Why long meet preps are overrated

Historically, powerlifting peaking plans have been the usual 10 to 12 weeks of work, and they have worked for thousands of lifters over numerous years. Why change?

Because we evolve and we learn.

Admittedly I have prepped my own lifters for 10 to 12 weeks until the past couple of years when I have been experimenting with a shorter 6 week protocol. I am biased with my own because of the results my lifters have had on the platform with it, hitting numbers above what they ever touched in a gym, but this isn’t about me or what I use, this is about smarter training for a powerlifter.

That is a bold claim so let’s back it up with a little common sense.

It is generally accepted that if you are a competitive powerlifter, the vast majority of your training is centered around getting stronger in three lifts. It is also generally accepted that the most effective way for a raw powerlifter to gain strength without the subsequent risk is do so via submax training.

Submax training is 87.5% of your 1RM or less. Performing work at this threshold builds strength, builds muscle, and does so without the excessive stress on your supporting structure of tendons and ligaments like 90% and up training can do.

This is even more critical for a raw powerlifter as they do not have the luxury of supportive gear to insulate themselves from connective tissue damage associated with frequent 90% and up loading.

If we back up a little bit from submax training… it is recommended that after a meet is over, you start a hypertrophy phase to give your body a break from the heavy loads, to build muscle, to work on overall muscular balance, and to start to chip away at weak points. A smart trainee or coach will understand how to implement hypertrophy training to benefit the lifter and know when it is time to end a hypertrophy phase to work on building strength from the base.

If you plan out a training cycle, you will most likely need a 8-10 week hypertrophy phase because your body needs time to adapt to that style of training and benefit from it, a 10-12 week submax phase, and a 4-6 week prep.

The low end of that timeline is 20 weeks while the high end is 26 weeks.

The 10 to 12 week prep cuts that in half while ignoring a large part of what makes sense when it comes to training.

Your submax cycle should get progressively heavier each week, programs like 5th set and my upcoming program Behemoth address this.

As you approach your 10 – 12 week mark of submax training, your weights should be heavy enough to transition into a meet prep, and if they aren’t, you either spent too long on a hypertrophy phase or your programming is twisted up in the wind.

You don’t even have to use a book to program for this, you can use linear progression as long as you don’t start your working weight too high and smash a wall 5 weeks into your submax phase.

Once your submax phase is complete, you should be ready for a peaking phase.

Take one week to increase weight and do some doubles or triples – take another week to do a heavy single – and taper as needed.

Remember, powerlifting is NOT weightlifting so we cannot use the argument of “well they go above 90% more frequently…..” when their sport is predicated upon precision technique which is honed in even more using heavier weights.

Let’s rehash

  1. 8 to 10 week hypertrophy phase – build muscle, work on weaknesses and balance (accumulation)
  2. 10 to 12 week submax phase – work on improving competition lifting strength, continue to balance out weak points and gain muscle (transmutation)
  3. 4 to 6 week prep – realize the work from the submax phase, find your openers, taper, lower overall volume and increase intensity (realization)

Profit.

Of course there are plenty of “but what about….” but that would make for a special case over the norm, wouldn’t it?

Maybe the long prep isn’t ideal for most of us, think about it.

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