January 24, 2024 3 min read

By Shane Robert

For the last few weeks, I’ve shared a training template that harkens back to the type of training that was done in the “golden era” of training (1960’s-mid 1970’s), and the cycle that you would transition into to prep for a powerlifting meet.

To finish off this series, I want to discuss the changes that will occur to assistance work and the light days. I will also finish with some guidance on attempt selection.

The assistance movements in the competition cycle will keep a similar format to the previous blocks, but change slightly to become:

DAY 1 –Heavy Bench

  • Competition Bench: Cycle +Overloads
  • Bench Assistance (choose 1 that best addresses your weaknesses): 3-4x4 - 6
  • Lat Pulldowns: 2x6 - 8
  • Behind the Neck Press: 2x6 - 8 
  • Row of some kind: 3x8 - 10 reps
  • Lateral or Front Raises/Curls/Triceps work: 2x8
DAY 2Heavy Squat/Light Deadlift
  • Squats - Cycle + Overloads 
  • Squat Assistance (choose 1 that best addresses your weaknesses) 2x4 - 6
  • Stiff legged deficit deadlift - 2x5 - 7
  • Leg Curl/Leg Extension - 2x8
  • Lat/Upper back - 2x20

DAY 3 –Light Bench

  • Competition Bench: 
    • Week 1 65 8x3, Week 2 70 8x3, Week 3 75 8x3, 
    • Week 4 65 6x4, Week 5 70 6x4, Week 6 75 6x4, 
    • Week 7 65 5x5, Week 8 70 5x5, Week 9 75 5x5, 
    • Week 10 65 5x3, Week 1160% 3x3, Week 12 off
  • Rows of some kind: 3x6 - 8
  • Bench Assistance (different from Day 1) 2x5 - 7
  • Vertical Pull of some kind: 2x8 - 10
  • Lateral or Front Raises/Curls/Triceps work - 2x10

DAY 4 –Heavy Deadlift/Light Squat

  • Comp Squat:
    • Week 1  60 12x2, Week 2  65 10x2, Week 3 70 8x2,
    • Week 4  62 12x2, Week 5  67 10x2, Week 6 72 8x2,
    • Week 7  65 12x2, Week 8  70 10x2, Week 9 75 8x2,
    • Week 10  60 5x3, Week 11  60 3x3, Week 12 off
  • Competition Deadlift - cycle + overloads
  • Posterior Chain Assistance (good morning, back extensions, pull-throughs, etc.) - 2x6
  • Shrugs - 2x10
  • Leg Curls Variation - 1x12

Not a lot of changes, but the focus is on heavier rep ranges to build strength and lower total sets. We want to keep the assistance work to make sure that muscle mass is maintained, but not at the cost of being under-recovered for the main movements. On deadlift day, we move squats to the first exercise of the day to more closely resemble meet conditions. You always deadlift with tired legs so you might as well start building conditioning for that now.

The light squat and bench workout uses a 3-week pendulum wave, ala Westside Barbell. Though the traditional idea here is speed work, this is mostly for technique development. Move the bar with speed and intent, but not at the expense of form and practicing the commands.

Week 11 assistance work should drop to 1-2 sets at 6 RPE. Week 12 is highly personal. Keep active, do some light tonic lifting if needed, but nothing above a 4. When it comes to attempt selection, I like to make the last heavy triple be my opening attempt. In this case, that is the 100% training max. I consider this around 85% of what I am potentially capable of at the meet.

From there I will add 7.5% of the projected max for my second attempt, and based on how that feels, go another 7.5% for my 3rd. Perhaps more if the second attempt was jokingly easy. 

This is why I stress the importance of using a training max. It’s light, but not too light, and by the time you reach the end of the cycle, you should be moving that weight with confidence and power.

Let me use a client who recently squatted 487 as an example:

Training max - 440 (90% of 487)
80% = 352; 85% = 375; 90% = 395; 92% = 405; 95% = 417; 97% = 430; 100% = 440, 110% = 485; 120% = 528

At no point, even with the overloads, will these weights be missed. Yet, if we follow the attempt selection guidance above, we get the following:

Attempt 1: 440 (100% Training max) 
Attempt 2: 477
Attempt 3: 517 (490 is a PR or more)


That is a huge improvement over the course of a cycle. If you can achieve this with an average working weight of 375 or so pounds, it will go a long way to keep you healthy and injury-free to complete again.

Hopefully, this gives you some ideas on how to structure your own training. Or you can be lazy and just follow this plan as written. Let us know how it goes if you do.

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