This article will be an introduction of my workout plans, as well as my understanding on powerlifting and weightlifting. First I will list my plans:
|Day 1||, Powerlifting: Squats + Abs + Swimming|
|Day 2||, Powerlifting: Deadlifts + Abs|
|Day 3||, Weightlifting: Snatch + Squats|
|Day 4||, Weightlifting: Clean & Jerk + Squats + Abs + Swimming|
|Day 5||, Powerlifting: Deadlifts + Abs|
|Day 6||, Weightlifting: Snatch (Bench press every other week) + Squats|
Next, I will go through each item and explain them individually.
According to research reports in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, over-stretching before training will impair the performance, especially the explosive force, since muscle groups and tendons are stimulated by an extent that regular training cannot reach. I typically avoid static stretching and keep the warm up time below 10 minutes. Generally, rope-jump, rowing, and mid-intensity leg movements are good warm up exercises. Starting from an empty bar, I perform 5-8 sets of hip clean, power snatch, and pause squat. Overhead squat, isolated jerk, and press are also extremely useful.
It is amazing how helpful squat is in various kinds of sports. There are tons of variations inside the category itself, but for general purpose, I only perform Olympic squat--that is, high bar, full squat. As shown in the form, there are 4 squat days in a 6-day series. Front and back squat are performed in turns. Since I only perform Olympic squat, the main difference between powerlifting and weightlifting squat to me is more about the training method than about style. Good powerlifters can easily squat 500lbs, and the world record is even above 1,100lbs. However you can also see Olympic weightlifters performing incredibly high weight squat as well: Lü Xiaojun can do back squat of 4 times body weight, while most of them can easily squat 3 times body weight. As for powerlifters, the pursuit of the absolute 1RM determines that heavier body weight is more advantageous. The focus is on the absolute mass, instead of efficiency (clean/squat, etc). The powerlifting squat is slow and strenuous, with techniques and tricks to increase the weight as high as possible. Weightlifting squat, on the other hand, is more explosive. Weightlifters sit right to their bottoms, pause a little, and stand up again. This depth requires enormous support from the quads. Most importantly, heavy squat is the goal for powerlifters, while being the byproduct for weightlifters.
On a weightlifting day, I perform squat after snatch/clean session. This means my body is typically exhausted at the moment, so the plan is 5 reps x 5 sets of back or front squat on 75% 1RM weight, sometimes with even fewer reps. Powerlifting squat day helps me to concentrate on one exercise so that I can adapt training plans that focus only on squat. Total sets would be 10 - 12, with doubles and singles towards the end, aiming for the maximum.
Another exercise that is commonly practiced in both powerlifting and weightlifting, although with some difference, is deadlift. The most noticeable difference is the setup and the first pull: Olympic deadlift starts with a "sit down" position, while regular deadlift starts with a "bow" position, back a little bit more parallel to the ground; during the first pull, Olympic lifters lock their back angle all the way before the bar passes their knees. Of course, there are also variations inside the powerlifting deadlift category, mainly on the position of knees and legs (straight, bent, sumo, etc) and the lift-up motion (Romanian, American), involving different training focus (hamstring, glutes, etc). The less apparent visual difference between Olympic deadlift and powerlifting deadlift is the horizontal position of the bar. Adjusting the bar to be more close to toes makes the lift easier, but clean lock-out harder; more close to heels does the opposite. Another subtle difference from my perspective is the exertion of force. Weightlifting focus more on concentric movements, with very little or no eccentric movements (the drop of the bar from an overhead position). This specialty makes muscle recovery much faster than that of powerlifting, which allows frequent training to improve weight performance as well as techniques (the weightlifting exercises that requires accurate muscle control and flexibility, especially snatch, needs intensive repetition to reach perfection). My own experience shows that I am now more tending to drop the weights after a deadlift, in contrary to my previous gentle put down. This is a reflection of the difference.
My training on deadlift, although namely on "powerlifting" days, is quite "weightlifting" in style. Additionally, I would perform some variations such as straight leg deadlift on weightlifting days to exercise hamstrings (not explosive on this one!). There are also snatch grip pulls on most of the snatch days. A typical training routine on deadlift is divided by maximum clean weight (with a full squat, node A) and maximum pull weight (clean grip, node B) into three parts. Before node A (this is about 60% DL max), 2 consecutive squat cleans, 5 regular deadlifts with 1 extra clean pull (shrug). Between node A and B, 2 regular deadlifts and 2 clean pulls. After node B (about 75% DL max), starting from 3 regular deadlifts, decrease the reps to 2 (90% max), and finally, singles. This a combined schedule with clean.
I usually switch between squat clean and power clean. As shown in the previous article, the five dimensions are the key to clean & jerk training. I typically perform 6 sets, from below 50% max up to 95% max. Each set can be performed with reps (2 - 5 in total, based on weight), or a grouped exercise with different starting positions: ground, below the knee, above the knee (3 in total). Clean sets are followed by 5 sets of clean pulls, 5 sets of front squat, and 5 sets of press/jerk.
For the snatch, I also switch between the power (straight legs) and squat styles (the Olympic snatch lift). This is also performed by 6 sets, with reps same as described above. Snatch sets are followed by 5 sets of snatch pull, 5 sets of back squat, and 5 sets of overhead squat. The overhead squat can be followed by snatch grip back press (legs straight the whole time, on tiptoe when pressing).
Bench press has always been my weakest part in powerlifting. My bench press 1RM is only 63% of my deadlift 1RM. The main reason is infrequent practice. I believe frequent chest exercise will make my upper body disproportionate comparing to my legs, since it is already quite big. In addition huge pecs do not help weightlifting at all, instead, it might affect the force exertion during snatch. I used to be a fan of upper body day, but now it becomes my least favorite. My chest also takes a long time to fully recover, more than three days. In my opinion, for weightlifting and shaping purpose, chest dip is a much better exercise. One last thing to note about bench press: forming an arc on the bench really helps a lot, as well as using the proper grip. More info in this video: Tytanium Technique - Bench Grip
The post workout recovery is definitely the most important session in the whole training process. It is said that you need the same amount of time for relaxing as that for exercising. Stretch and rolls are necessary. Sometimes I use elastic ropes for the hamstring stretch. It is the best to have a partner that can stamp on or massage your exhausted muscle groups. For some of the extremely intensive powerlifting squat sessions, I would resort to ice bath. A 5 - 10 minutes bath in 40 - 50F water (only for legs) is extremely helpful to reduce the soreness of the next day. As for supplements, I take 5 grams of creatine before training, whey protein mixed with juice (to keep glucose level) during training, and casein before bed.
Listed above are my regular training plans. There are lots of daily activities other than weightlifting that influence these plans, but it is crucial to find my own point of balance. Sleep deprivation is also another pain-in-the-neck issue. There are also peaks and troughs of my performance. Well, as I have survived the busiest sophomore year with at least 2 workouts per week, hope I can stick to my plans in the same fashion in overcoming future challenges. Some really helpful links: