As I write this I am sitting at 12 weeks out from my next meet and I am looking back at the body of work I have put in this offseason. I can't help but be confident going into this training cycle because I have never had such a long and productive offseason. I fixed some form issues, stayed healthy and fixed some limiting range of motion issues that has caused problems in the past and I improved on all of my weaknesses. As hard as it was for me to put in 15 weeks of offseason and now 12 weeks of prep without competing, it is something I had to do in order to reach my goals I have set for myself. The one thing I have learned over the years and it actually started in the Marines is that the amount of effort and time you put into the work up the more successful the mission and the same is true with sports. The harder you work and push yourself in your offseason the better and more productive your competitive season will be. It's a mindset that not a lot of people understand, I hear it all the time, "I'll take it more serious when the prep starts" or "I just need time off to have fun and enjoy myself, I will focus more when the meet gets closer." These are the same people who don't progress much then blame everyone but themselves after its all said and done. I posted a video on how I gauge a successful offseason and in it, I go over some of the things I look for in my offseason that by the end of it, I can have a checklist of did I accomplish this or did I not accomplish it. If you aren't tracking then it can be very hard to progress in training and nutrition. Here is the video below, check it out and subscribe to my channel.
Before moving onto the meet prep, I just want to emphasize how important confidence is in the sport of powerlifting. It can literally make or break a lift and confidence is built in the gym under the bar, training. This may sound like a no-brainer but how often do you see lifters going in and maxing out or missing reps? Probably very often and for every missed rep it brings a little bit more doubt into your brain about what you will be capable of when it comes meet time. It is also the same scenario when it comes to chasing numbers, just because you think you are capable of a number doesn't mean you should be chasing it every training day, because if you have a bad day or two things will spiral out of control quickly and you will start to doubt yourself and that will cause you to miss attempts in training and on the platform. Just take each day as it comes and builds some confidence each week in small victories.
This leads me into the meet prep and how I like to do things going into a meet prep phase. Like, everyone, I have goals but I don't let the goals dictate my training cycle. I have learned over the years to be patient and take what each training cycle gives you. This has led to better totals and fewer injuries. This is a long meet prep for me so I have to be careful with how I pick my weights and reps. What I like to do is have an intent or rage for the day in the beginning of the prep and then as I get closer to the meet I will have a better grasp of my numbers and where I am at. So before the week even starts I already know what weight I want to work up to for my main movement and what the rep scheme is. So let's just say I have a 455lbs bench press planned for a triple if it's a good day I get all 3 if it's an off day I will hit 3 singles, either way, I get my 3 reps in with no misses. This has worked very well for me as I get more out of pushing my top sets to accumulate strength. Staying at a certain percentage and building is great for the offseason or for a certain phase but when it comes to meet prep I get a better response from pushing weight and making week to week adjustments based on how the week goes. Learning how to feel things out and taking the lifts one set at a time will not only help with the lifting of that day but will have a great carryover for learning how to pick your attempts come meet day so you can still go 8 for 9 even on a bad day.
As far as my accessories go for this meet prep, since I am pushing my main movements to top sets I find I need to lower intensity a bit on my secondary and other movements. In order to still elicit a positive training response, I pick exercises that mimic the main movement but at a degree of difficulty that requires me to use a significantly smaller percentage of my max load. So after squats I am doing pause squats with a high bar, the high bar is not a good position for me so I can't use as much weight and the pause makes it harder so that decreases the load, but by making these more demanding exercises I can still get a huge benefit out of them without having to have 600 plus pounds on my back. This will lead to better recovery week to week and less chance of injury. I also keep it within the same rep range, so if my top set of squats is 3 rep then my secondary movements will be between 3-5 reps. So I don't accumulate a lot of fatigue and I am still within the same ballpark intensity as my main lift. Finding ways to increase the intensity of the lifts without adding weight is a great way to stay fresh and injury free but still making progress to your goals. This works for me mainly because I am pushing my main set to a near max intensity every time out. Finding what works best for you is key.
Setting up numbers and reps takes some time but if you had a productive offseason you should have a decent understanding of where to begin. I feel like there is a mental edge when you know exactly what you are supposed to hit for that day. you start to think about it and visualize it so when it comes time to do it you just do it and not overthink it. Being mentally tough and confident is huge in the powerlifting game as soon as you start to doubt a lift you will inevitably fail that lift. So learning the psychology of developing mental toughness is something every athlete should look into. I spend 20-30 minutes every day working on breathing techniques and visualization not just about lifting but about being successful and everything else that is going on in my life that requires better clarity. Thinking and visualizing about your upcoming lifts will not only help you build up confidence going into the lift but it won't require you to think too much about it once you start the workout mainly because it has already happened in your head. The breathing I do just help me get focused and is my way of getting "fired up" I am not saying this will work for you, I am saying you need to find your method. The mental approach will help you in and out of the gym.
As far as my meet training is set up here is a video going over exactly what I am doing and the waves I am going through.
In my next article, I will go over meet prep nutrition and supplements to help me reach my goals and stay healthy and fully recovered.