The 10-Week Powerlifting Program for Dense, Functional Muscle

The 10-Week Powerlifting Program for Dense, Functional Muscle
Per Bernal

When bodybuilders hit the stage, they are competing in a
subjective judging environment where opinions on victors are seldom
universal. But in the world of
powerlifting
—where the competition is simply a function of
athlete versus iron—objectivity reigns supreme. Either the
athlete has developed the physical constitution and proficiency to
complete the lift or he has not.

Success in either discipline requires specialization. But when
was the last time you invested an entire training cycle to simply
increasing limit strength on the bench, squat, and deadlift? And
what can you do with all that extra strength—not to mention
muscular density and durability—at the end of that type of
program? Anything you want, that’s what.

Powerlifting 101

Powerlifters have a very narrow competitive focus—bench,
squat, and deadlift—and, as a result, their programming is
generally free of angled, pump-focused accessory work that you see
in physique-focused plans. The principle of specific adaptations to
imposed demands (SAID) requires that improvements are dictated by
programming. And it is in the specificity of training for extreme
gains in three particular lifts that full-body strength begins to
thrive.

“Powerlifters know you get stronger when you get bigger and
you get bigger when
you eat more and rest more,” says IFBB pro bodybuilder Stan
Efferding
, who has moonlighted as a competitive powerlifter and
posted an 800-pound deadlift. “They exert themselves only when
they’re lifting heavy weights and avoid wasting energy
elsewhere.”

While muscle breakdown and repair is the name of the game for
aesthetics-first lifting, powerlifters champion recovery and
progression above all else—because they have to. Powerlifters are
taking the slow lane to Strength City because there is no need to
keep the heart rate elevated to maximize fat burning, nor is there
a need to pack in high amounts of volume each week.

“Powerlifters simply get under heavier and heavier weights,
week after week, month after month, year after year,” Efferding
says. While bodybuilders focus on getting as big and lean as
possible, those gains are competitively subjective. Powerlifters
live and die by pound (or kilogram) totals, making each week’s
training goals more quantifiable.

While it is not uncommon for lifters from all walks to add
weight to the bar, powerlifters exercise careful strategies to
exact specific strength responses within the low-volume (five reps
or fewer), high-intensity (90% of your one-rep max) construct of
their sport. And all that intensity drastically changes another
workout variable: rest.

“For strength, I would rest a minimum of five minutes when I
was going my heaviest,” Efferding says. “Powerlifters typically
don’t lift over five reps in a given set. You don’t want a pump
when powerlifting—you want maximum recovery in order to produce a
maximum effort on each rep of each set.”

Novice or intermediate lifters hoisting sub-800-pound loads can
aim for three to five minutes between sets and exercises.

Keep reading for the split and weights you’ll be going for
throughout the program.

THE SUPERSTRENGTH SPLIT

Two heavy days plus lots of rest allow for powerlifter-type
poundages.

 Day Activity 
  1  Bench
  2   Rest 
  3   Mobility Work 
  4   Rest 
  5   Rest 
  6   Squat or Deadlift 
  7   Rest 

*Efferding does not advocate performing the squat and deadlift
in the same week, which can hamper recovery and lead to
overtraining.

MUSCLE MATH

No need to load up the bar to
 find out where your starting
strength is. Use this calculation to determine your weight loads
for the next 10 weeks.

Thanks to researchers from the University of New Mexico,
Albuquerque, you can determine your max on the squat and deadlift
with relative accuracy without using a risky, bro-max approach. If
you know your 5RM (to failure), you just need to math out:

(5RM weight x 1.09703) +14.2546

So if you can handle 225 for five reps on the deadlift, you
would find your 1RM like this:

(225 X 1.09703) + 14.2546 = 261 pounds

You would then use 261 pounds as your anchor point for the
percentages listed. Don’t want to bother with the math? Try one of
many online calculators, such as those found at exrx.net.

THE WEIGHTS

 Week Sets/Reps  %1RM 
  1  5 x 5    80%
   4 x 4     70%
   3 x 3    80%
  4   4 x 4  

  50% (deload week)

  5   5 x 5    70%
   4 x 4    80% 
   3 x 3    90%  
   3 x 3    50% 
  9   3 x 3    80% 
 10   2 x 2    90% 

Competitors would use Week 11 for rest and Week 12 for
competition, Efferding says.

Each week, the loads become heavier but total volume goes down
in order to account for central nervous system fatigue. You will
not feel the same type of muscular soreness in between workouts as
you might from a high-volume, hypertrophy-driven program. “You
are training your body to move more weight—period,” Efferding
says. “This isn’t about a pump.” But the truth remains: A
stronger muscle is generally a bigger muscle.

And if getting bigger is your main concern, you’re 10 weeks
away from significantly higher starting weights for your next,
higher-volume, physique-first program.

PLATEAU WOES

Can’t quite manage your target number of reps? No worries. Use
these tips to continue making gains.

Use a spotter.

The use of a judicious, like-minded spotter is one of the best
tools you can have in the gym, especially when you’re handling
heavier-than-usual weight loads. On lifts that allow it (e.g., the
deadlift does not), have your spotter aid you through each set as
needed.

Be less exact.

If you can’t complete a lift with the target weight load,
reduce the weight on the next set. Remember, the percentages listed
are only targets—if you end up completing a set at 65% 1RM
instead of 70%, don’t beat yourself up. Simply note it in your
training log and aim higher on your next sesh.

POWERLIFTING WISDOM

Efferding offers the following quick tips for maximizing results
over the next 10 weeks.

Recovery is paramount.

“Sleeping and eating are where all the growth and repair
occur. I get at least eight quality hours of sleep nightly. Use a
dark, quiet room and keep the temp under 70 degrees.”

Go vertical.

“For nutrition, I use the ‘vertical diet,’ with these top
priorities: red meat for proteins, salt all my meals, potatoes and
spinach daily for potassium and magnesium, egg yolks daily, Greek
yogurt, bone broth, and vitamin D3 daily, white rice to drive carbs
as needed.”

Boost your T.

“You should consider adding a testosterone booster into your
supp regimen. It can aid in strength production by increasing free
testosterone while suppressing estrogen, resulting in higher
aggression and greater anabolism. Look for a product that contains
scientifically backed, herbal T boosters such as fenugreek seed
extract and ashwagandha root extract.”

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Source: FS – All – Fitness – News
The 10-Week Powerlifting Program for Dense, Functional Muscle