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Training Routine Format:

Alternating Weeks

by Gary F. Zeolla

After much experimentation, I have found that the type of routine that works best for me is one which in some way incorporates higher (5-6) reps done completely raw (not even a belt) with lower (1-4) reps done using whatever gear I will be using at my next contest. If I do only lower reps, I get "burned-out" very quickly, but of course lower reps need to be done to prepare for the body to handle heavy weights and to practice doing the singles that are done at a contest. While the higher reps done raw build muscular endurance along with strength in areas supported by the gear.

The three ways I have found of incorporating lower and higher reps into a training routine is the Basic Cycle, the Training Routine with Off and In-Season Training, and the Alternating Weeks routine seen below. All three are effective, so I will be using one of these three routines from now on. But I have found it best to go back and forth between them for the variety. For the first one, you need to know for sure when your next contest will be, while the other two allow more flexibility.

For all three routines, I am lifting three times a week (usually M, W, F), alternating through four different workouts, so a training "week" lasts 9-10 days.


The format for this routine is rather simple. Week One (odd-numbered weeks) I do higher reps on the powerlifts. Week Two (even-numbered weeks) I do lower reps. Specifically, Week One is 2 sets x 4-6 reps, while Week Two is also two sets, but the first set is for 3-4 reps, then the weights are increased for the second set of 1-2 reps. So it would be written as 2 x 3-4, 1-2.

Another option is to cycle the reps down over a period of weeks. So do 2 x 5-6 for the raw work the first half of the cycle, then do 2 x 3-4 for the second half. For the geared work, start with 2 x 3-4 reps, then 2 x 1-2 reps.

The powerlifts are followed up by one major assistance exercise. Week One are exercises that focus on the top end of the lift. Usually, this will usually be the powerlifts done with chains or bands. Week Two exercises focus on the bottom end or help the whole lift in general. All assistance work is done completely raw.

For the major assistance work, sets and reps are the same as for the raw powerlifts: 2 x 5-6, 3-4 or cycling, doing 2 x 5-6 then 2 x 3-4.

Another option is to do four sets on the geared powerlifts, going 4 x 4,3,2,1. In this case, no major assistance exercise is done afterwards. So either way, a total of four work sets are done (two on the powerlifts plus two on a major assistance or four sets on the powerlifts with no major assistance).

This routine is best followed for 8-12 weeks. This way, each workout is done 4-6 times. Ideally, a contest should be entered at the end of the cycle. After the contest, take about a week off, then restart the routine. But all assistance exercises should be changed. Also, the weights on the powerlifts should be dropped and the assistance exercise weights such that the first couple of weeks the workouts are relatively easy. This way, the body has a chance to "deload." Then the weights should be gradually increased after that.

If a contest is not entered at the end of the 8-12 weeks, then a "practice contest" can be done for each lift by doing three singles, just like at a contest. Major assistance exercises should be skipped. Then an extra day or two up to a week should still be taken off. Then for the next routine, again, the assistance exercises should be changed and the weights on the powerlifts dropped, then gradually build back up again.

Rather than repeating this routine, for variety, another option would be use either the Basic Cycle or the Off-/In-Season routine.

Basic Workouts:
Day One: Bench Assistance, Upper Back, Forearms.
Day Two: Squat, Abs/ Obliques.
Day Three: Bench, Upper Back, Biceps.
Day Four: Deadlift, Abs/ Obliques.

Sets and Reps for other Exercises:
For speed work: 2 x 3-5 or 2 x 5-6 for the first half and 3 x 3-4 for the second half of each routine (except as noted). Or 2-3 minutes for step/ jump-ups, heavy bag, jump rope.
Minor exercises: 2 x 6-12, depending on the exercise.


Day One:
1)  One of: Decline Bench, DB Decline Bench, Dips.
2)  One of: Overhead Press, DB Overhead Press, Incline Bench, DB Incline Bench.
1)  Overhead Press or Incline Bench.
2)  DB Incline Bench Bench or DB Overhead Press.
1)  Speed Bench with bands or chains (3-4 x 3-5).
2)  Overhead Press (BB or DB).

