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Powerlifting Meet Prep Series - Mr. T Part 1

Updated: Nov 6, 2022


I am extremely excited to be coaching someone for their very first Powerlifting meet in April 2023. Whether or not he places on the podium remains to be seen, but is frankly irrelevant. While it would be great to "win," the truth is most people don't care and just want to see you do your best or put on a good show. Winning should be icing on the cake, not the end-all-be-all for your first meet experience, since placing on the podium is highly determined by who else decides to compete at that same meet. The goal of your first meet should be to just get some numbers in the books, and establish a baseline of strength from which you can improve upon in future competitions!


This lifter, who we will call Mr. T (no not THAT Mr. T), had been running Jeff Nippard's High Frequency Full Body (HFFB) program for 14 weeks and Wendler's 531 prior to HFFB. This post will be focused on how I am transitioning Mr. T from Jeff's HFFB to more Powerlifting focused training. Future posts will review progress of each training cycle along with how I plan to progress Mr. T in subsequent training blocks. This series of posts will obviously culminate in an obligatory retrospective meet recapitulation.


Disclaimers:

  • Any views and opinions expressed are my own and are not affiliated with the USAPL.


Previous Training Analysis

Being respectful of Jeff's work, I'll keep things general to avoid giving away his secret recipe including specific rep/set schemes and intensities. If you ARE interested in learning more about the HFFB program, check out his YouTube channel. When taking a new lifter, it's always a good idea to get their previous training history so you can intelligently plan their path forward towards their goal. Even when presented with training information from a lifter, take it with a grain of salt, and err on the side of caution.


HFFB Overview

HFFB is a 10 week program comprised of two 4-week blocks followed by a deload on Week 9 and Testing on Week 10. Testing is done through the use of AMRAPs at percentages of 85% and above. Each week is comprised of 5 full body training sessions, but each session has a specific focus: lower body, chest, back, or delts.


HFFB Specifics

HFFB is a hypertrophy focused program, and while it does use compound lifts, the majority of movements are for body-building, which is fine if that is your goal. Each week typically has 1 squat slot, 1 leg press slot, 4 upper body pressing slots (horizontal, incline, or vertical), 2 deadlift slots, 2 rowing slots, and 2 to 3 pull up/down slots for a total of 12 to 13 applicable training slots. The other slots are either isolation movements or core focused. Depending on the week or block, the program has 30+ movement slots per week.


Below is a summary of repetitions per movement pattern. They are grouped under "Strength" or "Hypertrophy" based on rep range for 1-6 repetitions and 7 or more repetitions respectively. However, in practice there really is no clear delineation. For example, sets of 6 repetitions don't necessarily provide better strength outcomes than sets of 7 repetitions. Relative load varies per movement and week but is typically between 75% and 90% of the person's Estimated 1 Rep Max (E1RM) depending on the rep and set scheme.


For Block 1, about a third of the upper body pulling volume is done on a cable row for sets of more than 10 repetitions and has been excluded from the tally below. In Block 2, high-fatigue pulling volume dramatically increases through the addition of more barbell and dumbbell rowing. For the purpose of this analysis, high-fatigue pulling would be something that requires use of the full-body as opposed to an isolation movement.

HFFB Observations... From a Strength Training Perspective

To be clear, I do not have any issues with Jeff Nippard's HFFB for it's intended application, and he has other programs specifically for Powerlifting. However, since I am transitioning someone from HFFB, below are my initial reactions from a strength training perspective.

Notice how the repetitions for each movement pattern jump all over the place? There is no obvious progression in skill being developed throughout the training blocks. Without revealing specifics and only examining the squat, the Day 1 squat rep and set schemes change every week! While you may be able to use the calculated E1RM from each squat session, we all know that E1RM calculated from higher repetition (lower intensity) sets are not as accurate as E1RM calculated from lower repetition (higher intensity) sets, so you never really have a true gauge of whether or not you are getting stronger. Furthermore, by constantly changing the rep and set schemes, you don't develop skill at ANY rep range.

...by constantly changing the rep and set schemes, you don't develop skill at ANY rep range....

My 2nd criticism is that there is only one squat barbell squat movement slot per week. Multiple barbell squat exposures per week would be better for developing and maintaining skill.


Crafting Mr. T's Exploratory Block

When crafting an exploratory block, I typically have 4 main goals:

  1. Transition someone from one system of training to my system.

  2. Develop a program specific to their goals. In this case, optimizing strength for the squat, bench press, and deadlift.

  3. Establish baseline levels of strength for each movement.

  4. Determine the person's Time to Peak (TTP).

For Mr. T, I created a block with 3 squat slots, 6 upper body pressing slots, 2 deadlift slots, and 1 upper body rowing slot for a total of 12 main movements (all color coded for fun). Specifically, the main movements are:

  1. Competition Squat w/Belt

  2. Competition Bench

  3. Competition Deadlift w/Belt

  4. Dumbbell Bench Press

  5. Incline Press

  6. Pendlay Rows

  7. High Bar Squat w/Belt

  8. Push Press

  9. Stiff Leg Deadlift

  10. Max Grip Bench Press

  11. Close Grip Larsen Press

  12. Barbbell Bulgarian Split Squats

This is complemented by multiple low-fatigue upper body pulling/rowing movements, arm and leg isolation movements, as well as core work and conditioning throughout the week which are not factored into the exploratory block summary below.

I tried to keep the total repetitions per applicable movement somewhat within what he was previously used to with a few differences. Since Mr. T has not previously squatted and deadlifted multiple times per week, I wanted to avoid multiple free-standing barbell rowing slots to avoid burning out his back. Since the lifter excels at bench press, I wanted to further explore different bench press grips and movements to see if it further helps with his development. While there is significantly more upper body push volume in my exploratory block when compared to HFFB Block 1, the majority of it is within the hypertrophy range. Given Mr. T has a very high work capacity, I do not foresee this being an issue but will monitor closely.


Program Comparison

Comparing my exploratory block with HFFB Block 1, the variance counted in number of reps, between HFBB and Mr. T's exploratory block is summarized below. Currently, I have the block written 4 weeks out with the first being a pivot week to serve as both a deload and an introduction to my system. Weeks 2 to 4 are the same and I plan to to keep extending the block with the same movements, as well as rep, set, and loading schemes , until I see two consecutive dips in performance to determine his initial TTP.


Next Steps

Once I determine Mr. T's Time to Peak, I will have the 2nd block executed assuming the same TTP. A pivot week or two, depending on the length of his TTP, will be used to transition him from the current block to an intensification block. In Part 2 of the Mr. T series of posts, I will summarize the outcomes from his exploratory block and run you through my plans for implementing his intensification block, which will likely include tons of charts, data, and metrics in case you're into that stuff :)


Stay tuned to see how Mr. T progresses!





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