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Plans and Updates

By Gary F. Zeolla

The following message was posted in the Weight Trainer's United forum and on my MySpace page.

I took a week off after my contest June 13, 2009 then began my new training routine to prepare for my next contest. I’ll post my first workout log right after this post, but I wanted to post my plans and some updates separately.

Contest and Workout Plans

Tentatively, my next contest will be the RAW United North American Powerlifting Championships, in Greencastle, PA, November 14-15, 2009. I will most likely again compete at 114s in the Masters II (45-49) division. If anyone is interested in this contest, details are on RAWU’s Web site.

In my powerlifting book I detail an “Alternate Weeks Routine” where major assistance work is done one week then the actual powerlifts the next week. I also describe a “Four Week Rotation” where a different set of major assistance work is done each of the first three weeks then the actual powerlifts the fourth week. But I don’t specifically mention the logical in-between routine of a “Three Week Rotation,” where assistance work is done the first two weeks then the actual powerlifts the third week, but that is what I will use to prepare for this contest.

I am going to do so as it works out time-wise. Allotting for an “extra” day off once a month, I should get in a total of 18 full weeks of training before my next contest. By following a three week rotation I will get in six full rotations. I’ve found that doing the same workout six times is the longest I like to go with a given workout. I will use a two stage approach, doing slightly higher reps on all exercises the first three rotations, then lower reps the final three rotations.

I mention in my book that I have had some success with a four week rotation but also had some problems with it. But by only going three weeks, I am hoping I will get the success but avoid the problems.

I will then probably get in one or two heavy workouts and at least a couple of light workouts during an “extra” nineteenth week of training. But what I do then will depend on if I miss any additional workouts and when I decide to put in my final heavy workouts. But I will figure all that out in November.

I will follow the basic four days a week program detailed in my book: Bench Assistance/ Squats/ Benches/ Deadlifts.

Squat Plans

After the problems on squats at my recent contest, I am really going to focus on sinking each and every rep of all squat work. But most of all, I need to work on my form.

I reviewed all of the pics I have of me squatting and deadlifting at contests, both from college and since I started competing again in 2003. A couple of things struck me. First, my deadlift stance has been very consistent, using my “modified” sumo stance, which is to say, not very wide for a sumo stance, but that seems to work well for me. This is not counting the one contest where I used a conventional stance.

However, I have been all over the place with my squat stance. In college and initially in 2003, my stance was about the same as my DL stance. But somewhere along the line, I moved it in considerably, then back out, then in again for my most recent contest. All of that changing has probably seriously hindered my squat.

I think I did best with my college stance, using the same stance as for DLs. Also, looking at that college squat pic, I probably had the best form. I was sitting back and not leaning forward very much. But in all of my pics since 2003, I am leaning forward too much. That very possibly is causing my depth problem and is something else I really need to work on.

I’ll be doing front squats as one of my assistance exercise as they are the ideal exercise for forcing you to keep an upright back. I normally do them with a close stance, but with my form problems, I think it will be best this time to use the same foot stance as I am planning on using for power squats.

On another point, my third squat attempt at the contest felt really heavy as I was walking it out and getting set. I think that psyched me out and caused me to not sink it enough. As such, even with lifting unequipped, I think I still need to do top end/ overload work, so I’ll be doing reverse band and partial squats. But I will also do my specialty “low squats” to work on the bottom end of the lift. The front squats will do that as well.

Bench Plans

Normally, I count my reps at the completion of each rep (“1, 2, 3 …”). But for all of my benching moves from now on I will instead use a long count for each rep while pausing at my chest (“1001, 1002, 1003 …"). This will force me to pause each and every rep for a full second. That is about how long I had to hold the bar waiting for the “Press” command at my recent contest. I’m using this plan as I will most likely be competing unequipped from now on, wearing just a belt and wrist wraps. As such, it is vital to practice pausing and to work on my push off of the chest.

