Posted by Tony Montgomery under General  Weight Lifting  Training  on May 10 2016

DOWN!!! The only sound you hear after you've finished your last deadlift on the platform. You either just finished with a great day or you are scratching your head trying to figure out what went wrong. One way or the other this is the time that we as lifters are our most introspective. We sit and ponder how to get better and ways to improve on our performance never really taking a second to just relax and appreciate the effort you just put in for that one day on the platform. As a true competitior its hard not to just go straight into thoughts of improvement, we just don't have time to waste on enjoying the momemt. So with great zeal and desire we hit the gym with no time to rest. The next step you take will determine how your next meet will go because its not so much what you do during meet prep that will determine the outcome but what you do in the offseason that will determine how your meet prep goes and thus how your day on the platform will go. So take your time to put in the detail of your off season plan because far to often I see lifters say things like I am just having fun for now and will start getting serious in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile the great ones are already in the gym with a specific agenda and a plan on what to do next. They know how they want to train, what their diet looks like and what they want to do at their next meet. Keep these things in mind as you set up your off season plan.

The set up is very simple, at the end of your meet I am sure you have a general idea of when you want to compete next. The stronger you are the more rest and work you need to put in before your next meet, the newer and weaker you are can compete a little more often to get a good feel for meets and how to set yourself up to perform at a high level with practice. Once you have a general date picked out than you want to map out what kind of blocks or phases you want to run and for how long you want to run it for. Leading into a meet as the weights get heavier you should get a feel for what you need to work on and it will become more evident on meet day. Also leading up to a meet you will be at a higher intensity and lower volume to prepare for the meet.  These things are very important before moving onto the actual planning and exercise selection moving forward.
1. When is your next meet?
2. What are your weaknesses?
3. How do you want to set up your training blocks/phases?

Look if your answer to number 2 is everything than sure work everything because it makes no difference because you are to lazy to take the time to pinpoint your weaknesses and build them up so you will inevitably fail and not improve. Why you ask? Its simple because you just can't fix everything in one training cycle and everything can't be weak or else you would crumble under the bar when you go to lift. 

So now that you have made a decision on those 3 things it's time to set up your plan moving forward. After a meet prep your work capacity has pretty much gone to crap and you need to develop some weak areas. Two ways to improve on those two things is volume, supersets, and hiit cardio. You need to really take these next 4-6 weeks to get back in shape and healthy again. So going into a volume block designed to build up your work capacity is a great idea. A few ideas to consider during this phase is to try to make the heavier compound movments harder by doing pre exhaust sets. An example of this would be doing 3 sets of 15 leg curls and leg extensions superset and than go into some squat movements. I prefer to go away from the competition lifts slighlty and also different stances and or grips. So for my squat days I like to do high bar close stance, belt squats, front squats, and leg presses. This takes the bar off my back and allows me to develop my weaker muscles which for me are my quads. i do the same thing with bench and pulls. I bench with a wide grip so I do a lot of close grip work, floor presses, DB's and Inclines. Pulls I go to conventional pulls and a lot of SLDL and RDL's. These moves I haven't touched in probably 8-10 weeks so the new variations themselves will creat a training stimulus and the fact that they are weaker for me I don't have to go as heavy to get the same type of growth which will allow my joints time to recover. I will do this phase with a lot of BB style movements and rep/set schemes. 

After these 4-6 weeks I will do another 4-6 weeks with the same emphasis but switch up the exercises slightly, for me just by switching up the movemtns I will get huge benefits but I give each movement careful consideration on how it will help bring up my main lifts and I also use these movments the whole time because I need to give them time to work and grow. I am not a fan of switching exercises every week or two because to me if you picked this exercise because its a weakness of yours than hammer it away by hitting it for weeks on end. 

After 8-12 weeks of volume work I will go into a 4-6 week strength phase were the exercises get a little more specific and I lower the volume slightly and raise the intensity. the reason behind this is to make sure all your volume work is paying off. It is hard to see if you brough up a weak area with volume, you have to handle some heavier weights to see if things have change. Same thing goes with any type of imbalance as well you put in the work to fix it but you have to eventually test it to make sure it is getting better. During this strength phase I will drop the hiit cardio and just focus on restorative cardio like a bike or walking that way my fitness doesn't completely plummet.

These are just a few considerations to planning out a long and successful off season to keep building up a bigger and bigger foundation so when its time to peak for meet you have a higher ceiling to reach.

Posted by Tony Montgomery under General  Diet  Weight Loss  Nutrition  on May 03 2016

I am sure you've seen this time and time again and you've probably tried it yourself a time or 2 with the same results. You want to drop down a weight class and you want to do it all within a 12 week prep cycle. What usually happens is you drastically drop calories, throw in a bunch of unnecessary cardio just to make it happen by any means. Training starts off well and you think man this is easy I am dropping weight and getting stronger, than as the weeks go on you get smaller and smaller and more rundown. Your lifts start dropping but you are reassured everything will be ok so you keep fighting forward because at this point in time you think I don't want to gain my weight back and still be weak so I'll keep dropping to justify my weaker lifts. The meet comes you make weight, congratulations are instore and you go pig out on some breakfast and eat like a gluttonous pig because you know if you get a little bloated and put weight back on you'll be all good. Meet day is here and time and time again the lifter fails miserably and decides you know what cutting weight just is not for me, I just need to be big. So they proceed to eat like they just did a 20 week diet and as if food will no longer be around if they don't eat it all. Their weight balloons back up and they pack on way more fat than ever, but they are strong, YES!!! Exatcly what they wanted so they do their next couple meets as a bigger, stronger, and fatter lifter. Hit big numbers but ultimately decides they feel like shit and they don't like they way they look. So guess what happens, they do the same exact thing, extreme diet, excessive cardio and fail. If this sounds like you, then I have the solution for you. It's not going to be easy and it will take time but it will get you to where you ultimately want to be.

