A Masters Weightlifting Program that Worked
Matt Foreman

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

Meet Results
2008 American Masters Championship, Savannah, GA
1st attempt - 125 / 1st attempt - 145
2nd attempt - 133 / 2nd attempt - 155
3rd attempt - 138 / 3rd attempt - 165
TOTAL- 303
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.

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May 21 2014
Hi Matt

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
Matt Foreman
May 21 2014
Great questions Euan. Here's what I think. You asked, "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." My answer is "Yes, absolutely." You also asked "Would you recomend this less is more style of program for someone such as myself or other masters athletes?" My answer is, "Yes, absolutely. It's worth a try. If you use a program like this for 3-4 months and it doesn't work, then you haven't really lost anything and you can always go back to a different style of training. But if it works, you might have stumbled on a program that will lead you to the lifts you want." One other note: You said, "I have it in my head that as an ex gymnast I need to be training 6 days a week 5 hours a day." My answer is "If you train that much as a 36yo weightlifter, you'll probably put yourself in the hospital at some point."
Mike Gray
May 21 2014
Great article Matt, as always.
Neil Kanterman
May 21 2014
Great article Matt. I was formulating my question then I realized that Euan basically asked exactly what I was going to. I'm a 42 year old lifter that never picked up a barbell until he was 39 and never really trained snatch/C&J until 40. Under the guidance of my coach (who is a lvl 5 USAW International Coach) to prepare for Masters Pan Ams I have been following a much higher volume program, as my technique is still developing and time under the bar doing moderately heavy weights focusing on my personal technique breakdowns seems to be very beneficial in that process. I would say that if you choose to follow a higher volume program, that supporting your efforts in the gym with a high priority given to proper nutrition, sleep, and perhaps smart supplementation is doubly important as a masters weightlifter than a senior or junior weightlifter.

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.
Martin Horniak
May 21 2014
Hi Matt, im just working out on my routine too. Im 38 years old and im now doing CrossFit as main sport now. Before (25 years I have done lot of martial ars and power lifting on competition level). In one year of weightlifitng I can snatch 110kg nad C&J 130kg . My BW is 90kg. Im working out 3 days on, 1 day off, 2 days on 1 day off. In last weeks I start to have big overload and pain on my elbows tendoms and shoulders. Im cycling weights (ME, DE days) in combination with bulgarian principles (max of day) and of course ideas from book by Greg. How many training units of weightlifting do you suggest to have progress and not to overtrain or loose progress?
Laura G
May 21 2014
This is great and I'd like to try it. Do you have any recommendations for how to pick starting weights and incremental increases?

May 21 2014
Thanks Matt. I'm impressed with your ability to increase your totals like that training 2 days/week. I don't doubt that it can work and as a master, it's probably wise. Your article makes me think I should cut my training schedule back (I'm 47 and train 4 or 5 days/week). However, training is my favorite thing to do; it's my stress relief; it's my hobby; my whole family is at the gym together. I want to train 5 days/week.

Ahhh, the choices we have to make as we get older.
chris dariotis
May 21 2014
Good article Matt. I also think too many lifters do their PR's In training but fail at meets. Proper planning helps.
Aaron M
May 23 2014
Hey Matt,

What weight do you maintain during season? out of season?
Matt Foreman
May 26 2014
Aaron- At the time of this program, I was right around 122 kilos bodyweight. I'm around 117 now. Laura- I pick the weights I want to hit at a meet (usually just a little more than I did at the previous meet), and just work backwards week-to-week until I get to the starting point of the program. I hope that makes sense.
Justin A
June 14 2014
Hey Matt I just took your class OLY today and it got me excited about OLY again. I mostly Crossfit and do OLY when it comes up or have some free time. I really want to get better at OLY but don't want to give up on Crossfit. Do you think this volume would be to much along with Crossfit say if I did Crossfit 3x a week and hit the program 2x. I am 33 years old and weight 103 kilos.
Matt Foreman
June 26 2014
Justin, I think it totally depends on what you're actually doing in the Crossfit workouts, and how heavy you're going in the OL workouts. If the OL workouts are pretty light and the Crossfit workouts are fairly easy, it probably won't be a problem. If you're pushing both of them hard, I think you'll likely run into some trouble...especially at 103 kg bodyweight. A lot of Crossfit stuff is dicey for anybody heavy.
July 8 2014
Creo que aqui lo fundamental ha de ser una combinacion de buena genetica,buena estructura,debe existir una nutricion correcta y completa y un entrenamiento que no es exagerado en ningun fanatismo.Asimismo hay que presuponer que las tecnicas de ejecucion son muy consistentes con un estres muy bien equilibrado entre esfuerzo muscular y resistencia tendinosa.Asimismo,y ya por ultimo,el resultado brillante obtenido surje del poder mental de poder concebir ese resultado e irlo verificando en un proceso articulado con firmeza y determinacion.Felicitaciones.
Thirty Five Year Old WLer
July 30 2014
Thanks for the article Matt. Please don't say you're old.
Geoff Hegedus
August 6 2014
Good article Matt, curious though: how many attempts/singles did you do at max. on the heavy light days?
Matt Foreman
August 22 2014
Hey Geoff, I usually just hit my top weight once, if it's technically solid. If I make the top weight but I know my technique was sloppy, I'll do it again to get it right.
Steven Gin
December 18 2014
Hi Matt,

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?

Thank you!
Knute Hansen
May 10 2020
No data or scientific evidence that the "rountine" actually was responsible for the success. Many other factors come into play. Just another internet self important idiot proclaiming their importance to an ignorant audience. If you REALLY knew anything about training Masters lifting you wouldn't be teaching at a High School. And what's with the "jerk your self off" bio? Arrogant? You haven't won anything of value. What an asshole.