7 Ways to Add Variation to a Powerlifting Program

seven simple strategies to incorporate variation into a powerlifting program

If you want to get better at squatting you should probably… squat more.

Especially with Powerlifting becoming something of an “instagram sport”, it’s easy to get carried away with all kinds of double-reverse banded-BFR-hip rotated variations of lifts that look “cool”. Some might even be able to string together a loosely thought out line of reasoning as to why X variation would help with a certain aspect of your training.

But when we leave theory-land and get back to the gym/platform, the concept of specificity still reigns supreme. There is a time and a place for strategic variation, but in my coaching experience, it’s better to start out with much MUCH smaller steps instead of jumping in to the deep end.

Once you’ve established that your training strategy needs more variation, you can start out adding it in the following order:

  1. Varied intensities/reps/volumes (yes, training the main lift with different set/rep schemes counts as variation)

    Ex. If you normally train towards heavy sets of 5, doing 1-2 blocks focusing on sets of 6-8 reps could be beneficial.
  2. Adjusted tempo on the main lifts (slow or fast eccentrics/concentrics, pauses, etc)

    Ex. If you lack power out of the bottom of the bench press, training with a long pause on the chest to develop strength in that portion of the ROM.
  3. Adjusted mechanics(wider or narrower stance/grips, different ROM)

    Ex. Close grip bench press, wide stance squats, deficit deadlifts, etc
  4. Different bar position/specialty bars

    Ex. Training front squats to build a more upright squatting position, deadlifting with a stiffer bar to build strength off the floor and challenge your position.
  5. Accomodating resistance – would put this on par with points 3+4, depending how it is used.

    Ex. Bands and chains
  6. Bilateral Dumbbell + Machine Work

    Ex. DB bench press, Leg Press, etc.
  7. Unilateral/balance work – great for developing lagging muscle groups that aren’t trained by the main lifts, but unlikely to directly impact your 1RM.

    Ex. Lunges, 1 arm DB benching, etc.

Simplicity is often the name of the game, especially with beginner and intermediate lifters. There’s absolutely a place for variation in a program, but far too many lifters who are early in their lifting career give up meaningful progress and waste a lot of time with screwing around.

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