Off Season Powerlifting Tips

by on March 1, 2012

March 2012: Powerlifting in the Offseason?

I remember back in the mid 90’s training at Westside barbell. I was one of very few bodybuilders who were allowed to train there, because Louie knew I loved Powerlifting and plus I think Louie just liked to beat up on me. There was another bodybuilder training at the time you might recall, Mike Francois. He was one of thickest, most impressive bodybuilders of all time. Back then, many guys did a little of both powerlifting and bodybuilding. Today you still see some guys who do both, but I don’t think enough bodybuilders tap into the benefits of powerlifting.

Last month I set up a powerlifting/bodybuilding hybrid program for one of the baddest up and coming bodybuilders in Canada, Antione Vaillant. You can’t just do purely powerlifting work, without paying attention to your weak spots in bodybuilding, but you can build in a lot of techniques that powerlifters use to maximize gains.

Antoine’s program has built in submaximal speed work that we use to develop force production (RFD – rate of force development). For example, here is a speed day for chest training. The idea is to take a lighter load (typically 50-60% of your shitless max) and drive the bar up as hard and as fast as you can. Antoine is remarkably explosive, so he uses a little higher %. The general rule I use, is that the slower the lifter is (not naturally explosive), the lower the % needs to be so they can develop this explosiveness. This tunes up your nervous system tremendously.

Notice there is also traditional bodybuilding work built on for his shoulders.

Lastly, you see that we also work with a maximal load on the shoulder press. We are going for near maxes here, and to beat each weeks best. This is maximal strength training.

Every three weeks we rotate exercises in and out that are you used for bodybuiling and maximal strength purposes. Rotating exercises keeps you from getting stale. Speed work doesn’t typically overtax you, and is therefore kept in the program all the time

Here is a sample day from Antoine’s program

Day 5

  • Speed bench and shoulders
  • Speed bench – I want you to use 65% of your max of 425, so let’s say 275. Do 8 sets of 3. On each set vary your grip. Keep varying it every set an inch or so in and out. Remember, speed is the name of the game. Resist the urge to go heavier ok. We will take a heavier set around week 4 or 5.
  • In week 2 go up 5 lbs, and do the same in week 3.
  • Dumbell side laterals – Go heavy, cheat a little. I want you to do 4 sets of 8. 4 total work sets
  • In week 2 try to get an extra rep, and in week 3 do an extra 2 reps.

Machine rear laterals (rear peck deck) – Rear delts are extremely important in stabilizing a good bench. We are going to work them like dogs. Do the following rep scheme ? 25, 20, 15, 12, and 9. 5 total work sets
Use the same rep scheme, but use 10 lbs extra in week 2 and 5 lbs extra in week 3.

Cage press – Maximal strength work – Check out my YouTube if you need a form refresher on these. You push the bar right up against a squat rack, and then lean forward a hair and flex your traps and delts on every rep. Use a staggered stance and wear a belt. Do sets of 3, and just keep going up until you can barely get a single.
In weeks 2 and 3 max out on these again!

If you think this might be something you want to try, here are some further tips.

  1. Include submaximal speed work – Do 8 sets of 3 on the bench, and 8 sets of 2 on the squat.
  2. Include traditional bodybuilding work. Do this after you do speed work, so that your nervous system isn’t drained, and before maximal strength work, as this will help ensure you are warmed up properly and won’t injure yourself working up to heavy doubles and singles.
  3. Built in maximal strength work, but rotate exercises in and out every 3 weeks.
  4. It is also important to use bands and chains if possible. Bands and chains are awesome tools for both sports.

Here is what a split would look like

[list style=”check”]
[li]Day 1 – Legs and speed squats[/li]
[li]Day 2 – Chest & Triceps[/li]
[li]Day 3 – OFF[/li]
[li]Day 4 – Back[/li]
[li]Day 5 – Speed bench and shoulders[/li]
[li]Day 6 – Biceps & Triceps[/li]
[li]Day 7 – OFF[/li]

Look for an article to come out in the next few weeks, in which I dive into more detail on how to use bands and chains. This will be posted at

If you have any further questions about building a basic powerlifting/bodybuilding hybrid plan, just let me know!

I’ll keep you updated on Antoine’s progress too, as he continues in his quest to win professional status in bodybuilding, and to perform well in his powerlifting competition!

John Meadows