As lifters we are always looking for that secret weapon to take our lifts to the next level. In all reality there isn’t any secret you just have to put in a lot of work, stay healthy, stay consistent, and perfect technique. Simple enough no do that for a decade or so and you’ll be ready o lift some heavy weights!!! Now there are a lot of different ways to get strong, a million different programs, and some great coaches to help you along the way. During the offseason, meaning you’re not prepping for a meet, you have the chance to do a few different things outside of the norm to improve your numbers on the platform. A few of those things are
• Improve Conditioning
• Perform BB/Hypertrophy Rep Schemes and Movements
• Improve Diet to Increase Food Volume
• Play Other Sports or Do Athletic Activities
Conditioning thats crazy talk right?? Doing cardio will make you small and weak so lets just be fat and out of shape because we are powerlifters!! Thats the huge misconception in a lot of strength athletics, but lets think about the strongest and biggest guys in strength sports… Thats right the Strongman was, is and will always be the right answer. They perform medleys that will make you puke, heavy compound exercises for max reps for time, and the move with weights. This is the type of conditioning I am talking about it’s very specific for their sport but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that specific. You have a huge spectrum of choices and the closer you can get it to being specific the better but if it is to specific and strenuous it may impede recovery and your ability to perform during your next workout. So doing some that are more active recovery like pulling a sled, riding an airdyne bike, or some light boxing and jump roping. Doing these low impact types of cardio will not only increase your work capacity but they will help with recovery from workout to workout. Add in 2-3 active recovery conditioning and 2-3 HIIT conditioning workouts like pushing the prowler, 20 rep sets of squats etc… these will not only get you in great shape but will also build a ton of muscle while helping you drop some fat. Just like training you don’t want to go full retard on this to start. You want to slowly add it in over time so start off with 1 of each at 20 minutes a piece and slowly week to week add in more sessions and longer time.
As powerlifters we are always 52 weeks from being stage ready so why not throw in some bodybuilding work. Look back in the day with guys like Kaz who use to do 4 sets of 10 reps on bench, incline, overhead etc… he was jacked and strong as hell!! So when I say do some bodybuilding work I don’t mean machines, DB kickbacks, etc… I mean hitting up more hypertrophy style training with reps in the 6-12 rep range and sometimes up to 20 reps. Volume is the key component to adding on muscle size so throwing in these rep ranges during the off season in a periodized way can build up some bigger and stronger muscles. Plus it will allow you to really work on developing weak areas by building up those smaller muscles and conditioning them so they won’t lag behind when you start to get into heavier training. I am not saying just start doing everything 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps that you read in a Flex magazine I’m saying to add those rep schemes in here and there in a manner that will allow you to build but not take away from your heavier days as well. So an example would be if you bench 2x a week one day can be 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps and the next day you can do the 4x10 of bench press.
In order to improve we have to increase our work volume and capacity. The same can be said for food. If you are eating a more performance based diet that includes a bunch of whole foods, good carb sources, and healthy fats then you can start to add in calories in a slow manner that will allow you to eat more food while maintaining a desired bodyweight or close to but it takes time and it definitely takes dedication. I have a client who we dieted down for 3 months from 190lbs to 165lbs and now 6 weeks into his bulk phase we have upped his calories slowly every week and have now increased them by 1500 from his lowest point and his current weight is 166lbs. We have his body burning so efficiently that we have to throw in cheat meals to slow it down so he can actually gain some weight. So why is this important? Calories turn into energy, so the more calories we can consume the more energy we have for the workouts, the better the recovery process from day to day, and keeps your body well regulated. Now you can do this without dieting for 3 months, if you incorporate the conditioning aspect that I talked about earlier the same desired affect will occur. Do both these things slowly by adding in more calories week to week maybe 5-10% per week depending on the person and the same increase for the conditioning.
Breaking up the monotony of training is huge and performing other activities away from weight lifting or different forms of weight lifting will not only help you mentally relax, reset and get a renewed sense of motivation it will also allow you to fix some imbalances that come with lifting and doing less athletic things. So throwing in some things like boxing, hiking, pick up basketball, yoga, etc.. will help you in the long term. Remember its not where you are now but where you’re going to be in the next 5 years, 10 years etc… because in this sport if you can stay healthy and stay consistent by not burning yourself out than you will be extremely successful in strength athletics.