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2016-17 Mid-Training Plan Plans

By Gary F. Zeolla


      I just completed the first half of my 2016-17 Training Plan, which is to say, my Post-Contest Routine. It is now time to start my Pre-Contest Routine. In this article, I will review my Post-Contest Routine and outline my plans for my Pre-Contest Routine and the contest at the end of it.


Post-Contest Routine Review


      My Post-Contest Routine went good but not great. I tied or bettered 50 PRs for many of my lifts. But the ones I bettered were only for 2.5-10 pounds. I would have set more or higher PRs if I had had a full six weeks for each workout. But the routine only lasted 10 weeks rather than my normal 12 weeks due to the date of my next contest. Thus each workout was only done five times. But if had my normal sixth week for each workout, I would have hit PRs for most of my lifts and bettered them by more in the ones I did hit. That means this training plan is working, but not quite as good as I hoped. And I now know I need time for a full 12 training weeks for both parts for it to be most effective. And I will get that for my Pre-Contest Routine.

      I only missed a few reps throughout the entire routine. And by “missed” I mean not trying a planned final rep of a set. Only on two reps did I get buried. They were both during partial squats in Week 8. But I regrouped, and partial squats went as planned in Week 10.


Sets x Reps Change


      For my Post-Contest Routine, I was doing 3 work sets. I started with 7, 5, 3 reps for the first couple of workouts, then did 6, 4, 2 for one or two workouts, then 5, 3, 1 for one or two workouts. At least that was the plan. But it did not always go as planned, and I did not make as good of progress as I had hoped. I think the reason was I did not have a sufficient number of workouts at each range for progress.

      As such, I don’t think such a progression of reps works with the alternating weeks scheme of my training plan. I will thus go back to what I had been doing of using a two rep range for each work set, going back and forth as needed between the higher and lower reps. But I am going to try something a bit different for my Pre-Contest Routine.

      I am adding one more work set, so I will be doing four work sets. I am doing this so as to have another higher rep set. Reviewing my logs, I make the best progress when I am incorporating both high (5-8) reps and low (1-4) reps in each training plan. That is why in the first half of this routine I started with 7, 5, 3 for powerlift look-alike exercises. That gave me two high rep sets, but only one low rep set. At the end, I was doing 5,3,1, and thus only one high rep set but two low rep sets.

      To fix this, I will add a high rep set but not cycle down my reps. My sets x reps will thus be 4 x 7-8, 5-6, 3-4, 1-2 on the powerlifts and look-alike lifts. This will give me two high rep sets and two low rep sets. All of these sets will be done with a belt and wraps.

      For other exercises, I will use the same four set drop rep approach but with slightly higher reps, except for rotator cuff work, as I think four sets would be too much for it.

      I will try this new approach for my two deload weeks. My concern is it might be too much of a work load. Also, the initial high rep set might tire me out too much for the heavy sets to follow. If things are a problem, then I will drop off the initial high rep set. But if it looks like I can handle the additional work, then I will stick with it.

      By adding the high rep set first, I can cut out the final warm-up set, which was a triple with gear. As such, this change should not lengthen my workouts, as the total number of sets will still be the same.


Planned Sets x Reps


      Below is a summary of my planned sets x reps.

Powerlifts and look-alike lifts:
4 x 7-8, 5-6, 3-4, 1-2

Upper back, speed work, and rings dips:
4 x 8-9, 6-7, 4-5, 2-3

4 x 11-12, 9-10, 7-8, 5-6

Calves, abs, leg curls, hand gripper:
4 x 13-14, 11-12, 9-10, 7-8

Rotator cuff work:
3 x 15-16, 13-14, 11-12

      After my first BA workout, I realized that doing nine reps on rows and speed work would just be too much. Also, it was too confusing to change my planned reps by one rep from my first two exercises to the second two. I will thus do 4 x 7-8, 5-6, 3-4, 1-2 for all compound exercises, but I will still do the indicated higher reps for isolation exercises.


