A Beginner's Approach to Peaking For a Powerlifting Meet

To peak or not to peak, for some of you reading this article that is the question. For others you might be wondering what the hell a peak even is, like a mountain peak, sneak peak at a new Marvel movie or Golden Peak Sweet Tea a vastly overrated mess that no self respecting southerner would consider drinking. Through this article I plan on answering what a is peak, why you should do it and how to do it.

Peaking for a powerlifting meet or any other strength sport for that matter can be defined as organizing training as that the lifter is prepared and able to demonstrate maximal strength and/or power. We do this by decreasing volume in both accessories and main lifts to recover from the strain training provides over time and to be able to recover better from the increasing weight as we get closer to a contest. Determining whether you should peak for a meet is fairly simple, do you want the best chance of lifting the most amount of weight you currently can, want to prevent possible injury on the day of the meet, want to feel more confident and comfortable lifting heavy weights that are close to your max? If you answered yes to any of those then you should probably run a peaking program. To me there are only a few situations where you wouldn't want to peak and those would be if you and your buddies are doing mock meet together just for fun, you are an experienced powerlifter and are just using the meet as a warmup for another upcoming meet, or if aren't going to hit maximal numbers like if you just needed certain weights to qualify for nationals. Other that if you take the sport of powerlifting with any seriousness you should be peaking.

So how do we peak for a meet? Well for most beginner and intermediate lifters it is actually not an overly complicated process, as you will start a peaking block 3 to 4 weeks after you have run a block or two of strength.  The peaking block is not designed to necessarily increase muscular strength but rather better prepare the body to demonstrate the strength that was built in the strength block. As we get closer to the meet we will focus almost exclusively on squating, benching and deadlifting and do so under competition circumstances I.e using a belt, wrist wraps, competition grip and stance. Most accessories will be cut out and volume will decrease week to week. At the end of a peak comes the taper, a period where the lifter stops all heavy lifting to give the body and mind time for full recovery in preparation for the meet. A taper can vary in different lengths depending on the gender, age,training experience, weight. Typically younger, lighter, females and beginner lifters need a fairly short taper and usually a week will suffice. Older and more experienced lifters might need 2 to 3 weeks and some super heavy weights could even need up to 4 weeks because of the weights they are handling. The following program will be used as an example of what a beginner peak might look like.

So as you can see the volume is not very high as there is almost no accessories and not many total reps each session. You could include a little bit more accessories such as facepulls for shoulder health but you really want to keep it minimal and only things that you can recover easily from and you feel are necessary to help you towards a big total. Now is not the time to download Arnold’s blueprint to Mass and chase after those 20 inch biceps you have always wanted. So with the focus on the lifts you can see we are lifting at percentages very close to a 1 rep max to prepare for the weights that will be lifted at the meet. In week 3 we have two moderate workouts on Day 1 and 2 as we are testing openers on Day 3. Openers should be a weight that you are confident with and could hit on your worst day for 3. For most beginners testing openers only 1 week from the meet is usually appropriate as beginners by definition can still see strength gains week to week and therefore do not want to miss the opportunity of increasing strength all the way up to the meet. Beginners also are usually handling lighter weights and therefore don't need as much time to recover. For older and more experienced lifters since a longer taper is needed, will typically test openers 2-3 weeks out before tapering. In week 4 which is the taper before the meet we further decrease the volume and intensity to the point of very minimal effort so that the lifter should definitely be recovered in time. Workouts during a taper week should be short sweet and to the point, go in get a little blood flow and sweat going and visualize dominating at the upcoming meet. I usually recommend if the meet is on a Saturday to have your last light workout done by Wednesday. So there you have it, hopefully this article will help you understand the importance of a peaking block and how to run one. If you need further assistance or have any questions feel free to email me.

In Strength,
The Iron Guru

Ethan McElroy