I will also do the “3 count pause benches” I mention about in my book, along with a new exercise I just came across, “dead stop benches” to work on the drive off of the chest. I’ll explain more about these exercises in my workout logs.

I will also do close grip benches for triceps/ top end work and chain benches for top end/ overload work.

Deadlifts Plans

Since deadlifts went very well at my recent contest, I will use a “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it approach” to them. I’ll keep the same form I used at the contest and keep doing the same type of assistance work I’ve been doing.

Injury Updates

My left pec is feeling fine now, so I moved my bench grip out slightly, about ” on each side. Hopefully, that will also give me a little more drive off of the chest.

My left elbow had been bothering some me for the last few weeks. I had a doctor’s appointment last Friday (6/19), so I had my doctor look at it. He didn’t think it was anything to be too concerned about. He just recommended icing it when it bothered me, which I had already been doing. The best way I know of to rehab it is to do light triceps and biceps work, so I will be doing that on bench assistance day.

However, when I was at the doctor I didn’t think of having him look at another problem as it wasn’t bothering me at the time, but it could prove to be more of a problem. See my post Ganglion Cyst for details.

Adding Deload Week

I felt a little beat up after my first three week rotation, so I decided to switch to four-week rotations by adding a deload week the first week. For that week, I will do speed work. I’ve done this before, and I have found that it works nicely for deloading.

I will do speed squat, benches, and deadlifts, respectively, for those workout days, along with speed rows on bench day. On bench assistance day I will do speed (“clap”) push-ups and speed lat pulldowns.

In addition, I will move my arms and calves work to the deload week. Such isolation exercises for such minor muscles are not too demanding, so I should still be deloading even with doing so. I won’t do my normal cardio as I figure the speed work suffices for that. But I will stretch at the end of these workouts.

In fact, I think I will only stretch during the deload week but not bother with it for the other three weeks. I’ve been stretching regularly since my hamstring injury last October, and I feel like I am as flexible as I am going to get. As such, I have found that just stretching one week a month is sufficient to maintain flexibility, especially since I tend to rush through my stretches when I do them after a heavy workout, but I spend more time on them after a light workout.

I will also do some ab work on deload squat and deadlifts days as I do on my regular squat and deadlift days, but I will do exercises that are more “speed” oriented and for which weight is not added, meaning the only way to add resistance is by doing more reps.

When I did these deload/ speed workouts before they only took about 40 minutes. But with adding the arms and calves work and concentrating more on stretching, they will probably take about an hour. But by moving the arms, calves, and stretching to just this week, then the rest of my workouts should be shorter. Hopefully, this all will keep me from getting overtrained. In fact, I am hoping I will not need to take an “extra” day off once a month as I have been doing. But I will play that by ear, and take a day off if I feel I need it.

I am also changing my reps plans. I was going to do slightly higher reps the first half of the routine then drop to lower reps the second half. But with less heavy workouts, I will switch to lower reps with my next heavy workouts. I will also be adding a set or two to my main exercises, but my workouts should still be shorter.

Adding the deload week will change my rotations and weeks count for my workout logs. If I don’t take a monthly day off, I should get in a full 20 rather than 19 weeks for this routine, but with four rather than three week rotations the rest of the way, I will only get in four more rotations for a total of five rotations. The last week of Rotation V will be Week 19. I am not sure what I will do for Week 20. I will figure that out in November.

For my first set of workouts, see Full Workout Logs: Starting 6/21/09: Four Week Rotations: Rotations I-II of V.

Deload Follow-up

Adding the deload week proved to be a mistake. The deload week did not provide as much rest as simply taking an "extra" day off. Looking back over my logs, I found this was the case when I tried this before. But this time, after my second workout after what should have been a day off I injured my hamstring. If I had taken the extra day off, this injury might not have happened. Not stretching after my heavy workouts might also have contributed to the injury. Bottom line, I should have just stuck with the three week rotation. After I recover from this injury, that is probably what I will go back to.


Plans and Updates. Copyright 2009 By Gary F. Zeolla.

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