By Mike Tuchscherer 2 April 2018
There are no magic programs. Coaching is about a lot more than writing a good program. Of course writing a good program as part of being a good powerlifting coach especially in an online setting but to think that there is just writing the program is to misunderstand the process and to do a serious disservice to all the clients who put their trust in you. Read more…
Case Studies in Powerlifting — Tim Thomas
by Brady Stewart
Sport: Powerlifting – Bench Press Specialist
Hometown: Belleville, IL
Training Location: The Belleville Weightlifting Club (BWC) (Belleville, IL)
Competing in powerlifting since 1998 in the USAPL and non-sanctioned events, but is currently a Bench Press Specialist
Best Competition Total: 1590 (2004 Ozark Open)
Best Competition Bench Press: 450 (2009 Bluegrass Open)
Past Injuries: 2005 Torn Tendon in right shoulder and right hip injury
Goals: To bench over 500 pounds in 2010 and try to rank in top 20 nationally in 275 Open Bench
Hammer Thrower Turned Powerlifter
by Josh Rohr
Michelle Stark was an All-American Hammer and Weight Thrower for Ashland University under the watchful eye of her coach, 4x Olympian Jud Logan. She graduated in 2009 and decided to give powerlifting a try. In only her 4th powerlifting meet ever, she became the 2010 IPF Junior World Silver Medalist in the 90kg class, barely missing her 3rd deadlift of 512.6 lbs for the win.
Michelle came to me after she graduated college and said she wanted to give powerlifting a try. She had experience with the squat, bench and deadlift because they were performed frequently in Coach Logan’s program at A.U. She was already really strong but her technique was not optimal for a powerlifter and we would eventually modify all three. When she came to me about powerlifting, it was only about 6 weeks away from the meet so our preparation time was limited and changing too many things was not a good idea. The first meet she wanted to do was the 2009 USAPL Georgia and Southern States. Her initial goal when she came in was to go to Women’s Nationals and try and make the Junior World Team. Because of this, we decided to basically train though the meet because she was strong enough coming in to hit the qualifying total without getting in gear.
The training template for this meet was high frequency, medium volume, low intensity because we needed to spend a lot of time performing the lifts to IPF standards. This allowed her to Squat/Bench and Deadlift frequently without overtraining. This also allowed her to put her focus on doing certain things right like pushing the knees out, sitting back, driving her legs in the bench etc. without having to get too focused on the heavy weight. This paid off in a big way, not in the short term but down the road, especially once we got in gear. At the meet, she went 8/9, only missing her 3rd bench press of 198 lbs while qualifying for women’s nationals @ 181, only weighing 176. Read more…
Using RTS on a Sheiko Base Program
By Mike Tuchscherer
I talk quite a bit about long term planning because in my mind there are so many ways to do it right. As far as training goes, most of us understand that it is both art and science. We’re after producing effects for the athlete and that’s what matters. If you get good effects, then you did it right. If you don’t, then you did it wrong. Read more…
In January 2016, RTS issued a free experimental training program to anyone who signed up. It was called Project Momentum. At the outset, we were pretty sure the protocol would work, but we had no idea how well or for whom. It worked better than expected. This article is an attempt to digest some of the information, learn some lessons, and become better coaches and lifters in the process.
Why did I write this? Well, a cursory view of the statistics showed that the training worked. So why did I spend a huge amount of time crunching all these other numbers? Initially it was because I wanted to know what type of lifter was best suited for this type of training strategy. But what I ended up learning was much more about how to tailor strategies for all my lifters, whether they are suited for this particular strategy or not. I also gained some statistical backing for some things I’ve had a feeling about for a while now (i.e. the importance of the subjective TRAC questions, etc).
A quick word on the limitation of it being an online, self-report project… Yes, this is a limitation in the sense of us trying to learn biological truths. But I coach people in an online setting, so this is actually much closer to applicable information than it would have been had I walked each individual through the training in person. You can read more about the limitations in the dedicated section near the end.
The Training Program
Project Momentum was based on a high frequency model. Each of the four training sessions per week consisted of all three powerlifting style competition movements. In addition, each day also had emphasis items that added additional volume or intensity to some of the lifts. Sometimes it was via heavy singles in the competitive lifts. Other times it was via assistance or supplemental lifts.
The assistance and supplemental lifts were chosen based on where the majority of raw lifters show weaknesses. Also factored into the decisions was equipment availability. Since this program was executed in a decentralized way with varying gym equipment, we limited our exercise selection to only the most commonly available pieces for Powerlifters. If a lifter could not perform one of the lifts for any reason, substitutions were recommended by the coaching staff via the Project Momentum Facebook group.
