I taught a seminar today on weightlifting programming, focused specifically on loading (how much weight athletes should be lifting in their daily/weekly workouts). Since everybody and their crippled grandmothers are asking about programming these days, I thought I would use a portion of what I taught at the seminar for a blog article.
This is a program I designed and used to prepare for one of my own meets in 2008. I’ve included several notes so it’ll make sense, because it’s not written in a way you would normally see in a regular program.
There are many ways to design a successful training program. Nobody has the market cornered in this department. This is an example of something that worked well for me, so there should be something you can learn from it. Other people train much differently, and that’s fine. This is just another addition to your knowledge base, and hopefully it’ll provide some food for thought.
This is a 14-week program I followed while training for the 2008 American Masters. There are several factors to mention with this program:
- I was 36 years old at this time and I trained twice a week (Tuesday and Saturday).
- The only lifts I put on the program were SN, C&J, and BSQ because these were the only ones that needed a loading plan. Assistance exercises like RDLs weren’t necessary to program weights for.
- Only top weights of the day are listed, no warm-ups. Everything is in kilos.
- I was doing no front squats at all during this time. They caused too much wear and tear on my body and I was able to get all the leg strength I needed from back squats.
- Weights are listed as SN/C&J/BSQ. So, when looking at the program, something like 90/110/140x3 means the workout was:
o Work up to a 90 kilo SN for at least a single, maybe two or three singles.
o Work up to a 110 C&J, same manner as the snatch.
o Work up to 140x3 in the BSQ
o Remaining assistance, like RDLs and core work, isn’t included with this loading progression.
- I planned two deloading weeks into the program to allow more recovery and avoid overtraining.
- Prior to starting this program, my personal records in the master’s division were:
- SN- 137 kg
- C&J- 163 kg
- T- 300 kg
- My lifetime PRs were 155 SN, 185 C&J, but those were from 10 years earlier.
- The first few weeks of the program were deliberately very light because I was coming off a layoff period and I felt like I needed to gradually ease back into training instead of ripping into big lifts right away.
14-week loading program:
Tues.(SN/C&J light, BSQ heavy)
Sat.(SN/C&J heavy, BSQ light)
Week 1 - 60/90/140x3 80/110/110x3
Week 2 - 70/100/160x3 90/120/150x3
Week 3 - 80/110/180 2x3 100/130/170x3
Week 4 - 85/115/190 2x3 110/140/170x3
Week 5 - 70 SN/120 BSQ Deload 100 C&J/140 BSQ
Week 6 - 75/105/195x3 100/145/150x3
Week 7 - 80/110/200x3 120/120/160x3
Week 8 - 85/115/205x2 100/150/180x3
Week 9 - 90/120/210x1 125/120/185x1
Week 10 - 70 SN/120 BSQ Deload 100 C&J/140 BSQ
Week 11 - 80/110/200x2 100/155/180x2
Week 12 - 90/120/207.5x2 130/120/190x2
Week 13 - 90/120/185x1 120/140/185x1
Week 14 - Meet Week- BSQ up to 150x2 on Tuesday, compete Sunday
2008 American Masters Championship, Savannah, GA
SNATCH / CLEAN & JERK
1st attempt - 125 / 1st attempt - 145
2nd attempt - 133 / 2nd attempt - 155
3rd attempt - 138 / 3rd attempt - 165
Six-for-six, 1st place 105+ class and Best Lifter 35-39 age group, new master’s division personal records in each lift
Additional training notes:
- Once I passed the first four weeks (“getting back in shape” time period), I started alternating light SN/heavy C&J every Saturday. Heavy work in both competition lifts was not done on the same day to avoid overtraining.
- Tuesday (light day) weights were not selected according to any specific percentage protocol. I simply chose weights that would give me some good work without fatiguing me for Saturday. Being 36 years old and having almost twenty years of muscle memory in the SN and C&J made lots of heavy training attempts counter-productive.
- Heavy squatting was kept 2-3 weeks away from the competition.
- At first glance, some of you might be saying, “This doesn’t look like much work.” My response is, “That’s correct, but you need to understand a few things.” A) I usually work between 60-70 hours a week at my job, so I don’t have time for much more than this. B) At 36 years old, I didn’t need much more work than this. It might not look productive on paper, but it produced terrific results. C) Here’s a quote from Norb Schemansky, one of the greatest weightlifters of all time: “Don’t attempt maximums in the gym. Some members of the U.S. lifting team couldn’t believe how much more I could do in a contest, where it counted. I was never burned out. Attempts at limit weights should be restricted to once every three or four weeks. One should not work any more than 80 to 90% of his limit in training.”
And one other thing….
- I had some personal issues at this time that factored into my performance pretty heavily. I won’t go into detail about any of it because it’s a very long story, and it’s private. But I can tell you that it was extremely important for me to produce big results on the platform that day because of some “life stuff” I had on my mind. I needed to have a big day here, and going six-for-six and winning Best Lifter was one of the most satisfying experiences of my career.
So, meditate on this information. Study it. Talk about it. Comment on it. Second-guess it. Misinterpret it. Learn from it. Doubt it. Do whatever you want with it, but don’t say it doesn’t work. It worked. And it’s still working. I’ve been using this exact same method for my own training since 2005, and I lift pretty big weights for an old dude.
It’s not complicated. That’s because it doesn’t have to be.
Don’t be afraid to branch out…with the things you do and the way you think.
Great article, very interesting reading I myself am a 36yo masters lifter however without your years of experience, have currently been training oly lifting for 1 year, best comp lifts so far are 101kg sntch and 125kg c&j @ 85kg bw. Would you say this program works well for you because of your long history with the sport, so you have the base already built in there to draw upon. Would you recomend this less is more style of program for someone such as myself or other masters athletes, am hoping to get to 120kg sntch and 140kg c&j and have it in my head that as an ex gymnast I need to be training 6 days a week 5 hours a day...Thanks and Regards
After the meet in June, I will probably fall back to a lower volume program very similar to what Matt has so generously presented here as I shift back into doing more metabolic conditioning and refocusing on health and wellness.
Ahhh, the choices we have to make as we get older.
What weight do you maintain during season? out of season?
I just picked up your book this week and love it! I enjoy the different perspectives on programming from other Masters athletes. I was wondering, though, I'm about to turn 35, and have still put myself through rather high volume workouts (not continuously throughout the year), including several Smolov Jr. cycles for my back squat this year, to good effect. I've upped my backsquat 70# in the past 20 months, and while I know that's not sustainable, would you recommend continuing this to build up as much of a foundation of strength as I can, while I still can?