3)  Rows (One of: DB: underhand, elbows in, elbows out; BB: medium grip, close grip; Curl Bar).
4)  Reverse Curls (One of: BB, DB, Curl Bar).
5)  Rotator Cuff (One of: in & out, up & down, sitting, up)

Day Two:
1)  Squats (Week One: Raw/ Week Two: Full Gear).
2)  Week One: One of: Bench Squats,  Partial Squats, Chain Squats, Band Squats, Reverse Band Squats.
      [Week Two: One of: Low Squats, Sting Ray (Front) Squats, Manta Ray (High Bar) Squats, Box Squats, Pause Squats, Wide Stance Squats.]
  Speed Work:
      Week One: Speed Squats with bands, reverse bands, or chains.
      Week Two: Jump Squats or Step-ups or Jump-ups on squat box..
4)  Twisting abs: One of: Bicycle Abs or twisting versions of lower abs: Reverse Crunches, Dip Bar Reverse Crunches, Cable Crunches, Leg Raises, Dip Bar Leg Raises, One-Leg Dip Bar Leg Raises or twisting versions of upper abs: Crunches, Decline Crunches, Sit-ups, Decline Sit-ups.

Day Three:
1)  Benches  (Week One: Raw/ Week Two: Full Gear).
2)  Week One: One of: Rack Benches, Board Benches, Chain Benches, Band Benches, Reverse Band Benches.
      [Week Two: One of: Close Grip Benches, Reverse Grip Benches, DB Benches, 3 Second Pause Benches, Wide Grip Benches, (Incline Bench, DB Incline Bench, Decline Bench, DB Decline Bench, Dips, if not done for Day One).]
3)  Speed Work (unless on Day One):
      Week One: Speed Benches with bands, reverse bands, or chains.
      Week Two: Clap or "Rocky" Pushups or Heavy Bag.
4)  Lat. Pulldowns (One of: wide grip, medium grip, underhand grip, V handle grip).
5)  Curls (One of: Curl Bar, DB, Hammer) or Wrist Rotations.

Day Four:
1)  Deadlifts (Week One: Raw/ Week Two: Full Gear).
2)  Week One: One of: Rack Pulls, Chain Deadlifts, Band Deadlifts, Reverse Band Deadlifts.
      [Week Two: One of: Platform DLs, SLDLs, Good Mornings and Shrugs.]
3)  Speed Work:
      Week One: Speed Deadlifts with bands, reverse bands, or chains.
      Week Two: Jump Deadlifts or Jump Rope.
[3)   Calves (BB or DB)]
  Abs: One of: Crunch/ Reverse Crunch Combo or lower abs: Reverse Crunches, Dip Bar Reverse Crunches, Leg Raises, Dip Bar Leg Raises, Dip Bar Leg Raises with Scissors, or upper abs: Crunches, Decline Crunches, Cable Crunches, Sit-ups, Decline Sit-ups (Between Day One and Three, be sure at least one exercise works upper abs and one lower abs).

General Details

Workout Length:
Total workout time includes set-up, warm-up, lifting, stretching, and clean-up.
Total workout time should be about 90 minutes.

Stretching and Cardio:
After lifting, ~10 minutes of stretching.
Walk on three off days for 30 minutes at a moderate pace (~3.5 mph).

Rest periods between work sets:
Powerlifts and major assistance: 3-6 minutes.
Speed Work: 30-60 seconds.
Remaining exercises: 1-3 minutes.
Warm-up sets: about half of above times.

Four warm-up sets for first exercise: 15, 10, 6, 3, [1] reps.
First set with just the bar. Last set with ~10% less than first work set. Rest of sets spaced evenly in-between first and last sets.
Two warm-up sets for remaining major assistance exercises (8,4 or 6,3); one set for minor assistance exercises.

Training Routine Format: Alternating Weeks. Copyright 2007 by Gary F. Zeolla.

The above article was posted on this site May 18, 2007.
It was last updated September 2, 2007.

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