Maria Htee is the strongest female raw powerlifter in the history of Canada. 

 

Some of her accomplishments include:

  • Two-Time IPF Powerlifting World Medalist (Silver and Bronze)
  • Highest Raw Female Wilks All-Time (542 Wilks)
  • Female Powerlifter of the Year (2015)
  • Two-Time Canadian National Champion

Maria joined the MyStrengthBook team of coaches this past summer and has since launched her signature Power Building training cycle on our Program Library.  Maria’s training cycle includes two 4-week blocks of training and is characterized by both high volume, high intensity workouts, with several exercise variations aimed at isolated specific muscle groups.  Before rising the ranks in powerlifting, Maria was a fitness competitor.  As such, her training programs are focused on “power building”– combining both powerlifting and bodybuilding workouts.

What is Power Building?

Powerlifting and bodybuilding have typically been positioned as opposite training styles.  Their end goals differ in that powerlifters aim to increase their 1 rep maximums across key movements and bodybuilders seek  to maximize aesthetics through muscular size and definition.

The idea behind “power building” is that we’re combining these both strength and aesthetic outcomes within a single training program.  

Training doesn’t become a ‘one’ or ‘the other’ approach, but a system that aims to drive adaptations in both areas.

How are Power Building Workouts Structured?

“Power building” workouts follow a specific format.

Workouts begin with the most compounded movements — exercises that involve multiple joints and maximal muscle recruitment.  These movements would include the powerlifting exercises (squat, bench press, and deadlift) or their close barbell variations.  The sets, reps, and load for these compounded movements are focused on neural adaptations with strength as the primary outcome.  Typically, 4 to 6 sets will be prescribed with reps between 1-5 at loads that feel close to maximal.

Following these compounded movements, a series of exercises and protocols are programmed to stimulate muscle growth.  Exercises are selected to target specific muscle groups.  For example, if biceps are the target muscle group then a series of movements would be programmed that allow you to focus on that single muscle in isolation.  In addition, protocols like ‘forced reps’, ‘AMRAP sets’ ‘super sets’, ‘drop sets’, or manipulating tempo (time under tension) are usually programmed to stimulate peripheral adaptions within the muscle.  For these exercises, 2-4 sets are typically prescribed with reps between 6 to 20 at loads that push your ability to recover.

Maria’s Training Overview

Maria’s training cycle is split into two 4-week blocks.

Week 1-4:

The first block is characterized by a variety of rep ranges that strategically combine both strength and hypertrophy adaptations. Often these rep ranges follow a ‘wave pattern’, where a descending or ascending rep range will be programmed throughout the workouts.

For example, a wave pattern would be programmed as followed:

First wave

Set 1:  8 reps

Set 2: 6 reps

Set 3:  4 reps

Second wave (higher intensities than the first wave)

Set 4:  8 reps

Set 5:  6 reps

Set 6:  4 reps

For the powerlifting movements, you’ll have the opportunity to do near max sets of 10, 8, 5, 3, and 1 reps.  The idea here is to challenge your ability across a variety of rep ranges.  The trend over the first 4-weeks is that the number of reps will ultimately reduce, but whatever the number of reps prescribed, the goal is to push near maximal weights.  In the example above, set #6 for 4 reps would be programmed at a near maximal intensity — everything builds up to a single near maximal effort.  In this phase of training, the powerlifitng movements are programmed as a percentage of your 1 rep max.  Therefore, before starting this program, you should have accurate 1 rep maxes for squat, bench press, and deadlift to base your training percentages.

For the bodybuilding movements, certain muscle groups are targeted throughout the week.  Exercises are strategically programmed with a series of antagonist supersets (i.e. supersetting opposing muscle groups back-to-back, such as chest / back exercises, quad / hamstring exercises, bicep / tricep exercises).  Maria also programs a slower tempo for these movements to increase time under tension, which leads to greater stress within the muscle, and ultimately, growth.  Just like the powerlifting movements, the goal is to perform these bodybuilding exercises with as heavy weights as possible within the method prescribed.

Weeks 5-8

 

While the first block of training incorporates a wide range of reps, the second block is characterized by mostly lower rep ranges and increasing intensities.

