*/*/*: My Hijack Attempt of a Successful Powerlifting Template

The Bottom Line Up Front:

  • Some of the more famous, and even effective, powerlifting templates may be sparse on volume for some lifters
  • Some minor tweaks and adjustments can yield a big bump in volume without having to reinvent the wheel

The basic concept of a 4 day split, centered around the “big four” lifts (squat, deadlift, bench press, military press) has become a staple of many powerlifting centric routines. Especially for novice to intermediate lifters, many of these programs have stood the test of time due to their simplicity and effectiveness.

During the evolution of these programs, various off-shoot templates come to fruition, but they still stay true to their fundamental basics. Because, as the creator of one prominent program would suggest, “don’t change the way I wrote the program, and then say it didnt work because you didn’t actually do the program the way I wrote it (paraphrased).” However, the program in question, made by this famous coach, is often critiqued for a lack of training volume.

Many lifters suggest that the program, as it is written, is very minimalist and flirting with the borderline of minimum effective volume. Supporters of this program also retort that “effective working volume is made up for with quality assistance work.” The true answer, is that effective volume is a personal bench mark. People adapt and respond to stimulus differently. I have personally achieved great success with programs of this nature, but I am here in the name of science!

But let’s analyze the training volume of a program like this.

Main lift:

  • Set 1 – 5 reps @ 58.5%
  • Set 2 – 5 reps @ 67.5%
  • Set 3 – 10 reps (5 reps per the program + 5 bonus reps) @ 76.5%
  • Total of 20 reps over 3 sets, at an average of 69.75% of max effort

Assistance exercise 1 – a variation of your main lift:

  • Sets 1-5 – 10 reps @ 60%
  • Total of 50 reps over 5 sets at an average of 60% of max effort

Your work load for the week:

  • 8 sets of the main lift or variation of the main lift
  • 70 total reps at an average of 62.8% of max effort

By most measures, the work performed in this week would be considered “effective volume,” in that you are averaging over 8 reps per set, you are over 60% of max effort. But have you hit the threshold of minimum effective volume? While the true answer is of a personal nature, odds are that you haven’t. 8 working sets during the week is going to be a little on the sparse side for many lifters. So what is the solution? This is where I hijack things and make it my own.

Hands Up, Nobody Move

My fix for this is simple. I am going to ditch the bonus reps on the final set of my main movement. And instead, I am going to replace it with bonus sets. Instead of gassing myself with one epic set, I will ration out my heavier work. In the end, I will perform more reps (and more sets) at a higher percentage of my maximal effort than I would if I burned out in one single set. I will accomplish this by sticking with the rep and percentage guidelines of any given week, and performing as many bonus sets as I can, until I fail to hit the minimum rep number for the set.

It will look like this:

Main lift:

  • Set 1 – 5 reps @ 58.5%
  • Set 2 – 5 reps @ 67.5%
  • Set 3 – 5 reps @ 76.5%
  • Set 4 – 5 reps @ 76.5%
  • Set 5 – 5 reps @ 76.5%
  • Set 6 – 3 reps @ 76.5%
  • Total of 28 reps over 3 sets, at an average of 71.67% of max effort

Assistance exercise 1 – a variation of your main lift:

  • Sets 1-5 – 10 reps @ 60%
  • Total of 50 reps over 5 sets at an average of 60% of max effort

Your work load for the week:

  • 11 sets of the main lift or variation of the main lift
  • 78 total reps at an average of 64.2% of max effort

To Ease The Pounding in My Head…

I personally prefer to keep the pain and discomfort confined to the gym, and doing math that doesn’t involve counting by 45s and 25s is painful. But I make these sacrifices to demonstrate how a simple tweak can make a significant change in the amount of work performed. If you are one of the many folks who admire the simplicity of certain programs, but find yourself seeking other areas to achieve your minimum effective volume, then consider this approach.

You are one small tweak away from being able to keep the beautiful simplicity of a basic 4 day split, and still accumulating an effective amount of training volume.

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