Ever since I began lifting, people have asked me whether I could coach them. I’ve had people come up in the gym, send messages on Facebook, approach me at meets, and my answer was always no. I was too focused on my own training and goals to put energy into other people’s training.
However, all that changed recently.
A couple year ago I realized that there’s a class of lifters who are typically under-served when it comes to coaching and effective programming. Those people are the super heavy weights of powerlifting. A lot of coaches simply don’t know how to program for a bigger person. A lifter with more muscle mass is moving heavier absolute loads, and has more fatigue after doing the competition movements. They need a specific style of programming. So, after competing for almost 10 years as a super heavy weight powerlifter, I started to work with super heavy weight athletes that expressed an interest – and that I thought I could help.
That was just the starting point though.
Once I found success coaching super heavy weight lifters, I began to work with athletes of all ages and weight classes. I decided to work with people that were passionate about getting stronger, were fully committed to the program, and I thought had a good attitude. I still had to say ‘no’ to people who wanted coaching in order to balance my own training and career, but the athletes I’ve coached over the past couple years have seen great results on the platform.
Over time, I’ve started to develop my own philosophy of strength. It started with taking what I knew worked for me, combining it with the various strategies I’ve used with my athletes, and speaking with other top powerlifting coaches such as Mike Tuchscherer, Brett Gibbs, and Avi Silverberg.
Training should follow these high-level goals:
• Most of the exercises programmed each week should be focused around the competition movements or variations of those movements. There’s a time and place for ‘bodybuilding’ movements, but when training for a powerlifting competition you don’t need those exercises.
• Each week you need to do ‘something’ heavy – which is just as much a mental benefit as it is physical. Even if the goal of the training program is to increase volume, something heavy in the form of a top set should still be performed that gets you closer to your top limit.
• Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) should be used as a gauge to establish your ‘heavy’ work for the day, but also to regulate the amount of volume you do. You need to listen to your body, and RPE is a great tool to understand what you’re capable of lifting on any given day.
• A linear periodization model can be effective when programming top sets – striving to do slightly more weight each week if you can stay within the RPE. You might have some weeks that don’t exceed the previous, but overall the trend should still be pointing up over the training cycle.
• At least once per week, bench press should have its own separate day where that is the only focus for the day.
To deliver my system of programming to more people I’ve released an 8-week training cycle on the MyStrengthBook program library. This training cycle is called “Kelly’s Momentum Builder”. Building Momentum means consistently doing all the little things in training, taking a million baby steps, to achieve your goal. You’re going to have set back, you’re going to have hard workouts, but when you can get tunnel vision on your goals then nothing can stop you. My training cycle is designed to build momentum toward your goals.