For the powerlifting movements, you’ll have both ‘medium’ and ‘heavy’ training days.  For the ‘medium’ training days, a barbell variation of the powerlifting movement is prescribed with reps between 4-6.  The ‘medium days’ are programmed as a percentage of your 1 rep max.  You’ll use the same rep maxes as the previous program.  For the ‘heavy’ training days’, you’ll perform the competition squat, bench, and deadlift in the 1-2 rep range with the goal of increasing your weights for these rep ranges over the 4-week period.   The ‘heavy days’ use Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) protocols to give you the opportunity to push your upper strength limit and test performance.  If you’re not sure how to use RPEs, percentages are given as a guideline, with the flexibility to go above if you’re feeling strong.  The goal here is that as the reps reduce, the bar loads increases, and your job is to lift more weight each week.  You should be setting PR’s across the lower rep ranges in weeks 7 and 8.

For the bodybuilding movements, supersets are still programmed across a variety of movements.  The emphasis, however, turns to upper and mid-back exercises, where 3-days/week you’ll be doing some form of upper body pulling.  While every major muscle group is still isolated, not as many total exercises are programmed as compared with the first block.  The idea here is that as intensities go up in this phase generally, you’ll need additional recovery.  This is achieved by reducing the total number of exercises.

Sample Training Week

The complete training cycle is 8-weeks in length.   This is an example of week 1 of Maria’s Power Building Training Cycle.

NOTE:   The bar loads in the example below shows the author’s loads based off percentages of his RM.  The load column will update with your exact training loads once the workouts are loaded into your own MyStrengthBook calendar. 

  • Week 1, Day 1:
    • Powerlifting: Squat / Bench
    • Bodybuilding: Chest, back, biceps, triceps

 

 

  • Week 1, Day 2:
    • Powerlifting:  Deadlift
    • Bodybuilding: Low back, hamstrings, Glutes

 

 

  • Week 1, Day 3:
    • Powerlifting:  None
    • Bodybuilding:  Shoulder, Back, Triceps

 

 

  • Week 1, Day 4:
    • Powerlifting: Squat, Bench
    • Bodybuilding:  Back, Quads, Core

 

 

  • Week 1, Day 5:
    • Powerlifting: Deadlift
    • Bodybuilding: Low back, Hamstrings Glutes

 

Exercises

The following are both the powerlifting and bodybuilding exercises that are programmed throughout Maria’s training cycle.

Powerlifting Exercises:  

Squat Movements

  • Squat
  • Slow High Bar Squat
  • Pause Squat

Bench Movements: 

  • Bench
  • Slow Bench
  • Long Pause Bench

Deadlift Movements:

  • Deadlift
  • Snatch Grip Deadlift
  • Romanian Deadlift
  • Deficit Deadlift

 

Bodybuilding Exercises

Chest

  • Incline DB Bench Press
  • Feet up Elevated Push-Up
  • Incline DB Bench Press

Back

  • Bentover Row
  • Single Arm DB Row
  • Seated Row
  • Wide Grip Pull-Ups
  • Horizontal Row
  • T-Bar Row
  • Neutral Grip Pulldown

Shoulders

  • Barbell Shoulder Press
  • Seated DB Shoulder Press
  • Kneeling Rope Face Pull
  • Lateral DB Raise
  • Cable Shoulder External Rotation

Triceps

  • Overhead Cable Tricep Extension
  • Skull Crushers
  • Bodyweight Dips
  • Rope Tricep Pressdown

Biceps

  • DB Hammer Curl
  • EZ Bar Bicep Curl

Lower Back

  • Barbell Back Extension
  • Good Morning

Legs 

  • Lying Leg Curl
  • Leg Extension
  • Barbell Walking Lunge
  • Squat Jumps
  • Long Jumps
  • Barbell Glute Bridge
  • Seated Leg Curl
  • Machine Abduction
  • Machine Adduction

Core

  • Weighted Plank
  • Ab Wheel Roll-Out
  • Hanging Leg Raises

 

Suggested Training Split

Day 1:  Monday

Day 2:  Tuesday

Day 3:  Wednesday

OFF

Day 4:  Friday

Day 5:  Saturday

OFF

 

Getting Started

 

To access Maria’s programs, you’ll need to sign-up for MyStrengthBook and join our premium membership.

Most athletes pay over $150-200 for online coaching, but Maria’s training cycles are available on MyStrengthBook for only $29/month. You’ll also get the benefit of being able to track her programs using the MyStrengthBook analytics platform to better understand what you do in the gym.

To get started sign-up for a FREE TRIAL, go to the Program Library, and add her training cycle you’re your calendar.

 

Looking for training advice or have questions about any of the training programs available on MyStrengthBook? Please book a time to chat with us HERE and one our coaches will set you up for success!

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