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Training Routine Format:

Basic Cycle

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 seen below, the Training Routine with Off and In-Season Training, and the Alternating Weeks. 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.


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.

Basic Cycle for the Powerlifts:
Phase I:   3-5 Weeks:   2 x 5-6
Phase II:  3-5 Weeks:   2 x 3-4
Phase III:  2-4 Weeks:  2 x 1-2
Contest or Practice Contest: 3 x 1

The total number of weeks is 8-14. Of course, the exact number of weeks should be adjusted to coincide with a contest. After the contest, take about a week off then restart cycle. But for the new cycle, all the 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 there is a long time period until a contest then it would be better to use two shorter cycles than one long one . In that case, a practice contest should performed at the end of the first cycle to gauge where one is at and for practice at doing singles and picking attempts. Then an 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 all weights dropped, then gradually build back up again. Rather than repeating this routine, for variety, another option would be use either the Alternating Weeks or Off-/ In-Season routines.

It would be possible to lengthen this cycle by having two "Phase II" parts. In that case, different gear would be used, less or not as good gear for the first and more or better gear for the second.

I have found that two work sets works best for all exercises. So I will be using that pattern throughout, except for of course, doing three singles at a contest or for the practice contest.

Phase I: Completely raw.

Phase II (partial gear):
Squats: belt, wrist wraps, 2.0 meter knee wraps, [briefs].
Benches: belt, wrist wraps, looser fitting or single-ply shirt.
Deadlifts: belt, wrist and knee wraps, [briefs].

Phases III and at Contest or Practice Contest (full gear):
Squats: belt, wrist wraps, 2.5 meter knee wraps, [briefs,] suit.
Benches: belt, wrist wraps, tighter or double-ply shirt.
Deadlifts: belt, wrist and knee wraps, [briefs,] suit.

Sets and Reps for other Exercises:
For major assistance work:
Phase I:   3-5 Weeks:   2 x 5-6
Phase II:  3-5 Weeks:   2 x 3-4
Phase III:  2-4 Weeks:  2 x 2-3
Practice Contest Week: skip major assistance.

Speed work: 2 x 5-6
Minor exercises: 2 x 6-12

The powerlifts are done every week, followed by one major assistance exercise.  But a two-week rotation is being used for the assistance work, with a different of set of a assistance exercises for each week. Week One major assistance exercises are mainly for lower-end work while Week Two exercises are for upper-end work. Assistance exercises will be changed with each new cycle.


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.
  Speed Bench with bands or chains (3-4 x 3-5).
2)  Presses (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).

Day Two:
1)  Squats:
2)  Week One: One of: Low Squats, Sting Ray (Front) Squats, Manta Ray (High Bar) Squats, Box Squats, Pause Squats.
      Week Two:  One of: Bench Squats,  Partial Squats, Chain Squats, Band Squats, Reverse Band Squats.
  Speed Work: Jump Squats or Speed Squats with reverse bands or chains.
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, Janda Sit-ups. 

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

Day Four:
1)  Deadlifts
2)  Week One: One of: Platform DLs, SLDLs, Good Mornings and Shrugs.
      Week Two: One of: Rack Pulls, Chain Deadlifts, Band Deadlifts, Reverse Band Deadlifts.
3)  Speed Work: Jump Deadlifts or Speed Deadlifts with reverse bands or chains.
4)  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, Janda 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 60-90 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.

4-5 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: Basic Cycle. Copyright 2007 By Gary F. Zeolla.

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The above article was posted on this site March 10, 2007.
It was last updated May 20, 2007.

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