Programming For Beginners - KIWI-STRENGTH

Programming For Beginners

How to structure your training sessions, how many sets and reps to do, and how to progress over time

Programming is how you plan and organize your training sessions, based on your goals, experience, and preferences. There are many factors to consider when designing a powerlifting program, such as frequency, intensity, volume, specificity, variation, recovery, and progression.

Here are some general guidelines and tips for beginners who want to start powerlifting programming:

Frequency: Frequency is how often you train each lift or muscle group. For beginners, I would recommended to train each lift at least twice a week, to maximize learning and adaptation. You can either follow a full-body routine, where you do all three lifts in one session, or a split routine, where you divide the lifts into different sessions. For example, you can do a squat/bench/deadlift split, a push/pull/legs split, or an upper/lower split.

Intensity: Intensity is how heavy you lift, relative to your one-rep max (1RM), which is the maximum weight you can lift for one repetition. For beginners, start with moderate intensity, around 70-80% of your 1RM, and gradually increase it as you get stronger and more confident. You can also use the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale, which is a subjective measure of how hard a set feels, from 1 (very easy) to 10 (very hard). For example, you can aim for an RPE of 7-8, which means you have 2-3 reps left in the tank.

Volume: Volume is how much work you do, measured by the number of sets and reps you perform. For a beginner, start with low to moderate volume, around 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps per lift, and gradually increase it as you get more conditioned and resilient. You can also use the number of hard sets (NHS) as a metric of volume, which are the sets that are close to failure or have a high RPE. For example, you can aim for 10-15 NHS per week per lift.

Specificity: Specificity is how closely your training matches your goal. For powerlifting, your goal is to lift as much weight as possible for one rep in each lift, so your training should reflect that. This means you should focus on the core lifts and their variations, and use similar equipment, rules, and techniques as in a powerlifting competition. For example, you should use a barbell, a power rack, a bench, and a platform, and follow the commands and standards of your federation.

Variation: Variation is how you change your training variables, such as exercises, intensity, volume, frequency, and rest periods, to prevent boredom, staleness, and plateaus. For a beginner, it is important to have some variation in your training, but not too much, as you still need to practice and master the core lifts. You can use different variations of the core lifts, such as pause squats, close-grip bench press, and deficit deadlifts, to target your weak points and improve your technique. You can also use different rep ranges, such as 3x3, 5x5, or 4x8, to train different aspects of strength, such as maximal, hypertrophy, or endurance.

Recovery: Recovery is how you rest and recuperate between your training sessions, to allow your body and mind to heal and adapt. For beginners, it is crucial to prioritize recovery, as it will determine your progress and performance. You should have at least one rest day per week, and avoid training the same lift or muscle group on consecutive days. You should also pay attention to your sleep, nutrition, hydration, stress, and mobility, as they will affect your recovery and health.

Progression: Progression is how you increase the difficulty and challenge of your training over time, to stimulate further improvement and adaptation. For a beginner, I would recommend using a linear progression, where you add a small amount of weight to the bar every week or every session, as long as you can maintain good form and technique. You can also use a percentage-based progression, where you base your intensity on a percentage of your 1RM, and increase it every cycle or every month. For example, you can start with 75% of your 1RM, and increase it by 2.5% every four weeks.

Powerlifting Training for Beginners: Sample Program

Now that you have learned the basics of powerlifting training, you may be wondering how to put them into practice. To help you get started, I have created a sample powerlifting program for beginners, based on the guidelines and tips discussed above. This program is designed to last for 12 weeks and consists of three phases: accumulation, intensification, and realization. Each phase has a different focus and goal and will help you improve your strength, technique, and confidence.

The program follows a four-day split, where you train each lift twice a week, with one heavy day and one light day. You will also do some secondary and accessory lifts to supplement your core lifts and address your weak points and imbalances. The program uses a percentage-based progression, where you increase your intensity every four weeks, based on your estimated 1RM. You can use an online calculator or a formula to estimate your 1RM, or you can test it at the end of each phase.

Here is an overview of the program:

Phase

Weeks

Focus

Goal

Accumulation

1-4

Volume

Build muscle and endurance

Intensification

5-8

Intensity

Increase strength and power

Realization

9-12

Peaking

Maximize performance and results

 

Here is an example of the weekly schedule:

Day

Lifts

Monday

Squat (Heavy), Bench Press (Light), Secondary and Accessory Lifts

Tuesday

Rest

Wednesday

Deadlift (Heavy), Squat (Light), Secondary and Accessory Lifts

Thursday

Rest

Friday

Bench Press (Heavy), Deadlift (Light), Secondary and Accessory Lifts

Saturday

Rest

Sunday

Rest

 

Here is an example of the first week of the program:

Day

Lift

Sets

Reps

Intensity

RPE

Monday

Squat

4

8

75%

8

Monday

Bench Press

3

10

65%

7

Monday

Pause Squat

3

6

70%

8

Monday

Close-Grip Bench Press

3

8

70%

8

Monday

Leg Curl

3

12

-

9

Monday

Triceps Pushdown

3

15

-

9

Wednesday

Deadlift

4

8

75%

8

Wednesday

Squat

3

10

65%

7

Wednesday

Deficit Deadlift

3

6

70%

8

Wednesday

Front Squat

3

8

70%

8

Wednesday

Leg Extension

3

12

-

9

Wednesday

Ab Wheel Rollout

3

15

-

9

Friday

Bench Press

4

8

75%

8

Friday

Deadlift

3

10

65%

7

Friday

Incline Bench Press

3

6

70%

8

Friday

Romanian Deadlift

3

8

70%

8

Friday

Chest Fly

3

12

-

9

Friday

Biceps Curl

3

15

-

9

 

You can adjust the program according to your needs, preferences, and feedback. You can also use different variations of the core lifts, such as box squats, floor press, and rack pulls, to spice up your training and challenge yourself. You can also add some cardio or conditioning work, such as sprints, jumps, or sled pushes, to improve your fitness and recovery.

This program is just an example and not the only way to train for powerlifting. There are many other programs and methods that you can try and experiment with, as long as they follow the principles of powerlifting training. The key is to experiment and see what suits you best, and to take pleasure in the journey.

 Written By
Kiwi-Strength Coach Dan

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