Six Months of Powerlifting

Since my last post back in June, I have been steadily eating at a surplus while focusing my training on powerlifting. During this period I have run three different programmes:

Metallicapda’s PPL

While I was cutting I was running a full body calisthenics-focused programme three-to-four days a week, but I had been wanting to try a split programme which would allow me to train with more frequency throughout the week. The idea that was stuck in my head was that more volume throughout the week would result in more progress at a faster rate, and given that I would be largely starting from scratch again with the squat, the bench press and the deadlift, this seemed like a good way to get in a lot of practice of those movements.

I ran the PPL for eight weeks, training six days per week, starting all of the compound lifts with a 20kg bar and working my way up. I am not sure I would have had the patience or would have been able to swallow my pride enough to do this had I not been working out alone with a power rack set up at home.

This programme was my first introduction to AMRAP (as many reps as possible) sets. Looking back, this is a very good way to regulate intensity for new lifters who are still getting comfortable with the big three compound movements. AMRAP sets at lower weights provide both the opportunity to practice the movements with good form and speed up the technique refinement process, and also help to get a new lifter in the habit of not continuing past form failure.

nSuns 531 Linear Progression

Towards the end of July I was feeling like I needed to put more work into the compound movements and started exploring other split programmes that I could run. I eventually settled on the five-day variation of nSuns 531LP, which I ran for twelve weeks.

The nSuns 531LP, when compared to the previous PPL, is quite spartan; the only programming provided is for the primary compound lifts and their close variations, while accessories are left to the discretion of the individual. The other big change was the sharp increase in volume; nine sets for the primary compound movements followed by eight sets of compound movement variations.

Where the PPL was my first introduction to AMRAP sets, nSuns 531LP was my first introduction to the training max as something distinct from a one-rep max (1RM), and doing sets where weights are determined as a percentage of a given TM. This meant that during a training session I would be doing sets that ranged from 65% to 95% of my TM, allowing for more exposure to weights where I could focus on refining my technique with higher reps while still working on increasing my numbers for each movement.

I added 22.5 kg to my bench press, 25 kg to my deadlift and 20 kg to my squat during my twelve weeks running this programme. The progress that I was making also meant that I started lifting past my initial TM and started increasing my hypothetical TM on a weekly basis as I continued to progress. At some point however, it started to feel like my TM and my 1RM were uncomfortably close together, to the point where every week I felt like I was testing my 1RM rather than building strength.

This came to a head when I moved to Italy for work last month and no longer had access to my own power rack at home. It was no longer practical for me to train five days a week before work, and even less so in a commercial Italian gym with very few squat racks or power racks.

GZCL Linear Progression

By this point I knew that I wanted to run a programme that integrated AMRAP sets and placed an equal amount of importance on programming for weight progression and programming for technique refinement. Additionally, I felt that the time was right to move back to a full body programme that would allow me to train four days a week with rest days in between.

I had been reading about the GZCL method and its various popular implementations since July and I had known for a while that when I transitioned from nSuns 531LP, it would most likely be to some form of GZCL programme. There are two popular full-body GZCL routines out there right now, UHF and GZCLP, both of which were outlined in the Applications and Adaptations post on Cody’s blog.

I must admit that I struggled to fully comprehend the knowledge that Cody was laying down (and from the comments I’ve read on Reddit, I am not the only one), but after coming across an excellent infographic and its accompanying post explaining GZCLP, I was convinced to continue my training with this programme.

Whereas the majority of my second-tier movements when running nSuns 531LP were variations on compound movements (sumo deadlift, front squat, close-grip bench press), with GZCLP I am, for now at least, keeping my first tier and second tier movements the same. When I am working with weights that are 95%+ of my TM my form can start to get pretty ugly, so I think that extra time spent working on refining those primary compound movements will be a good investment in time.

With every programme that I have run I have been exposed to a new element of programming for powerlifting and GZCLP is no different. GZCLP has been my first introduction to programming progressions for first tier and second tier movements independently. This is very different from the tightly coupled progression between first tier and second tier movements on nSuns 531LP, where I found myself stalling regularly with second tier front squats because the progression was directly linked to the progress that I was making on my first tier squats and deadlifts.

2018 Plans

For now I am very happy with the progress I am making on GZCLP and I can see myself running this programme into the first quarter of 2018. I plan on gradually bringing some of the variation compound movements that I was doing on nSuns 531LP back into the mix by the end of January and reassessing my choice of third tier accessories around the same time.

I would like to complete in a powerlifting meet next year, so I will soon start reading more about peaking programmes and thinking about what weight class I would like to compete in. Before that however, I will be stopping my bulk at the end of the year and dropping ~5kg in the first months of 2018 before transitioning to eating at maintenance for most of the Spring.