This is an excerpt from the upcoming powerlifting book written by Dr. Mike Israetel, Dr. James Hoffmann (Asst. Professor at Temple University) and Chad Wesley Smith (all-time world record holding powerlifter, Pro Strongman, owner of Juggernaut Training Systems). The book should be due out in May of this month. Stay tuned for more updates on the exact release date!
- Technical Proficiency Differences
Lifters that are new to powerlifting do not yet demonstrate a mastery of the technical execution of the lifts. In fact, not only do they demonstrate a lack of mastery, they in fact have a very high lack of technical stability. For example, their squat can look noticeably different with every session, their bench press can touch on wildly different parts of their chest, or their deadlift setup changes in breathing patterns every other workout. Especially when beginning powerlifting training, it's very important to establish a good technical base that will help the lifter:
a.) Develop effective technique that puts their body in the right position to lift the most weight possible. You can get away with crappy technique with beginner weights, but you're not gonna good-morning 585 when you're supposed to be squatting it. Techniques are very hard to change once they are well-established in the early phases of training. This is a good and bad thing, because while it means that good coaching early on can set up an excellent technique for a lifetime, a lack of technical practice or poor technique early on can cost the lifter for years down the road.
b.) Develop a safe technique that will prevent the lifter from getting hurt needlessly later in their development when their weights in training and competition begin to rise to the kind that can really mess you up!
c.) Capitalize on early neural strength gains. One of the oldest observations in strength research is that the first several months of strength training sees strength improvements that far outpace muscle size additions. This is because the nervous system is both learning to enhance its force output per individual neuron and groups of neurons as well as coordinate muscle timing better to produce higher forces. Higher training frequencies give the nervous system more practice to improve its abilities and have been shown to result in more rapid improvement in strength levels of beginners.
As the lifts are practiced for months and years, the incremental benefits of more and more technical practice begin to decline. Powerlifting is incredibly simple in its technical demands when compared to literally every single other sport, and advanced lifters show a remarkable technical stability even when lifts are not performed for weeks at a time. Of course if the goal is optimal technical prowess, practice of the lifts still needs to be more frequent than once every several weeks, but it becomes difficult to construct an argument for more frequent lifting than about twice a week (for each movement) for advanced lifters. And if the added frequency is not improving technique or accomplishing anything else, the lifter might be better served simply taking the extra days off from training to further promote recovery/adaptation.
The implication is that based on lifter development/experience in the sport, different frequencies from the perspective of technical development/retention arise and are placed on a spectrum of most to least frequent. This means that two lifters who would normally train together may not want the identical session frequency if one of the lifters is significantly more experienced than the other. It also means that as a lifter gains experiences and begins to demonstrate technique solidification, one of the advantages of super-high frequency programs can become less prominent.