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Competition Training

An excellent training routine for competitive powerlifting

 Day 1

Bench Press.

Start off with a couple of warm up sets.  One set at about half of your training weight and one at about three-quarters.  Do about five or six reps on each one. This is just to get your muscles warm and your mind set on the movement.  Then pick a weight that you can just manage 4 reps on. This should be quite close to your one rep max. Now try to get three sets of at least three reps on this weight. You will find that the first set is quite easy, so attempt as many reps as you can. Don’t just stop when you get to three reps. If you manage to get all three sets of at least three reps then make sure you increase the weight for the next workout. Put it up by the smallest increment that you can. If you need a really small increment use the Eleiko 0.5kg and 0.25kg plates from reception. Don’t be surprised if you can’t make increases each workout. It doesn’t work like that. Just make them where you can and try not to let the weights slip back on the ‘bad’ days.


Just like the bench press, start with some warm ups. You really do need to do this on the deadlift. Apart from the physical warm up you need to really get your mind in gear to lift the heavy weights. As they say ‘you won’t lift the weight unless you pull hard enough’. So at least two or even three warm up sets. Progressing from very light to about 80% of your training weight. Don’t work too hard on these, don’t do too many reps. Just enough to get focused on the weight. You don’t want to exhaust yourself.  Next are the training sets. As with the bench press, use a weight that you can just manage 4 reps. You will be surprised at how close this weight will be to you one rep max. It seems that if you can pull one rep off the ground in a deadlift then you can probably get two or three reps. So, don’t underestimate the weight. You can either do the reps as one continual movement, just touching the ground between reps and lifting straight back up or you can do them as individual single reps, with a slight pause and relaxing the muscles between them. This is much harder to do, as you have to shift a dead weight each time, but is much more like a competition deadlift. The choice is yours. (Are you here to work hard or look good!!)


Day 2

Military Press

Do it standing with a free bar. It’s in the program to help with your bench press and to strengthen the muscles that hold your shoulder joints together, so we try to keep it as natural as possible. It might be worth while using a belt on the heavier weights. Don’t do too much for warm ups as the shoulder muscles are all quite small and can exhaust quickly. One or two slow sets of a medium weight should be sufficient.  Make sure you are using a power rack or a safety squat rack to take the bar from and as a safety measure because as the shoulders get tired it is easy to lose control of the bar. You can push it a little bit further if you feel safe. Again like the previous exercises the working sets are three sets of three reps on a weight that you are only just capable of achieving. If you make all three sets you have to go up in weight for the next workout. If you do get all three sets of three it is sometimes a good idea to do a fourth set with your proposed weight for the next workout, just to see what you can get. If you make another set of three, great, you might want to go up a little further next time. But if you don’t make it, never mind you are exhausted after all! Try that weight next time anyway.

Seated dumbbell press

Obviously similar muscles being used as the military press, but being seated you are isolating the shoulders much more. There is little opportunity of other larger stronger muscles to assist. One warm up, you should be physically ready by now. It’s more a case of rehearsing the movement. Don’t use anything too heavy to warm up with and don’t do too many reps. Then, three sets of three again. Be careful on the last few reps as you can drop the dumbbells on your head when you are tired. Not a good idea.

 Day 3

Rest day

You should need one by now

 Day 4


Like the deadlift this takes some building up to. So, three sets of warm ups. From very light to 80% of your training weight. Make sure you are getting sufficient depth on all of your reps. It’s not good to get into bad habits. And again three heavy sets of three reps. Whenever you are going heavy on squats its worthwhile using either the squat rack with a spotter or if you don’t have a spotter then use the power rack. If you feel safe you will go for that last rep, and it’s the last rep that does the good. Use a belt on the warm ups if you want to, but it can be worthwhile using these to help strengthen your back. It’s probably a good idea to use a belt on the heavy sets and knee wraps if you have to. As you come up to a competition it’s definitely a good idea to get used to knee wraps as they give you a different feeling about how deep you are going. When you are squatting the weight of your body should be evenly distributed over the whole of your feet. If you feel that you are lifting your heels or rolling onto the insides of your feet then try adjusting the angle of your feet or the distance that they are apart until they weight feels better. It’s never worth squatting with a block under your heels. Everyone have a foot position that is right for them, it’s just a matter of finding it. (how to make your squats look massive!!)

 Bench Press

Same as before, but don’t be surprised if you can bench press just a little more on the day that you have done squatting. At first glance this doesn’t make sense as you should be more tired, but it’s probably to do with being more warmed up or more focused or having more adrenaline going around. Who knows, but just go with it and don’t be surprised if you are back to normal next week.


Day 5

Narrow Bench Press

Either using a smith machine for stability or make sure you have a spotter. Narrow presses are difficult to control when you are pushing the limit. One or two warm ups, not too much as the muscles you are using will be quite tired from yesterday. Make sure that your chest and shoulders are stretched, so nice and slow. Again, three sets of three reps and when you can achieve this automatically go up.

Tricep pushdown.

Two warm ups at about half of your training weight. Then three sets of three reps again. Keep it strict. Maybe try doing these with you back touching the upright of the machine so that you don’t swing your body or lean too far into the movement. Don’t snatch at it. Make sure that it’s your triceps that are doing the work.

 Day 6

Z-Bar curl

Two warm ups with a lightish weight and three sets of three reps as before. When you are extending don’t lock out completely. Try to keep the reps strict and don’t swing your body.

Dumbbell curl

Again don’t lock your elbows out completely. This can either be done standing with alternate arms curling or over a preacher bench doing one arm to failure at a time. If you are doing one arm at a time pick your stronger arm first and try to match the reps with your weaker one. You might just make it. One warm up on a medium weight and again three sets of three should do the trick

 Day 7

Rest Day

 Other exercises that could be useful to drop into the workout are: partial movements of the three lifts, on the squat walk outs with extra heavy weights and slight dips. On the bench press, set a power rack up so the bar cannot come all the way down and do some presses from the bottom up. On the deadlift, partial pull from a rack.

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