The problem is most lifters have this next meet mentality where they only see things in 12 week meet prep cycles. They don't plan for the year or years to come they want to be the most competitive at this meet and this meet is all thats are their mind. Which brings me to another point if cutting a dramatic amount of weight is going to make you more competitive than you are not strong enough so just focus on that, it is powerlifting, not subpar small totals at a lighter weight class so I can win a 3rd place medal in the 18 different sub categories I signed up for or is it??? 

Lets think in terms of the Olympics where athletes put everything they have into 4 years of training to peak at this one event. 4 years of training, that means they have a plan to take them to that point. Sure they compete throughout the years but they aren't concerned with the outcomes as much as they use these competitions as markers or indicators of how well their training is going and make adjustments. So in terms of weight class sports, lets say a lifter needs to add some size they will spend a whole year or two doing so and trust me when I say they don't take the kitchen sink, wheel me out in a wheel barrell approach. It is a slow and methodical approach to add X amount of kg's to their frame per month. This same approach is taking when dieting them back down to their original weight class. So yeah while they are gaining weight they might be outmatched in their heavier weight class but thats not their goal. The goal is to be ready for the Olympics not the next local meet. Do you see where I am going with this, everything they do is detailed out so that they are ready when they need to be ready.

Another example of this is the Russian powerlifters, when Krill broke the All Time bench record people forget that a year before he smashed a 716lbs Bench that looked like he could have broke the record that day, but that was not the plan. Same thing with Andrey and his squats, people seem to think he only wants to break it a little at a time and why not just shoot for that 1st 500kg squat but everything he does is well timed and when its time for him to squat that he will. Its called having a game plan that goes far beyond the upcoming meet. Same thing goes for dieting, you have to develop a game plan that will set you up exactly where you want to be in the next 2-5 years and i know that may seem like a lot of time to dedicate to this but nevermind if I have to explain to you that this is a marathon and not a sprint you probably quit reading this a long time ago because it was a secret diet/recipe to get you ripped and strong all at the same time and in only 12 weeks.

So now that you know what this is going to take and have mentally prepared yourself for the task at hand, lets begin down that journey. The goal of leaning out or dropping a weight class needs to be made well ahead of time to allow for a slow and methodical approach leading into your next meet. Starting a cut phase or diet is best done right after a meet, i know some people tend to think you need to pound calories to help with recovery but lets be honest those people are usually fat and not really the greatest lifters. Starting to diet right after a meet is ideal for two reasons, one is that after a meet you will start doing a lot more volume and GPP so the best way to keep muscle on while dieting is to do more volume and adding in some type of cardio. Think along the lines of how bodybuilders train leading into a show, because the key to a successful cut is to be able to drop fat and maintain as much muscle as possible. Number two reason is that it will give you plenty of time to slowly work yourself down in weight, I highly recommend people give themselves at least 20-24 weeks of dedicated work to get down to the next weight class and stay. That doesn't mean you can't compete just be mentally prepared to not be as strong during this time. Which is fine because we are building for the future not the next meet. 

Now I know alot of you didn't start powerlifting to improve your physique, in fact most people gravitate towards it because its been known to be a sport where you can eat whatever and just lift. This is no longer the case if you want to be good, do you think its a coincidnce that the top guys and ladies are usually pretty lean and look like bodybuilders. So if you want to be the best than you must change your approach and mentality about nutrition, unless you are a super heavyweight than god bless you eat whatever. Why 20-24 weeks that seems like a really long time to be dieting right and it is but the approach to take is to diet hard for 8 weeks and than spend the next 8 weeks slowly adding in calories, than diet hard again for 4 weeks and spend the last 4 weeks slowly adding calories. The key here is to try to keep increasing your starting calories of the cut so you can keep dieting on more and more calories. Disclaimer here that is extremely important before we get into the cut and reverse plan is that if after these 20-24 weeks are up and lets say you don't get to your weight class, don't panic and go on and extreme diet just for the sake of the weight class, be patient and extend the process until you get there.

Lets say that you start your dieting phase at 2500 calories and by the end of the 8 week cut you are down to 1500 calories in hopes to lose about a .5-1lbs per week rate, this seems to be the ideal rate for most, from that 1500 calories each week you will increase them by 150-175 calories so that by the time this 8 week phase is up you will satrt your next diet phase lighter but up to 2700-2900 calories. You just keep going back and forth with this process until you have reached your desired weight class and preferably slightly below. Why slightly below you may ask and thats because if you are below you will have more wiggle room for more calories going into the next phase which is the maintence phase. This is the phase where you start to get your old strength back. This is the pahse where you will start to increase calories over a 20-24 week time frame but not letting your weight get over 5% of your weight class. So there may be a few times in there where you may not add any calories for a couple weeks until your body adapts, you train harder, or you add in some cardio. The key to this whole process is patience, consistency and a long term goal oriented focus. This approach will help you from having the huge ups and downs of cutting/feeling sorry for yourself and gaining all kinds of unwanted weight for the sake of being stronger again.