying to pack on new mass. There is a longer period of time where the body is trying to adapt, and fatigue is delayed. Applying some common sense here, this is also why focusing on the competition lifts going into a meet is so important as well: you want to be as efficient as possible with them for said competition.

But, when training for mass, we want to stave off fatigue and increase stimulus adaption for as long as possible.  

There are obviously outliers to these rules, but we need to look at rules and not exceptions. So, how does that apply to frequency with maximum rotation? 

Most people can train four days a week and recover, if they don't overdo the volume or intensity (both in terms of one rep max and degree of energy applied to the working sets) at each session. When you add in movement rotation, you extend adaptation more; this, recovery isn't tapped out as quickly as when you perform the same movements day in and day out. 

Putting This Together

Now that your head is spinning with what to select and how to approach this, I will make this quite easy for you to set up your own off-season mass-building template designed to help you improve in the powerlifts. 

We're going to lay this template out as four days a week.

Day 1: Lower Body A
Day 2: Upper Body A
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Lower Body B
Day 5: Upper Body B
Day 6 and 7: Off

Lower Body A
Movement 1 - Squat. Warm-ups, then 2 sets of 5 @ RPE 7
Movement 2 - Deadlift. Warm-ups, then 3 sets of 3 @ RPE 7
Movement 3 - Muscular Movement for Squat. 5 sets of 10 @ RPE 10 on last set
Movement 4 - Muscular Movement for Deadlift. 5 sets of 10 @ RPE 10 on last set
Movement 5 - Secondary Support Movement for Squat or Deadlift. 3 sets of 15 @ RPE 8 on last set

Upper Body A
Movement 1 - Bench Press. Warm-ups, then 2 sets of 8 @ RPE 7
Movement 2 - Primary Support Movement for Bench Press. 4 sets of 8 @ RPE 8 on all sets
Movement 3 - Muscular Movement for Bench Press (pecs/triceps/delts): 4 sets of 12 @ RPE 10 on all sets
Movement 4 - Secondary Support Movement for Bench Press (lats/ upper back): 5 sets of 12 @ RPE 10 on last set

Lower Body B
Movement 1 - Primary Support Movement for Squat. Warm-ups, then 4 sets of 8 @ RPE 9 on last set
Movement 2 - Primary Support Movement for Deadlift. Warm-ups, then 3 sets of 6 @ RPE 8 on last set
Movement 3 - Muscular Movement for Squat or Deadlift. 5 sets of 12 @ RPE 8 on last set
Movement 4 - Secondary Support Movement for Squat or Deadlift. 3 sets of 12 @ RPE 8 on last set
Movement 5 - Injury Prevention Movement (Unilateral Leg Work): 2 sets of 20 @ RPE 8 on last set.  

Upper Body B
Movement 1 - Primary Support Movement for Bench Press. 5 sets of 12 @ RPE10 on last set
Movement 2 - Muscular Movement for Bench Press. 5 sets of 15 @ RPE 10 on last set
Movement 3 - Secondary Support Movement for Bench Press. 4 sets of 12 @ RPE 10 on last set
Movement 4 - Secondary Support Movement for Bench Press. 3 sets of 20 @ RPE 8 on last set

Example Week

Before you skip ahead to the example week, let me add that it is up to you, the lifter, to be introspective enough to decide what you need to focus on. This is not a cookie cutter program and you need to make intelligent decisions as to what you will focus on.

This is one of the most important aspects regarding improvement to diagnose your lifts and your weaknesses, and then attack them with a plan.

Remember, this is a template designed to help you do that, but you should be the one to fill it in with the right choices. If you never develop the ability tot be honest with yourself about what you need the most, you will struggle to get better.

With that said, here is an example week. 

Lower Body A
Movement 1 - Squat: Warm-ups, then 2 sets of 5 @ RPE 7
Movement 2 - Deadlift: Warm-ups, then 3 sets of 3 @ RPE 7
Movement 3 - Leg Extension: 3 sets of 10 @ RPE 10 on last set
Movement 4 - Good Morning: 5 sets of 10 @ RPE 10 on last set
Movement 5 - Ab wheel roll out: 3 sets of 15 @ RPE 8 on last set

Upper Body A
Movement 1 - Bench Press: Warm-ups, then 2 sets of 8 @ RPE 7
Movement 2 - DB Incline Press: 4 sets of 8 @ RPE 8 on all sets
Movement 3 - French Press: 4 sets of 12 @ RPE 10 on last set
Movement 4 - Bent Lateral: 5 sets of 12 @ RPE 10 on last set

Lower Body B
Movement 1 - Hack Squat: Warm-ups, then 4 sets of 8 @ RPE 9 on last set
Movement 2 - Stiff-Legged Deadlift: Warm-ups, then 3 sets of 6 @ RPE 8 on last set
Movement 3 - Glute Bridge: 5 sets of 12 @ RPE 10 on last set
Movement 4 - Seated Calf Raise: 3 sets of 12 @ RPE 8 on last set
Movement 5 - Split Squat: 2 sets of 20 @ RPE 8 on last set

Upper Body B
Movement 1 - Incline Press: 5 sets of 12 @ RPE 10 on last set
Movement 2 - Flat Flye: 5 sets of 15 @ RPE 10 on last set
Movement 3 - Lat Pulldown: 4 sets of 12 @ RPE 8 on last set
Movement 4 - Cable Row: 3 sets of 20 @ RPE 9 on last set

Remember that you can't possible cover every single thing in each workout, and that's not the idea. Movement rotation allows you to cycle through movements as often as you feel you need to. My own suggestion is to focus on improving just a few aspects at a time for six weeks, and then focus on improving something else. 

For example, if you are weak off the chest in the bench press and weak off the bottom in the squat, focus on more chest and quad movements in your exercise selection for six weeks. After the cycle is over, assess where you are. If you still feel as though you need more improvement in those muscle groups, run another six weeks to focus on those areas but with different movements. 

This template is sound and concrete in terms of usefulness and improvements with regards to mass for powerlifting, but you must massage it to fit your specific needs.

For example, you may have giant biceps and triceps but small shoulders. So, there may not be a need for direct biceps and triceps work, and you can ignore those support movements while you focus on muscular movements for your shoulders.

Virtually everyone will have weak areas and strong areas. Keep your strong areas strong, and focus on what is holding you back. Plug in the movements that will help you do that into the template, and focus on growing those areas as much as possible for several cycles. 


Pure powerlifting training is not optimal for muscle growth, especially the minimalist approach of focusing almost exclusively on the competitive lifts and their variations. Unless you are perfectly balanced to start with and have perfect leverages for all three lifts, you will always emphasize the development of certain muscle groups with heavy basic training. As a result, other important muscles will be left lagging behind.

Specific hypertrophy training is the way a powerlifter can target those weaker areas that are likely holding him back. As such a powerlifter should not shy away from "bodybuilding" work but rather embrace it. People forget that despite being known for the max effort and dynamic effort method, the popular Westside Barbell training system has around 80% of its volume in tnhe form of targeted hypertrophy work! 

Use isolation work to develop a weak link without overstressing the nervous system and your big lifts will go up! 



















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