You’ve probably seen Matt in several famous powerlifting pictures. He’s the guy standing behind athletes like Ray Williams — getting them fired up to squat 1000+lbs on their 3rd attempt.
Matt has always taken a data driven approach to strength training.
Sharing workouts with athletes is not simply a matter of providing the individual sets and reps, it’s providing an understanding of how those workouts fit within the broader context of the program, how the periodization is reflected through several key training metrics, and allowing athletes to analyze their numbers to understand what works and what doesn’t.
This approach is fundamental in how coaches deliver programs on MyStrengthBook, and one of the main reasons why Matt welcomed the opportunity to start designing workouts and training cycles on a platform that values data-driven results.
Let’s dive into Matt’s training cycle in more detail.
Matt’s 12-week training cycle is carefully constructed into three 4-week blocks of training. He uses “block periodization” with each four week block focusing on a different quality of training — hypertrophy in block 1, strength in block 2, and peaking in block 3.
Week 1-4: Hypertrophy
Through the first four weeks, each powerlifting movement is performed twice per week using an ‘upper body’ / ‘lower body’ split. Athletes will squat and deadlift on the same day, and have two days dedicated strictly for bench press and upper body accessory movements. The split is as follows:
Day 1: Squat / Deadlift / Lower Body Accessory
Day 2: Bench Press / Upper Body Accessory
Day 3: Squat / Deadlift / Lower Body Accessory
Day 4: Bench Press / Upper Body Accessory
For the primary squat and bench press days, the rep schemes alternate between 6s and 10s. Additional training volume is added over the weeks by increasing the number of sets and load. Competition deadlifts are performed with singles only and shorter rest periods. The idea here is that deadlifts don’t have an eccentric range of motion, so performing singles teaches athletes to develop tightness from a dead-stop position. Athletes will also get the opportunity to perform several exercise variations for each of the lifts, which generally focus on bottom-end variations (such as deficit deadlifts and long pause bench press).
Week 1 is an intro week, comprising of lower volumes and intensities, with the purpose of acclimating to the new training template. Over the 4-week block, however, both volume and intensity increase quite dramatically. By week 4, the weekly volume increases to 33% more than week 1. The volume accumulated on week 4 is the highest training volumes out of the entire 12-week training cycle. In addition, the average intensities go from 65% on week 1 to 75% on week 4.
The goal with this block of training is to build muscle, increase the amount of volume you can handle on a weekly basis, and lay the foundation for heavier weeks of training to follow.
Week 5-8: Strength
The strength block builds upon the hypertrophy block by using much of the same strategies, including the same training split (upper / lower), same frequencies (twice/week for each lift), and same methods (singles for deadlift).
The key difference is that moderate rep ranges (3 to 5 reps) are utilized with increasing intensities. The average intensities go from 76% to 83% from week 5 to 8, with peak intensities getting upwards of 88%. Furthermore, the intensities that are programmed for the secondary powerlifting movements (pause deadlifts, long pause bench press, etc.) are very challenging, often pushing athletes to work close to their fatigue limit or within 1-2 reps of failure.
As for the training volumes, even though the reps drop compared with the hypertrophy block, a meaningful amount of volume is still achieved by performing several sets of each exercise (5-9 sets). In addition, the volume programmed is 100% accumulated within medium (yellow) and heavy (red) zones. What this means is that the load prescribed for the number of reps pushes an athlete’s maximum recoverable volume. If you’re not familiar with these concepts, you can read more about different ‘training zones’ and ‘recoverable volume’ HERE.
The goal with this block of training is to build base strength leading into the competition peaking block that follows.
Week 9-12: Competition Peaking
When compared with the previous weeks of training, some training variables start to change, including the training split and frequency. The split now includes one training day that has all three powerlifting movements. This structure is programmed so that athletes get used to doing all three lifts in a single day — exactly how a powerlifting competition runs. In terms of frequency, while squat and deadlift remain at two days / week, bench press is now performed three days / week.
The weekly structure is as follows:
Day 1: Squat / Bench / Deadlift
Day 2: Squat / Bench / Upper Body Accessory
Day 3: Squat / Deadlift / Core
Day 4: Bench / Upper Body Accessory
This block is characterized by a reduction in volume, with the final week having 35% less volume than the average volume performed throughout the entire training cycle. Volume is a key contributor to fatigue and an athlete’s ability to recover, so the volume reduction here is to offset any fatigue that has been accumulated during the program.
The average intensities remain around 82% over this block, however, the peak intensities rise from 90% (week 9) to 96% (week 12). The emphasis is to gradually lift heavier weights each week while limiting the amount of training volume. The top loads of 96% will allow athletes to assess their current levels of strength, and begin to think about appropriate attempts for competition.
The outcome of this training block is to set athletes up to lift all-time personal bests in the squat, bench press, and deadlift.
While there are several metrics that formulate a training program, let’s discuss three metrics that showcase Matt’s training philosophy in more detail: Volume and Intensity, Relative Intensity, and Volume Split by Core Lift.
As discussed previously, the first week of Matt’s training cycle is an intro week with lower volumes and intensities; however, week 2-4 quickly ramp up to have the highest volumes out of the entire program. As both average and peak intensities increase throughout each week of training, volume goes through a period of maintenance and reduction in order to offset fatigue.
Relative intensity is a metric that considers the bar load, how many reps were completed, and how close you were to fatigue when calculating volume. For example, 5 reps at 60% would have a low relative intensity because you wouldn’t be close to your fatigue limit. However, 5 reps at 80% would have a higher relative intensity because you would be training closer to fatigue when compared with the 60% set. You can track your relative intensity for every pound of volume . For the most part, volume accumulated in the grey and blue zones don’t impact an athlete’s level of fatigue by any meaningful amount. On the other hand, yellow and red zones challenge an athlete’s ability to recover because the intensities and reps prescribed push what an athlete can normally handle. As you can see in the graph above, most of Matt’s volume prescriptions fall within the yellow and red zones — especially within weeks 5-8.
This graph shows a breakdown of how much volume was completed per lift. For the most part, an athlete’s weekly volume is comprised of mostly squat and bench press, with a 40% volume split for each of these lifts. Deadlift, on the other hand, only comprises of 20% of the total weekly volume. This is because Matt primarily programs singles for deadlift training, and believes that the deadlift can be built through pushing an athlete’s squat volume.
This is an example of week 5 of the SSPT High Performance Training Cycle. The example represents the first week of the strength block described above.
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 5, Day 1:
Week 5, Day 2:
Week 5, Day 3:
Week 5, Day 4:
To access Matt’s programs, you’ll need a premium membership on MyStrengthBook.
Most athletes pay over $150-200 for online coaching, but Matt’s training cycles are available on MyStrengthBook for only $29/month. You’ll also get the benefit of being able to track his 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 Matt’s 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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