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Powerlifting Meet Prep Series - Mr. T Part 2

If you didn't read the first post in the Mr. T series, please be sure to check it out here: Powerlifting Meet Prep Series - Mr. T Part 1. This post is Part 2 of an ongoing series documenting the progress and training decisions made for an athlete of mine preparing for their first Powerlifting Meet in April 22, 2023. More specifically, this post will be focused on the results of his Exploratory Block along with how I plan to progress him towards meet day.


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

Exploratory Block Review

In Part 1 of this series, I describe my reasons for running an Exploratory Block but have summarized them below:

  1. To transition someone from one system of training to my system.

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

  3. To establish baseline levels of strength for each movement.

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

The following are the results of his last 10 weeks of training, and I am unsure if he has yet hit a peak condition for squat or deadlift based on the current estimated one rep maxes (E1RM). Based on feedback from the athlete about the development of some pain in the shoulders, as well as the difficulty of back-off working sets, we are going to run with the assumption that he already achieved a peak condition for competition bench press at Week 8. To keep things manageable, we are going to use a working TTP of 8 weeks for all 3 movements. Assuming his TTP does not decrease during the 2nd block of training, this would allow two full training blocks between January 1st and competition day.

Competition Squat

Squat performance has progressed over the last 10 weeks using top sets of 5 repetitions and average intensity of about 71% of E1RM including backoff sets. Mr. T's competition movement is a low bar squat, but we also trained high bar squat to see how he responds and we determined that low bar would be the best style for his competition movement.

Competition Bench

Bench press performance also progressed but he likely hit a peak condition around week 8 based on E1RM and feedback from the lifter regarding upper body pain and fatigue. Here, top sets of 5 repetitions were also used with a slightly higher average intensity of about 73% of E1RM including backoff sets.

During the exploratory block, other variations of bench press were included and he discovered he performs better with a wider grip bench press. Moving forward, we will use this wider grip as his competition grip and adjust programming accordingly, i.e. we will remove wide grip bench press accessory movements.

Due to a previous injury, Mr. T experiences pain in his elbow during the bench press, especially during the bottom portion of the movement. For this reason, I plan to incorporate more board pressing in the next block of training to see how he responds from both a performance and pain tolerance perspective. I also plan to remove 1 upper body pressing slot and replace with a rowing movement.

Competition Deadlift

Deadlift performance progressed using top sets of 4 repetitions and average intensity of about 74% of E1RM including backoff sets, albeit a bit all over the place. There was a substantial performance dip on Week 2, likely due to Mr. T adjusting to the new training stimulus which included more weekly squat and deadlift volume than he was previously accustom to. Mr. T also went on vacation Week 4 and while he was able to train squat and bench, did not get to train deadlift. Life happens :)

On Week 5, Mr. T tweaked his back on his top set deadlift, but we were able to regroup and continue training using the same program but with top sets at around RPE 5 or 6. He was able to work back up to top sets of RPE 8 during Weeks 9 and 10 while still progressing his competition squat.

Mr. T expressed a desire to explore sumo deadlifting, so the decision was made to train both conventional and sumo deadlifting during the next block of training to see which one performs better. Based on the next block of training, we will go all-in on either conventional or sumo for subsequent blocks leading up to the meet. In order to make the most accurate comparison, I will have him sumo deadlift after performing heavy squat and bench press variations, essentially running two SBD days in a week. Whether this reduces his time to peak is unknown, so if he peaks in less time than 8 weeks, I'll need to develop a back-up training block to transition him over to competition singles in a way that best aligns with the competition date.

Intensification Block

The next block of training will be focused on developing Mr. T's strength and skill in the 3 and 2 repetition range with backoff working sets at higher average intensities. This block will be comprised of 3 squat slots, 5 upper body pressing slots, 2 deadlift slots, and 2 upper body rowing slot for a total of 12 main movements (all color coded for fun). Specifically, the main movements will likely be:

  1. Competition Squat w/Belt

  2. Competition Bench - All Reps Paused Motionless

  3. Competition Deadlift w/Belt

  4. Competition Grip Spoto Press

  5. 3-Board Close Grip Bench

  6. Single Arm Dumbbell Rows

  7. 2-Count Pause Squat w/Belt

  8. 2-Board Competition Grip Bench - All Reps Paused Motionless

  9. Sumo Deadlift w/Belt

  10. Incline Press

  11. Chest Supported Rows

  12. Reverse Lunge

Areas of Focus

Aside from developing Mr. T's strength and skill in lower rep ranges for the competition movements, there will be a heavier focus on training to competition standards. This means Mr. T will need to start playing the referee commands in his head. The most common mistake for lifters new to competition is to beat the commands. I will recommend that Mr. T begin to exaggerate un-rack and re-rack times in training as outlined below.

  • Squat: Get used to standing motionless with knees locked out and a loaded bar on your back for 3 to 5 seconds before descending to simulate waiting for a “squat” command. Upon completing the last repetition after locking out your knees, stand motionless for another 3 to 5 seconds to simulate waiting for a “rack” command.

  • Bench: Get used to holding the loaded bar motionless for 3 to 5 seconds to simulate waiting for a “start” command. Pause the bench press for a full second like you’re waiting for the “press” command. Upon completing the last repetition after locking out your elbows, hold the bar motionless for another 3 to 5 seconds to simulate waiting for the “rack” command.

  • Deadlift: Unlike the other lifts, the deadlift only has one command, so upon completing the last repetition, get used to holding a loaded bar in your hands motionless for 3 to 5 seconds after fully locking out to practice waiting for the “down” command. DO NOT LET GO OF THE BARBELL AT ANY TIME until the loaded bar is back on the ground.

Next Steps

Since the Holidays are coming up, I just plan to run the Exploratory Block out for 1 more week before Mr. T takes off for the Holidays where he will get some much needed detraining. Starting in the New Year, I will have him begin the Intensification Block with a 2-week pivot to transition him into the new set of movements, rep ranges, and intensities.

If you enjoy geeking out about strength and programming, then be sure to stay tuned to see how Mr. T progresses!

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