There was an overall linearity in the periodization of the mesocycle. The beginning of the training was at a higher volume and lower intensity than the end of the training. The training mesocycle spanned seven loading weeks, plus one “meet week” where the athletes tapered and then performed a practice competition.
Including the written program in its entirety probably wouldn’t work in this article due to the length, but for the sake of understanding, I’ve included a sample training week below. This is the third week of the loading block:
A friend of mine used to tell me “health is cumulative.” What he meant was that you could think of your health like a bank account of sorts. Doing certain things added to your overall state of health. Other things subtracted from it. And if you work yourself into a hole, you’ve got to work yourself out of it again.
The same concept applies in the strength world. There are some things that you need to do to stay injury-free. You can neglect them for a while, but the longer you do, the more risk you take. Often, this comes in the form of neglected muscle groups, but can also include other aspects of overall fitness (flexibility / mobility, energy systems, etc).
Recently I was having a conversation about this with another coach. We were both remarking that high-specificity training (even extremely high specificity) undeniably gets good results in the short-to-mid term. But left unchecked for longer periods of time, lifters get injured. We know that a major key to long term progress is avoiding injury. So this very-high-specificity training cannot be a long term solution to your progress.
IPF Masters World Champion and world record holder in the 83kg class (50 years old). Then comes back to set a PR in every lift and improve his total by 40kg at Raw Nationals a couple months later. What’s his secret?
When Laddie came to work with us at RTS back in February of 2015, he already had an extensive training history (since 1987). You can find out more about Laddie and his twin brother Troy – who is also a Masters World Champ and world record holder – on our Podcast. So our job at this point in Laddie’s career is to hone and peak rather than teach and develop. So with that unique position in mind, let’s discuss how we adapted Laddie’s training.
We used a similar training strategy for Laddie both in prep for his world-record-setting performance in Finland, and then again to exceed those marks a few months later at Raw Nationals. In June, his lifts were 220/170/245/635 (kilos of course). By October, he had improved beyond those marks to 230/180/265/675. That’s a 40kg (88 pounds) improvement on his (already world record) total in just over 3 months.
In the beginning of working with Laddie, we were simply looking to get established on a productive training regimen, so we opted for a 3-day-per-week training template. My thinking was that this provides a good starting point so we can avoid any potential recovery issues. If Laddie was recovering easily, we could just turn up the frequency. However if we started too high, there would be more steps in getting training stress back under control. When he responded quite well to this level of frequency, we kept it. This leaves another tool in our toolbox for later as well.
The driving force behind all of his strength development would be training of the competition lifts. The competition style squat, bench, and deadlift would be trained at least once per week, with more work targeting assistance and supplemental movements. Intensities for the contest lifts were kept fairly high. In the beginning of a training cycle, they would start about 80% and then gradually increase in waves up to 92-95%. The overall pattern of intensity was linear, but it came and went in waves.
All of Laddie’s training was done using an RPE system to auto-regulate the weight on the bar. This way, on good days he could use heavier weights. On bad days, he could reduce the weight to an appropriate level. His main lifts were trained by working up to an 8 RPE and repeating this load for multiple additional sets. The volumes I required from him were quite brutal, but recovery was managed via auto-regulation as well as the 3x frequency template (more on recovery later).
Laddie’s assistance work targeted the bottom of the squat and the bench – typical problem areas for raw powerlifters. We did very little assistance work for Laddie’s deadlift, which had a propensity to beat up his hips. For the squat, this meant lots of 2ct Pause Squats and Pin Squats. Laddie loved the pause squats saying, “I had never really done Pause Squats consistently. Pause Squats played a big role.” Well, maybe “loved” is the wrong word, but he definitely felt they made a big impact on his squatting performance. Squats with chains were done toward the end of his training cycles. For the bench, we used various pause lengths as well as pin pressing, touch-and-go benching, feet up bench, close grip benching, etc. Again, intensities stayed fairly high – there was less 80% stuff than for the main lift, but less 90%+ work too. RPE’s were again around 8 with lots of volume.
Supplemental movements were rotated and varied a lot more than other slots. For the lower body, lunges, SSB Squats, Good Mornings, more pause squats, and 303 Tempo squats were all included at various times for various periods. For the deadlift, lots of rows and some Stiff Leg Deadlifts were the bulk of the movement selections. When it came to benching it was Dips, DB Bench, and lots of close grip partial pressing (such as pin press and board press) to develop triceps strength. All movements were rotated regularly, but when trained, were done at a fairly high intensity (say 80% +/- 5%). RPE’s for these movements were typically higher (9 RPE) and volume was lower.
