A powerlifter's main goal is to see how much weight he/she can move in a single repetition. That's why they have a completely different workout regime. Powerlifters aren't looking for mammoth size/weight gains, therefore they keep the reps low, below 6 always. Your optimal range for muscle growth in reps is between 8 and 12. A more broad range is 6 and 15. But powerlifters don't want to increase their bodyweight and move into the next weight class. They just want to get freaky strong. Keeping the reps low and the weights scary big, the muscle gets broken done without the flow of blood into it. From this breakdown it is FORCED to adapt its strength to withstand such a relentless beating. Without this blood to carry nutrients into the muscle it won't get freaky big like a bodybuilders would(have you ever seen a true powerlifter that looks like a true bodybuilder). The powerlifters muscles will still grow of course, they just will grow in a different way than a bodybuilders.
If any of you have read Arnolds book about bodybuilding he talks about how him and Franco were weightlifters before they were bodybuilders. And that is why they are so thick and sinewy. I would imagine that assumes to be true for most pros now. I didn't know about bodybuilding and just working for blood until about 3 years after I started weightlifting. Franco was a championship powerlifter. Have you ever seen that picture of him conventionally deadlifting with 6 plates and a couple cookies on each side, the bar is bending pretty well and he looks like its just another day at the office(cause for him it was). Back to why weightlifting is important to do before you start bodybuilding. Think of it this way, if you want to sculpt the perfect structure, mammoth in size and perfect in proportion: a.) it is going to take lots of time and lots of practice before you start, b.) you better have a lot of clay. How do you get a lot of clay? Well you work hard slamming iron around the gym until that clay hangs off your body and is ready to be sculpted.
OK, let get into a powerlifting workout. If you don't know powerlifting centers around three core lifts: The Squat, bench, deadlift (in that order for a competition). The squat would be the most important to make everything else strong. I hear pros in interviews talk about how if they aren't squatting heavy all there other lifts are down also. When you lift super heavy weights for low reps your body releases testosterone, I don't know why yet though.
A typical squat routine consists of a thorough warmup then right to the cage of death. You start piling on the sauce until that bar bends and wobbles. The number of working sets stays around 5-6 in the post season and 3-4 before a contest. The first three sets are usually around 4-5 reps and then you toss on some sprinkles for the last two sets at 2-3 reps.
I hope no one is thinking a powerlifting workout is easy cause of the low reps. Cause it isn't. After a grueling couple sets of squats it is on to the leg press to knock those out. Load that rack up with as much as you can and bring your knees into your armpits and then power it up to lock out. The reps should be up a little higher say around 6-7 but they still need to be heavy and make your eyes bleed. After that, its time for over loads. Overloads is when you put about double on what you have been working with and only go about 8-10 inches down. Be sure to use the safety racks. This technique is used to increase your strength at the top of a movement. Most of the failed attempts for competitors are at the top when the lifter can't quite get all the way locked out. Overloads for deadlift: set the safety pins about 4 inches below your knees and pull it up from there.
When a contest comes up you should use your equipment for your last 3 workout. Equipment such as knee wraps, squat suits, deadlift suit, bench shirt, wrist wraps etc. Get used to wearing these and performing with them on, it is a tough adjustment. About 5-6 days before the contest get your openers, the weight you want to open up with in the meet. This should be something you have done before and are guaranteed to get to get yourself on the board, at the same time it should be heavy enough to move you up in the brackets.
Form is crucial when training, every squat needs to be a legal squat, every bench needs to have a pause, every deadlift has to be perfect. If you are interested in joining up on a team type in USAPL in a search engine and start navigating around. Or maybe talk to someone in your local gym that looks like a powerlifter.
I have an excel workout for the three main lifts. It is a 9 week program to achieve your goal and it works up progressively. It is pretty neat, you type in your goal weight at the top, hit return and all your workouts are planned out with weights and reps. If you would like it, email me with "Give me ye old powerlifting workout" in the subject header and I will send it right out.
Hope this helps, any other questions about this shoot them my way.
C2C Jason Bennett, CS-28
Get Big or Die