Final Two Workouts for Powerlifts


      Before my next contest, I should get in twelve full training weeks, along with maybe a couple of extra workouts. The latter will depend on how many extra days off I take along the way and when I need to start cutting weight, as I don’t like to lift heavy after I start to do so. But whatever the case, I will taper and peak for the contest by doing the actual powerlifts but no look-alike lifts the last two workouts for each lift.

      This should be Weeks 11 and 12, unless I get in an extra hard workout for squats and benches. In that case, I will do my regular workouts Week 11, then for Week 12 and those extra workouts I will do actual squats and benches. For these final workouts, I will skip the higher rep initial set of 7-8 reps. I will instead do a warmup set of three reps with gear as I had been doing. I will then do 3-4 sets for 6-2 reps for the first workout, then 3-4 x 5-1 for the second.

      I am leaving it open-ended somewhat as I am hoping that by eliminating the initial higher rep set, I will be stronger for my initial work set of 5-6 reps. But I will still start with the same weight as if I had done the 7-8 rep set. Then if I am stronger, I might do an extra set so as to get in high intensity work for three sets. Ideally, I will do three hard sets of 6, 4, 2 reps for the first workout and 3 x 5, 3, 1 for the second.

      Then for the contest, I will figure out my attempts the same way as I have been doing, based on how these three work sets go. Specifically, my opener will be what I did for 4-5 reps, and my second attempt will be what I did for 2-3 reps. My final attempt will then be figured out from there based on how those attempts go and what my goals are for that lift.

      My warmups at the contest will be about the same as I use for the final workout for each lift. That is another reason to eliminate the initial high rep set and to substitute another warmup set, so that my warmups and work sets for these final workouts parallel my warmups and attempts at the contest. In this way, the contest will seem almost like just another workout. That is how I have gone 9/9 at my last three contests.

      To keep from overtraining at that point, I will skip doing a look-alike after the actual powerlift as I usually do. But I will continue to do speed work so as to maintain conditioning, and I feel like speed work functions as a cool down. Those are two additional benefits I believe speed work provides, along with the explosiveness that most do it for. I will also do rows on bench days. I’m not sure yet about my morning workouts, but I might cut back somewhat on them as well.


Squats with Wraps


      Reviewing my training logs for back when I was competing equipped in the ‘00s, I made the best progress when I would squat with wraps but no suit for most of my routine, but then add in the suit for just the last one or two workouts. Later I squatted in a suit most of the time, and my progress slowed.

      I am planning on competing raw with wraps now. But using that philosophy, rather than training with wraps the entire routine, I will squat with sleeves for most of it. But I will switch to wraps for the last two workouts. The difference between sleeves and wraps is about the same as between no suit and with a suit, so hopefully the effect will be the same.

      That is also another reason for eliminating the initial higher rep set, as doing 7-8 reps with wraps would be just too much. It is also another reason for eliminating the normal following look-alike lift, so as to keep those workouts from being overly long and tiring.

      Such overly long and tiring workouts have led me in the past to think about forgoing wraps and to use sleeves at contests. But as I’ve explained before, I need to use wraps, as the all-time records and ranking lists that I am most concerned about are for raw with or without wraps. It thus behooves me to use wraps at contests to have the best advantage for these goals.

      I am confident that just using wraps for these final two workouts will suffice to prepare me to use them at the contest, as I am already very used to using wraps. I just need to reacquaint myself with them and to figure out how much they add so as to properly pick my contest attempts.

      But I might compete raw with knee sleeves someday. In that case, I would simply continue with sleeves for the duration of the routine. And that should be it. I don’t think any other changes would be necessary.


Bench Assistance Workouts


      My Bench Assistance (BA) workouts have been taking too long. That is not surprising since I am doing four “regular” exercises on it, while on Bench day I am only doing three regular exercises plus speed work. But speed work does not take as long as a regular exercise. And on Squat and deadlifts days, I am only do two regular exercises plus speed work. Also, I am not progressing very well on the two main exercise on BA day. I will thus be making a couple of changes to my BA workout.