As we came into each peaking phase, the general intensity of all the work would rise just as you’d expect it to. But then we would also begin incorporating heavy-ish singles into his training. Some weeks it would be just x1 @8. Other weeks it would be x1 @8 and x1 @9. They were always followed by down sets afterward. This was done to provide a highly specific stimulus as we approached competition. It also helped Laddie hone his competition skills, practice commands, and in general focus on the coming contest.
When it comes to recovery, the volumes were managed in such a way that recovery was possible on most training weeks. But other weeks would be “high stress” weeks where we would intentionally do more volume than Laddie was able to tolerate. To balance this out, we planned deload weeks after every 3-4 week long training block. Laddie’s deadlift in particular seemed sensitive to this and needed some deloading. He is a sumo deadlifter, so all the volume that I required on the deadlift pushed his hips and adductors to the limit. As such, every three weeks or so, Laddie would skip sumo deadlifts, usually replacing them with conventional deadlifts. This allowed him to continue getting in some pulling practice without continuing to tax his hips and adductors.
Particularly when training for Raw Nationals, Laddie credits lots of his improved health and recovery to his daily stretching regimen. Every day (sometimes twice a day) he would stretch whatever seemed tight and sore for 15-30 minutes. Most times his focus seemed to be on the upper body – particularly chest and shoulders. Laddie told me, “This was the first time I was able to bench press with no shoulder pain at all. [Stretching] helped me with both [recovery and avoiding injuries]. This was the first time I had no major injuries.” This is huge – especially for a masters lifter!
As was mentioned earlier, the result of all this work that Laddie put in was a world-record setting performance at IPF Classic Worlds in Finland. Then only a few months later, he exceeded all of those marks by 40kg total at USAPL Raw Nationals in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
After Nationals, we’ve changed up Laddie’s training quite extensively in an effort to keep him healthy and strong. This short restoration phase will be followed up by more loading phases, but the strategy is ever-adapting. Future cycles should allow for better recovery and improved stress management so Laddie can continue to set World Records for years to come. Just like with all our lifters – Laddie’s training has been unique. The general principles are constant, but how they take shape into a training program is not.
|About the Author
Mike Tuchscherer is the owner and head coach at RTS. He has been powerlifting since 2001 and since has traveled all over the world for competitions. In 2009, he was the first man from USA powerlifting to win a gold medal at the World Games – the highest possible achievement in powerlifting. He has coached over a dozen competitors at the world championships, a score of national champions, and multiple world record holders.
For as long as I’ve been lifting weights (and probably a lot longer than that), “Long Term Planning” has been eschewed and neglected by powerlifters – especially the typical non-professional-coach type, but even by some prominent professional coaches. The thing is successful coaches see the benefits (and also the limitations) of long term planning, so they put it in its proper place – much to the benefit of their athletes.
I make it no secret that I greatly respect Norwegian Powerlifting coach Dietmar Wolf. In 2013, his most prominent lifter, Carl Yngvar Christiansen (CYC for short), placed 2nd at the IPF World Championships – only 12kg behind the winner. Now, by all accounts this is a fantastic performance, but some of CYC’s lifts looked quite easy. After the meet, there was quite a bit of discussion about, “why didn’t he go for it?” Someone had heard that CYC had a minor injury and the Norwegian coaches wanted to play it safe. Still some of my friends questioned the call saying, “When you’re there, you’ve gotta take the shot!”
The thing is I see where they are coming from, but I also know Dietmar Wolf a little bit having spoken with him on several occasions. I know that he likes to consider the long term view of things. His goal is to take the athlete to their genetic potential, which is a 10+ year vision, not a 10 minute vision. Lo and behold, after playing it safe at the 2013 championship (and avoiding injury), CYC came back in 2014 to crush the competition by 200kg, set a World Record Squat and Total, and also hit the highest Wilks of any lifter in the IPF. Score one for long term vision. Read more…
I get lots of people coming on the site asking for a program check. Actually thoroughly checking a program is an involved process and it usually requires more information than the poster supplies. What’s more, it turns out that “is this a good program” is actually a bad question. Yes, there’s science and some hard rules when it comes to planning training. But there’s also a lot of art to it. So posting a program and asking if it’s good is kind of like posting a picture of a painting and asking for a critique. You can critique some stuff, but how you paint isn’t going to be the same way I paint. Read more…