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.
I’ve programmed this training cycle for those lifters looking to be serious with developing strength in their squat, bench press, and deadlift. There is no fluff in my programs. Only three exercises are programmed each day – two powerlifting movements and one assistant. This is an auto-regulated training cycle, which is based on Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) principles. So, before you start this training cycle you should understand how to use RPE. However, if you don’t, MyStrengthBook has RPE custom tables that can give you a percentage for any RPE that is prescribed in my program.
The goal of this training cycle is to push your top sets as high as possible and set new personal records at the end of the program. The first program is focused on hypertrophy and building muscle. The second program is focused on building strength and peaking your 1 rep max.
The first program in this cycle is higher volume and lays the foundation for the peaking program that follows. Each workout starts with a top set of some type of powerlifting variation. Some of the powerlifting variations include: pause deadlift, long-pause bench press, and pin squat. The goal for these top sets is to do slightly heavier weights each week, and at the same time, increasing levels of volume on the back-off sets. Top sets in this phase are between 4-8 reps, with the back-off sets between 5 – 10 reps. I find a lot of strength and muscle can be built in the 5-rep range, but there are also opportunities to get a solid burn in the higher rep ranges in this program.
The second program in this cycle starts with higher volumes, but over the weeks it tapers down so that volume is at its lowest in the final week. At least once per week, each workout starts with the competition movements – either squatting or deadlift with a belt or bench pressing with a competition pause. Other powerlifting variations include: pin squat, wide grip bench press, and deadlift with bands or chains. Top sets are still performed in this program, but with reps in the 1 to 3 range. The back-off sets include a variety of set/rep schemes, such as 4 X 4, 8 X 3, or 3 X 2 with varying intensities.
Below you can see a breakdown of how many lifts you’ll be doing each week for squat, bench press, and deadlift. The graph shows you how many lifts are completed in each RPE range – with RPE 9 being the darkest shade and RPE 6 being the lightest.
The trend is that over week 1-4 you’ll be doing more number of lifts for each movement, with a higher amount of reps within the RPE 6 and 7 ranges. As you transition into week 5-8 you’ll be doing less number of overall lifts, but more reps within the RPE 8 and 9 ranges.
I wanted to give lifters a chance to work with my powerlifting system that has created success for both myself and the athletes I coach. This is the first-time I’m publicly releasing any training program that I’ve created.
To access my programs, you’ll need to sign-up for a MyStrengthBook account and join the premium membership. Most athletes pay over $150 for online coaching, but my programs are available on MyStrengthBook for only $29/month. You’ll also get the benefit of being able to track my programs on the MyStrengthBook platform, which will give you all the data and analytics to understand what you do in the gym.
To get started either log-in or sign-up for a FREE TRIAL. Go to the Program Library, find my training cycle, and load it into your calendar. I can’t wait to hear about all your strength gains!
Kelly Branton is a 120kg+ Canadian powerlifter. He is a 3-time IPF World Powerlifting medalist and is the all-time strongest male raw powerlifter in the history of Canada. Other notable achievements inclue winning the gold medal at the 2017 World Bench Press Championships. Kelly squats 422.5kg, benches 272.5kg, and deadlifts 332.5kg. He trains at the Power Pit gym in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
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