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I am currently training for my first powerlifting meet. The meet I had planned to attend has been cancelled so I am looking at some new options. The new date keeps moving around because of current national regulations, however, the new meet is scheduled for December 12, 2020. If that one gets cancelled, the next would be February 6, 2021. From today's date that puts the meets at 17 weeks and 25 weeks away. I am working on week 5 of my current 16-week program (Calgary Barbell's Free 16-week program).

Originally, my meet was going to be at the beginning of November and my current 16-week cycle would finish the week before the meet. I was then going to follow the program's short 5-days-from-competition plan.

My experience so far has been to complete 16-week blocks with a week deload afterward and then repeating, with more weight. Both of the new meet dates do not fall nicely into that rigid schedule and I'm not sure what the optimal way to alter my schedule would be.

How should I go about programming for these changing competition dates?

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I used to compete regularly, and based on my experience I train differently when I am close to a meet than when I am just building strength. I was also working with a coach when I was trying to get my nutrition dialed in along with getting stronger. Whether I used common training plans like Wendler's 5-3-1, or my coach's outline, my training cycle was a lot shorter than yours.

  • The majority of the training should be general strength building (4 week cycles)
  • If progress was stalling, switch to work capacity training (6 week cycle)
  • The last 4-8 weeks before a competition, I switched to a peak training

The major difference between peak training and standard strength building was the shape of the training. The purpose of peak training is to condition your body to handle the competition weights, while allowing plenty of time to recover. The purpose behind peaking and strength building regiments are very different.

The following article on Peaking Training from JTS Strength describes the reasoning as:

  • Reducing fatigue--which masks your ability to perform
  • Elevate or maintain your fitness
  • Increase specificity to the big three so you are ready on competition day.

You'll find the volume in a peaking program much lower than your general strength building programs. That's by design. You want to be clear headed and ready to put all of your energy into the three lifts you are competing in. As you approach the competition date, the weight goes up but the volume goes down, until you have a week off to fully recover for the competition.

I'm not as familiar with the Calgary Barbell program, but I can say for sure that having a good coach will help you get advice that is tailored for your specific level of performance. While the philosophy of a peaking program remains the same, the specifics of how to schedule your last heavy lifts in gym and provide enough time for recovery really depends on a number of factors. For example, since I competed in a RAW competition (not even wraps), the typical squat for my age and weight class was around 450-500 lbs. Someone who uses a squat suit would be adding up to 300 lbs to those numbers.

In your particular situation

If getting a coach isn't going to be a viable option, then I would recommend to:

  • look for a good peaking program that is 4-6 weeks long
  • focus on strength building until you are ready for that 4-6 week peak training

Since you have an odd number of weeks, you might have a transition week in there. The transition week would have you focused on lighter weight (no more than RPE 6) speed lifts with 1-2 reps per set. It acts as a mental break week and a way to refine technique while keeping the training habit up.

I can't give you more specific advice without becoming a coach. That's not something I am qualified for or interested in doing at this stage in my life.

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  • Wow, this is really great (and I'm slightly Fitness.SE starstruck) -- thank you for taking the time to answer. I'm going to find sometime this weekend to read that article. – C. Lange Aug 15 at 20:26

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