by Gage Reid of Nova Strength
One of the biggest criticisms of Powerlifting on social media by non-Powerlifters is technique or lift execution (IE: "exorcism arches", Sumo deadlifting, wide-stance low bar squatting, etc). Although many people simply don't understand (or choose not to understand) that Powerlifting is a sport that involves trying to lift the most amount of weight as possible and we do this through training, as well as perfecting our technique in such a way that allows us to get the most out of our personal leverages.
Having a high level of technical proficiency is crucial for successfully completely the lift at the highest degree of precision, while also remaining injury free. By practicing the competition lift you are working to improve your technical proficiency on that particular lift, so by simply executing the lift consistently and with a high degree of adherence to details. Simply going into the gym and performing a few sloppy reps on the bench press is not raising your level of technical proficiency, and as cliche as this is; "Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect." In short, every time you enter the gym you should treat it as sports practice and execute every life with the intent to lift your 1-rep-max, even if it's only sets of 8-10 @ 60%; consistency is key to progression.
Always a crowd favourite:
"Arching in the Bench Press: Please STFU" by Dr. Quinn Hennoc & Marisa Inda
The best way to get better at lifting (or any sport for that matter) is to have a plan. In Powerlifting the plan is a well thought out, systematic approach that involves many variables such as overload, Specificity, variation and many more to all culminate into a program.
Although methodologies many differ severely across the training spectrum, there's one key principle that is true for any successful program: Specificity.
Specificity is the principle that governs the success or failure of any program; too much specificity and you'll lose out on valuable adaptive responses from training variation, while too little specificity will inhibit progress on the main competition lifts due to lack of practice, loss of technical proficiency over time and lack of specific adaptation (for example, in order to get better at the competition bench press you actually have to do it at some point in your training).
So how do we figure out an effective balance of specificity in training?
By intelligently organizing your training through Phase Potentiation and selecting appropriate variations during each phase you're able to get the desired adaptations; for example, less specificity during a Hypertrophy Block, but increased specificity during a General Strength Block, then the highest level of specificity, as well as the lowest level of variation during a Peaking Block right before a meet.
To illustrate this concept I'll break down a basic example of the progression for Bench Press during a training cycle leading up to a meet using the modern Block Periodization/Phase Potentiation approach:
Block 1: Hypertrophy
Touch & Go (No Pauses) Close Grip/Wide Grip Bench Press for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps.
Block 2: General Strength
Day 1: Competition Bench Press with the last repetition of each working set paused (3-5 sets of 4-6 reps)
Day 2: Touch & Go Close Grip/Wide Grip Bench Press for 3-5 sets of 4-6 reps.
Block 3: Peak
Competition Pause Bench with commands. 2-5 sets of 1-4 reps.
Although this is a VERY general example of the progression for the Bench Press over the course of a training cycle, it gives you a look into the concept of Phase Potentiation. You take the skills and adaptations gained from one block, carry it to the next and build on it.
Disclaimer: Like I mentioned above, there are MANY different successful programs, methodologies and approaches to training. This is simply the one that I personally find most effective for both long term progression and wide range application amongst athletes.
"Creating a Strength Block" by Chad Wesley Smith
"Designing a Peaking Block" by Chad Wesley Smith
Emphasis on Recovery
Early on in a training career there is not much thought put into recovery or restoration; this probably has much to do with the rapid turnover and recovery rates of many beginner lifters, therefore taking certain measures for improving recovery is often put on the back burner or is absent altogether.
Adherence to proper and effective recovery protocols is something that should be taught and performed early on in a training career as to prevent complications down the road. The more in-tune you are with all aspects of training the more successful you will be down the road with both longevity and consistency of performance. The better you are at recovering between workouts, the more you'll be able to provide an overload stimulus to continue making gains training cycle to training cycle. Nobody likes plateauing, so if you're serious about training then recovery should definitely be a priority.
Below I've linked an article by Dr. Mike Israetel of Renaissance Periodization titled "Everything You Need To Know Recovering". I've linked this article in many of my of my own articles for good reasons; it's an excellent source of information by one of the best in the industry, so if you'd like to know more about recovery feel free to give it a read.
"Everything You Need To Know About Recovering" by Dr. Mike Israetel
As always if you have any questions feel free to post them in the comment section below or on the Facebook page. Thank you for reading!