Inclines to Dips


      I’ve been doing “non-flat” bench assistance exercises on BA day for some time now. By that I mean declines, dips, inclines, and overhead presses. That seems to work well in terms of helping benches without overtraining them. But I seem to have difficulties making progress on those exercises themselves. I’ve been thinking the problem is each is too different from the others to alternate them. That is why I switched to only declines and inclines two routines ago. But those two lifts are still too different from each other to help one another.

      Also, I listed the lifts in the order of what I think are the most helpful to least helpful for the bench. I think declines are the most helpful as an arched bench like I use is almost a decline bench. Then dips train the pressing muscles in a similar manner to declines. But inclines train the pressing muscles in an opposite angle, and presses even more so.

      As such, I am going to try and do a variation of declines and of dips each BA workout. I will continue varying declines by using a medium, wide, and close grip and a 3 second pause. For dips, I will vary them by doing them on bars and on gymnastic rings as I have done before. But I will also vary each of these by doing them leaning forward with elbows out (to emphasize the pecs) and straight up and down with elbows tucked (to emphasize the triceps).

      This change should also have the advantage of shortening my workouts, as dips take less time than inclines. That is mainly due to the time it takes to adjust my FID (flat, incline, decline) bench and power rack from being setup for declines to being setup for inclines. There is also less time spent changing the weights for dips than for inclines, with only one set of plates to change.


Hand Gripper and Curls


      Near the end of my recent routine, I got a hand gripper from Amazon. I think it will help with my grip. It is adjustable from 22 to 88 pounds. I have been using it after my deadlift workouts. My gripping muscles are already warmed up from deadlifting, so I can jump into them with little warmup. And it only takes about five minutes for a few sets.

      I will vary them by doing them Week A in a reps fashion, doing one warmup set and then the same sets x rep plan as for calves of 4 x 13-14, 11-12, 9-10, 7-8, increasing the tension and squeezing and holding each rep for one second. But then Week B, each set will consist of just rep, but squeezing and holding it for 10 seconds. I will again do one warmup and four work sets, increasing the tension as needed. Both methods really pump up my forearms and should help with my grip on deadlifts more than the reverse curls I have been doing. And with the gripper working my forearms, I don’t think reverse curls will be necessary on BA day.

      I could substitute curls for reverse curls. But my biceps are already getting a good bit of work from the rows that I do on both my Bench and BA days, done with a curl bar underhand and with a barbell overhand, respectably. Also, as indicated, my BA workouts have been taking too long with doing four regular exercises, and I am not doing speed work on my BA day.

      Given all of this, I will do “speed rows” on my BA day. I have done them before, and they do work well, and they will make sense. I am already doing speed squats, speed benches, and speed deadlifts of some sort on my other three workout days, so those muscles get worked in a speed fashion. But rows work somewhat different muscles, including the biceps, so it would be good to work them in a speed fashion as well.

      I will simply do the speed rows in the same fashion as the preceding regular row exercise, which is always my third exercise on my BA day. As indicated, I believe speed work functions as conditioning work and a cool down, along with developing explosiveness, so including a speed exercise on all four of my workout days makes sense.




      God-willing, I will enter IPA PA States in York, PA on March 4, 2017. I will be sending in my entry form and renewing my IPA membership shortly. Here’s praying my Pre-Contest Routine goes even better than my Post-Contest Routine, so I can be well prepared for this contest and set some new contest 50s PRs and other records. May the LORD be with me as I prepare for it.

            For my first pre-contest workouts, see Two by Two Powerlifting Training Plan - 2016-17; Pre-Contest Routine, Weeks 1-6 of 12.


2016-17 Mid-Training Plan Plans. Copyright 2016 by Gary F. Zeolla.

The above article was posted on this site November 29, 2016.
It was last updated December 1, 2016.

Powerlifting and Strength Training
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